Well here I am in Canada getting ready for the terrific Toronto Tomorrow’s Transactions Unconference 2015 (you can follow it using the hashtag #TTTU2015). It’s such a great country! I love it here. You don’t need cash for anything. The taxi took cards, the coffee shop took cards, everywhere takes cards. And better still, they take contactless cards and so far all of the UK contactless cards that I’ve tried in the terminals here have worked perfectly. What a country.
So everything was going swimmingly until, rather late in the day due to old age / jet lag / blockchain-induced exhaustion, I pottered out to get some breakfast. When I went to pay, I found this.
I asked the guy at the counter what was wrong with the contactless terminal and he told me that there was nothing wrong with but that they had turned it off because it was causing so many problems. Naturally, I couldn’t resist asking what the problems were and delving into the issue a little more…
It turns out that the problem is tipping. Because of the way that the POS terminal is set up, the customer does not get a chance to enter a tip amount or tip percentage until after a card has been inserted into the contact slot or swiped via the stripe. At this point a menu comes up, the customer chooses the tip and then OKs the total. After they have OK’d it (when the contact card is still in the slot or the stripe data is still in the POS) then the transaction proceeds. There is no mechanism to pre-enter the tip amount or tip percentage before you tap a contactless card and in a restaurant this is of course a major problem because it’s in Canada and is a consequence most of the patrons, including me, both a) want to tip and b) don’t have cash.
As I had not really thought about this before, I was wondering (while using my contactless card entirely successfully to buy a cup of coffee) what should be done. New software and reconfiguration for tens of thousands of terminals in restaurants probably isn’t going to happen, so I was left to conclude that the specific issue of tipping is yet another nudge away from “tap and pay” towards “app and pay”. An app on the phone that is triggered by manual entry of a table number (or some other identifier), by Bluetooth or even by a tap on something is a much better way of allowing the customer to set the tip amount, confirm payment with a thumbprint and then just walk out.
I was reminded of my son’s enthusiastic response to his discovery of a Wagamma app. I think this is more representative of the general public’s response to new payment technology than it appears at first glance and is unlikely to remain a niche for early adopters and teenagers with iPhones. Adding contactless at POS doesn’t change any processes (which is why it frustrates me in some retailers) but getting rid of the POS and having the payment vanish inside an app absolutely does, which is why it is one of the topics that I’m looking forward to discussing at tomorrow’s unconference. See you there.
Sorry I will miss the conference. FYI, the same terminal is available in Canada with the option of prompting for a tip, either as a % or dollar value. It is fairly common in sit-down restaurants.