2nd August, 2013
Not a day goes by without at least one email appearing in my inbox telling me about a new revolution in the world of payments. Telling me if I’m not using my mobile phone to pay for everything I am an idiot.
The year is 2013, it’s pretty much the future. So as an experiment I set out on a day trip to London with only my mobile phone in my pocket. No wallet, no cards, no cash. Foolish? Yes. Very.
I had three objectives for my day – get to a meeting, grab some lunch and find a present for my Dad’s upcoming birthday.
I live near Birmingham so a trip to London is a moderately significant undertaking. Upon arrival at the train station I felt a sense of ominous dread as the car park barrier spat out its ticket – how would I pay for this? Maybe it would be one of those ‘Pay by Text’ car parks and my mobile would be saviour. In any case, it would be 5pm by the time I was back here and I suspected that by then this would be the least of my worries.
I will confess that I had cheated slightly on the train ticket front, paid for in advance on a corporate account. No card needed here though, I could have paid with PayPal in advance.
Once I arrived in London, getting around with no money was easy and I had a load of different options – my Oyster card automatically tops itself up from my bank account, I had one of the taxi apps on my phone meaning I could pay that way (although both times I’ve tried that the taxi driver wouldn’t let me use it due to the high percentage they are charged – “great for getting jobs, not so good for fares”).
Arriving at the meeting with time to spare I immediately noticed how free it felt not to have to carry a wallet around. It was a hot day and I wasn’t wearing a jacket but didn’t need to worry about unsightly bulges in my highly fashionable slim fit trousers.
Following the meeting I set out on the quest for food. Immediately realising that many independents were even further back on the payment curve, not even accepting cards, I went out to the big chains. Still a lack of mobile acceptance; it was at least four or five attempts before I found one of the large pizza chains that would accept payments via their app. I didn’t want a huge lunch but was stuck.
After tucking in I went to the app, not only paying but securing a discount for doing so and walked out. On the way I was stopped by the waiter who was a bit confused that I hadn’t left any method of payment. He had heard of his own chain’s app so let me off, with only a slightly dubious look in his eye.
Now I just had my Dad’s birthday present to buy.
Working at BT Expedite, I’ve been involved in a number of implementations of mobile vouchers and payments so finding a shop was as simple as going through our customer list. That’s not to say the item I selected will be my Dad’s first choice of gift (I’m not sure how ladies sizes relate to men) but don’t they say it’s the thought that counts?
This was going OK, maybe I could live without a wallet. As long as I had narrow expectations and didn’t mind being restricted in many ways I was OK.
One of the big restrictions in all this however is not the growing number of places that accept mobile payment. It is my phone. Already I was getting low battery warnings. I had a 90 minute train journey to go – if I had any hope of getting home safely I would have to sacrifice music, emails, browsing and Candy Crush Saga. Martyrdom awaits.
Alas, even this didn’t take into account that someone might phone me up. They did and despite my best efforts as I got off the train my phone finally gave up.
To the payment industry, which wants me to seriously utilise my phone as a payment device, I would suggest either investing heavily in phone battery development or realising that my phone has many other uses. It isn’t as dependable as a card, which is always there when I open my wallet. My card never runs out of battery, doesn’t need charging. I can’t break the screen and it doesn’t become unusable when I take a phone call or read an email. In 2013, we are supposed to be multi-tasking machines. I read a story the other day about a lady who was refused service in her local supermarket while she was on her phone. At least that doesn’t happen in the world of mobile-phone payments.
So this leaves me here, in the station car park. No form of payment, no way of contacting anyone to help me pay. Without breaking the law I’m stuck.
Does anyone know if the police take bail payments via mobile yet?
Mark Denton, Head of Solution Consulting, BT Expedite