Commentary

Mobile Payment Push-back: 'Get That Thing Away from My Register'

 “Get that thing away from my register. I don’t want any technology near my terminals. That could be hacking device.”

A bit startled, I put the contactless payment device back in my pocket and paid in cash.

For some time, I’ve experimented with various mobile payment options including Google Wallet, Square, Isis and LevelUp, among others.

Over the weekend, I placed an order at a busy local restaurant and was attempting to pay with a mobile payment device I’ve been using around the country. The restaurant manager immediately shut down the activity.

Not sure if he was feeling vulnerable because of the Target data breech or was just having a bad day.

The idea of mobile payments at scale obviously has a ways to go.

I’ve been to stores that were promoted as having mobile payments that didn’t really have them (The Continuing Search to Use Isis Mobile Payments) as well as to stores that have mobile payment-enabled POS systems installed whose employees haven’t yet been told that they do have them.

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However, this is the first case of running into a small business that not only wanted no part of mobile payments but also saw them as a potential threat.

This got me pondering whether mobile payments may be in danger less from the technological capabilities being introduced and deployed and more from potential pushback from wary merchants.

The Targets, Sears and Macy’s of the world have the resources to analyze, adopt and deploy mobile payment technologies and methods. The local, small business? Not so much.

Contactless payment methods vary and range from using NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to using dedicated readers at checkout.

Since Apple doesn’t include NFC, some payment providers are figuring ways to convert iPhones into NFC payment devices, even if temporarily.

For example, On Track Innovations, based in Israel, just announced that its audio-jack phone plug-in device called OTI Wave has been certified by Visa and MasterCard.

The small device plugs into any smartphone instantly converting it into an NFC-enabled mobile device that can be used at any NFC-enabled terminal.

Ori Reshef, product line manager at OTI, said that the device can be used in one of two ways, open or closed loop.

In open loop, the reader is connected to the phone and credit cards can be selected and used via the phone. In closed loop, the device is disconnected and used alone, for such uses as mass transit where there are dedicated readers.

“High security is one of our things,” said Reshef, who noted that 10,000 of the units already are in use in Hong Kong.

The idea of using remote devices for payments is not new, since that’s essentially what a credit card does. What is new is the connection and smartphone control of the device and the process.

Boston-based Loop has a mobile phone add-on that works on just about any POS terminal that takes credit cards. Like OTI, the company also has a FOB payment device that can work separately from a phone, as we’ve written about here (Mobile Payments and Replicating the Credit Card Experience).

Some merchants understandably might be skittish, with reports of small business revenue being lost to mobile payments fraud (Mobile Payments & the Threat of Fraud).

Others facing a bewildering array of contactless payment options may just decide to do nothing rather than try to learn the landscape and weigh the perceived risks.

Contactless payments may come down to less about the technology and more about the education of those accepting the payments.

Otherwise, more may hear those mobile payment nightmare words: “Get that thing away from my register.”

2 comments about "Mobile Payment Push-back: 'Get That Thing Away from My Register'".
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  1. Tom Francoeur from Communispace, February 7, 2014 at 9:54 a.m.

    Interesting article, Chuck. I can understand some small merchants being wary, but the reaction you experienced seemed a bit extreme. I wonder if some merchants had similar resistance and concerns way back when what we now call "traditional credit cards" were first introduced.

  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, February 7, 2014 at 10:29 a.m.

    Thanks Tom and I agree the reaction was extreme. I've not had that reaction anywhere else where I've used to attempted to use mobile payments.

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