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Transport tales

By davebirch posted May 8 2007 at 4:35 PM

[Dave Birch] I was on a train, in the UK today, and I was in the line at the buffet car trying to buy a couple of coffees.  The guy in front me bought a drink and a pastry, which came to 2.10 and all he had was a ten pound note.  The guy serving didn't want to take the note because it would use up all of his change, so he asked the customer to pay by card instead.  Which he did.  And he signed for it, because it wasn't a chip and PIN terminal, even though it was clearly working off line.  How much easier life would have been if the customer had used one of these new "contactless" credit cards that I heard about on the BBC this morning while I was getting ready.  The supreme irony, of course, is that I paid my 2.90 with the exact change.

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Meanwhile, two of my colleagues went to European city and set themselves the goal of not bothering to get any euros, thereby living the cashless dream.  They almost succeeded. They used chip & PIN for everything from meals, to taxi rides to 1.40 euro transit tickets. But on the last day, they were almost defeated. The toilet cubicles in the restaurant had locks on and you needed a 20 cent coin to get in. My colleague crossed his legs and went back to his table. The waitress, presumably noting his odd gait and being familiar with the toilet cubicle cash catastrophe that had befallen him, reached into her pocket and gave him 20 cents! Mission accomplished: a trip to Paris with no euros.

They were actually in that city to talk to some ticketing guys in connection with a project we are working on. I won't say which transport company was involved, but I will share their figures. For a ticket sold at a ticket office, the cost of sales is four-fifths the average ticket price. For a ticket sold at a vending machine, the cost of sales is one-eighth of the average ticket price. For a ticket sold online, the cost of sales is one twentieth of the average ticket price. So it's no surprise what the company's ticketing strategy is.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


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Quite a long time ago I was travelling regularly to Copenhagen for business. This would have been roughly 1997/1998. (I worked for Visa and we were working with PBS on the Visa Cash project - that will roughly date this for you.)

Anyway, even at that time in Denmark you could do just about everything without actual cash (even taxis took plastic) - so on one trip my boss and I tried.

What defeated us was the need to buy ice cream cones...

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