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« Let's put the future behind us | Main | Points should mean prizes »

Contactless experiences

By Dave Birch posted Aug 3 2010 at 11:07 AM

[Dave Birch] Well, I've been using my contactless products for a while now. In practice, most of my transactions have been using my splendid Barclays OnePulse Visa PayWave product (I don't understand why you don't see more of these in London, since they include Oyster functionality and will auto-topup your Oyster stored-value from your Barclaycard) and my splendid pre-paid MasterCard PayPass sticker that is on the back of my iPhone. I do see more contactless terminals beginning to appear, which is good, but I'm getting more and more frustrated with the customer experience because of the way that these terminals have been configured and connected to the POS.

Here's why.

Consider the example of (and I'm not picking on them: they're just the last place I used contactless) Pret a Manger, which has forward-facing contactless readers conveniently located at a comfortable height in front of each POS. The payment experience is this...

  • Thirsty Coffee Addict Desperate for a Latte (eg, me), or TCA for short: "Large latte please".
  • Helpful Pret a Manger Serving Assistant, or PMS for short: "£1.99 please".
  • TCA taps contactless card against reader. Nothing happens.
  • TCA: "Can I pay with the new fast contactless technology please?"
  • PMS: "Yes of course".
  • PMS goes back to POS and presses a button or two.
  • A few seconds later, the terminal display comes to life and the screen displays "£1.99".
  • TCA taps contactless card against reader and it beeps and flashes green lights.
  • Payment is instant, but it takes another 30 seconds to print out a paper receipt that I don't want.

Here's how it should work.

  • TCA: "Large coffee please".
  • PMS: "£1.99 please".
  • TCA taps contactless card on terminal and it beeps and flashes green lights.
  • Receipt is e-mailed to me.


What is the problem? It's ergonomics. The POS terminals should default to contactless payment and light up the contactless reader automatically. If you give the assistant cash, then they have to touch the POS terminal anyway, at which point it can switch off the contactless reader. Now, the current clumsy implementation isn't a barrier to me (or other people) using contactless...

Since September 2007, Barclays and Barclaycard have issued over eight million contactless-enabled cards, allowing customers to make transactions quicker and more easily. As a result of the ease of payment, 61% of users find it preferable to using cash.

[From Why contactless payment paves the way for a cashless society - Marketing News | UTalkMarketing]

...but I'm sure we can get that number up even higher with a simple redesign of the payment process.

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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Hi Dave

Our main concern with a ‘roll-out’ of this magnitude is the overall immaturity of the contactless industry. It’s a rapidly changing sector, and one that’s not yet been fully ‘bench tested’. (One where standards are only just being developed, and whilst there's FIPs 201 stateside, here in the UK British Standards are only now waking up to what might be required of them.)

RFID technology is essentially neutral, and contactless devices are neither good nor bad in themselves? You've articulated some excellent points concerning customer experience, and ergonomics - ones that we would completely agree with. It's supposed to make things simple afterall!!!

We also suspect that one of the biggest hurdles that this industry will need to address - before contactless technology is adopted and fully embraced - is the whole thorny issue of security. On the one hand contactless providers state that all's well, their tech is 100% safe - although YouTube is littered with video evidence that sensitive personal data can be skimmed, by the unscrupulous and using relatively low-cost RFID readers - some purchased online for next to nothing. The good news is that real efforts are clearly being made by ‘contactless’ credit card, swipe pass, and passport manufacturers to ensure that personal data does indeed remain safe at all times. But for anyone concerned that the information on their bio-metric passport, Oyster card or RFID enabled credit, or debit card can be intercepted by criminals - maybe it's going to be a case of 'prevention is always better than cure'. That's were RFID Protect seeks to position itself. You can learn more about our work at: http://www.rfidprotect.co.uk

I understand your point. I would think there wouldn't be a need for a receipt either. It defeats the purpose of the idea of contactless. Receiving an email is very ideal.

Hi Dave,
the receipt by mail or SMS seems to be mandatory. You may notice that in the Bling Tag powered by Paypal the SMS receipt is mandatory according to the FAQ "To opt out of SMS is to deactivate your BlingTag"


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