Apple Pay and the Perfect Checkout Experience

Apple Pay Logo

Apple Pay is potentially the perfect checkout experience at brick and mortar stores, but the implementation at particular stores often leaves room for improvement.

The perfect register checkout experience for me would be: once my goods are rung up, the cashier announces the total. I present payment, which is accepted instantly. I leave with my purchases. Anything else that interrupts that flow is unnecessary, and detracts from the experience.

Brick and mortar stores are now competing with on-line retailers like Amazon. Customers have become used to a friction free on-line checkout process, ala Amazon’s “Buy with One Click”.

Life Without Apple Pay

Some stores clearly appreciate the value of quick checkout to customers: Publix posts signs at the checkout reading “Now for the easy part”. Ironically, unlike Food Lion, The Fresh Market and Winn Dixie, however, Publix doesn’t accept Apple Pay — the one thing that would make checkout significantly easier.

When paying with a credit card, the experience is usually something like this: You put your card into the machine, but the clerk says you inserted it too soon. You remove the card. Five seconds later, the machine beeps and says “Insert card”. Now it says “Do Not Remove Card”. This stays up for an annoyingly long time. Just as your attention wanders, the machine beeps frantically saying “Remove Card”, like it’s your fault it’s been in there so long. As you are attempting to get your card back in your wallet, the cashier simultaneously hands you a receipt, and pushes your purchases towards you. The person behind you is impatient as you frantically try to do three things with two hands.

Do You Take Apple Pay or Not?

When visiting a new store, it’s surprisingly difficult to determine if they actually accept Apple Pay. The clerk often has no idea. If they say yes, it may be because they have seen someone checkout with their phone, not realizing it was the Samsung Pay hack, not Apple Pay. Samsung Pay tricks mag-stripe readers into thinking you swiped a card. That was a brilliant trick, but won’t work in the future because merchants are no longer accepting swiped cards, but only chip cards.

If the clerk says Apple Pay doesn’t work at that store, it may be that it does work, but nobody has tried it before. It usually doesn’t hurt to try it. I have amazed a few clerks when it did actually work.

The Generic Contactless Payment Logo

If a store displays the contactless payment logo or the Apple Pay logo, then they are supposed to accept them. But, I have seen too many stores where they didn’t accept Apple Pay in spite of the logo(s) on the register.

One store had a handwritten note saying “NO Apple Pay” next to the Apple Pay logo. When I asked them about that, they said that Apple Pay seemed to work at their register, but then the store could not get their money. Obviously they didn’t want it used in those circumstances.

They Just Don’t Get It

Many stores accept Apple Pay, but most don’t take full advantage of the convenience it can offer the customer. After submitting payment with Apple Pay, I have had some registers insist that I sign on the line. Signatures have been irrelevant to credit card security for years. No one ever looks at the signatures. You can write any foolishness on the line and your purchase will still go through as normal. There is serious talk about removing the signature from all credit card purchases. To ask for a signature with Apple Pay is like insisting that your Tesla be equipped with a buggy whip.

Some registers, especially gas pumps, ask for your zip code. This is either irrelevant security theater, an attempt to track you or bad programming; I’m not sure which. A zip code is a trivial security measure next to the security of Apple Pay and your iPhone or Apple Watch. You’re just asking your customer to do one more stupid step that your competitors might be smart enough to skip.

Stores should not ask customers any questions at checkout. None. They are unexpected, slow down the process and hold up the line. NO, I don’t want to join the loyalty program. YES, I speak English and told you so the last 10 times I was here. NO, I won’t give you my email address. I’m already getting an electronic receipt — I used Apple Pay! NO, I don’t want to contribute to the charity of the day. NO, I don’t want to leave a tip in a traditionally non-tipping environment, like a fast food place. Don’t even ask. Just pay your employees yourself.

The actual paper receipt is optional and unnecessary, and holds up the process, especially if it takes any time at all to print.

I have abandoned my purchases at a store and left because the person ahead of me was holding up the line by joining a loyalty club. On the other hand, I was so happy that Walgreens accepted Apple Pay in a convenient manner, and that their loyalty card was Apple Pay compatible, that I joined Walgreen’s loyalty program as a reward to them for a nice checkout process. (I signed up via the web, not while holding up the line.)

The Joy of Apple Pay

For me, much of the appeal of Apple Pay is that it is fast. It is much quicker for me to get my phone out than to get a credit card out of my wallet. The Apple Watch is even quicker, and since it’s strapped to my wrist, I don’t have to give up a hand to deal with it.

The Apple Pay transaction itself is fast. Apple Pay transactions go through in milliseconds, compared to normal credit card transactions, where the seconds drag on.

Apple Pay is secure. When the next major breach is announced, and your favorite store discovers that hackers have captured all the credit card numbers used last month (or last year), Apple Pay customers have nothing to fear! Apple Pay has never handed over your actual credit card number to anyone. It only uses a temporary, one-time number which cannot be used again.

Apple Pay at Disney and Beyond

If you go to Walt Disney World this summer,  I think you’ll find that all the credit card terminals there accept Apple Pay. At Epcot, I paid for a tee shirt with Apple Pay, and even for a coke from a refreshment stand. That saved me from ending up with a bunch of small change.

The San Angel Inn Restaurante in the Mexico pavillion at World Showcase also accepted Apple  Pay. I had already paid with a physical credit card when I saw the contactless payment logo. The waiter brought the portable terminal to the table European-style. He confirmed that they can accept Apple Pay. “It’s faster,  too.”

When you are in an unfamiliar store, you can get a pretty good idea of whether to try Apple Pay based on the credit card reader you see. If you see a Verifone brand credit card reader, especially if it looks like this, it is very likely to accept Apple Pay. Recognize it by the slight hood over the keypad. Some merchants have these machines and the clerks don’t even know that Apple Pay will work until it happens.

Verifone Reader Accepts Apple Pay

On the other hand, if you see Ingenico equipment, which is very common, Apple Pay will definitely not work at that terminal.

Happy shopping!

Use Apple Pay at Gas Stations

contactless

I like the convenience of Apple Pay and have been looking for places that accept it. It seems like paying for gas at the pump with Apple Pay would be convenient and more secure than using your credit card directly.

Gas purchases are unlike other purchases because you normally have to present (scan) your card before pumping gas, and before the total value of the purchase is known.

There seem to be three levels of support for Apple Pay at service stations:

  1. Go Inside and Prepay ,”Preauthorize”, a maximum limit (BP, Kangaroo, CircleK, WaWa)
  2. Download an App that works with Apple Pay (Exxon-Mobile’s Speedpass+ App)
  3. Apple Pay works at the pump (requires new hardware at the pumps) (Texaco/Chevron)

Method 1 is  pretty useless. Any convenience factor is destroyed by having to go inside first. At BP, Discover actually rejected the transaction, but it went through on Visa. After pumping gas, I went back inside to get my receipt. The clerk was unable to print a final receipt. The only reason I would ever do this again is if my phone was the only method of payment I had with me.

When I heard about the Speedpass+ App in method 2, I was skeptical about needing an additional app, but it does have advantages. Since it doesn’t require any new hardware at the pump, it can roll out immediately to all Exxon Mobile stations. The App knows which station you are at via GPS. You tell it what pump you are at, and you can complete the transaction without holding your phone up to the pump. So, you can pay without getting out of your car, if you want to.

Method 3 is probably what you were expecting from a gas station that accepts Apple Pay at the pump. You hold your phone near the pump. Your phone and the pump talk to each other via NFC. Once you begin the transaction, you have 45 seconds to start pumping gas. Chevron/Texaco is leading the pack by rolling this out extensively.

Any method of using Apple Pay is more secure than swiping your card and will prevent your card number from being stolen by scanners on the pump, or by hacked or compromised pumps. This is because Apple Pay does not give the merchant your real credit card number, but rather a one-time credit card number valid for that transaction only.