Life During Mobile Payments

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With apologies to David Byrne and Talking Heads (not The Talking Heads), here are some revised lyrics to their song Life During Wartime:

Heard of a phone that’s loaded with payments
Packed up and ready to go
Heard of some pay sites, out at the Safeway
A place where nobody goes.

Transmit the payment, to the receiver
Hope for a transfer some day.
I’ve got three wallets, all linked to Visa
You don’t even know my real name.

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco
This ain’t no fooling around.
No time for swiping, or EMV love
I ain’t in the line anymore.


Yes, I know–I’ve missed my calling in life as the Weird Al Yankovic for financial services. But just as I may be living in la-la-land thinking I could be Weird Al, some of you are living in la-la-land envisioning how mobile payments are going to work in the future.

On a recent episode of Brett King’s radio show, Breaking Banks, Shel Israel and Brett got into a discussion about mobile payments and how, in the future, we’ll be able to just walk out of the store without experiencing the “friction” of a line at the cash register, because our phones will know what we “bought” and will just charge the transaction to our account.

Upon hearing this, I tweeted:

“And what stops any idiot from just walking out the door of the retailer without paying?”


Sorry to bring some of you back into the realm that some of us call REALITY, but this is simply not going to happen. Comparing an Uber experience to shopping (and paying) for physical products in a store like Target is ludicrous.

The friction point known as the “checkout line” isn’t there simply to take your money. It’s to ensure that you actually pay for what you walk out the door with. It’s known in some circles as “security.”

In a world of ubiquitous mobile payments, sure, we could just use our mobile payments to scan the UPC or QR code on a product, stick the product in a bag, and walk out the door. But what’s going to stop some people from putting things in their bag without having first scanned it?



We can have a security guard stand at the door and ensure that anybody who walks out with a bag has actually scanned and paid for that product!

BRILLIANT IDEA! Ten times better than having to wait on line at the checkout counter.


And how is it going to work when I decide that I don’t want one of the products that I scanned and paid for? How is the store going to ensure that I really put that product back on the shelf?

“Um…yeah…good point, Snarketing Boy.”

And what if, for some reason, the “return” isn’t processed correctly, and the transaction shows up on my statement? How am I going to prove that I really didn’t walk out the door with the product?

“Uh…that’s not going to be a problem, Snarketing Boy, because mistakes never happen in the world of retail.” Oh, ok.


Bottom line: I really have missed my calling in life. You know how much easier my life would be if I could just write books and go on radio shows and speculate how great life could be as a result of new technologies–without having to deal with the realities of implementation?

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