Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Bet You'll Be Paying for Coffee From Your Phone, Boomers

Just a brief note to my loyal readers. I'm sorry I've not posted for a while. I'm getting back in the saddle now, and hope to keep this blog updated on a more regular basis. Thank you for your indulgence.

About a week ago,  I heard that Starbucks was going to release an app for the iPhone that will allow people to pay for their Skinny Caramel Macchiatos with their phones. The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to tell you about it. Baby Boomers are big coffee drinkers and many of us need our fix every morning. Some of us absolutely pay top dollar for our designer coffee. I'm not the only Baby Boomer in line at my local Starbucks and my husband waits in line every day in NYC for his fix of java.

One question always has been: "How can Starbucks make that line move faster?" Well, I think Starbucks actually has hit on something that will make the line move faster! Also, I think what they are doing will make it more likely that our generation will trust paying for goods and services with our phone.

Now, I've heard about elaborate schemes that let people use their phones as credit cards before, but they all required either another piece of hardware hooked up to the phone or some other elaborate effort ---which I don't think people are going to actually do.  One "pilot program" I read about, is described in this Reuters article:
The program will allow select New York-area employees and customers to install small chips, supplied by Visa and its technology vendors, in their smartphones that emit radio signals over very short distances.

Customers would then "bump" their phones with point-of-sale devices in stores -- actually they need only wave the phones near the devices -- and their bank account data would be collected and their purchases completed.
Frankly, people in Japan have been using their phones for years as a mobile wallet, but in the case of Japan, I believe the phone company takes the charges and collects the money on the bill.  Here, credit card companies and banks want to be involved. But the Starbucks solution is perfect for small purchases. And people usually will use their credit cards to "buy" the gift card that is being used.

First, download the Starbucks Card Mobile App from the App Store, then buy a Starbucks gift card or "stored value" card from your local Starbucks. You can even buy one online and have it emailed to yourself, but to test this app out I bought a card for $25.00.

The app prompts you to enter the card number and a passcode, which is scratched off from the gift card. After you've entered those numbers, you've registered your card.

You don't have to do anything else to register your card, but if you wish to accumulate points and to qualify for a free birthday drink, you can register for the Starbuck's loyalty program as in the screen above. You can also reload your card online at Starbuck's website:

Today I took my phone out to my local Starbucks for a test run. After ordering my 140 calorie Skinny Caramel Macchiato, I touched the portion of the card below that says "Touch to Pay" then handed my phone to the cashier to scan the bar code that appeared. For obvious reasons, I've changed the bar code picture below.

After the cashier was finished I touched the button that said "Touch When Done", and my purchase registered on my phone. I liked using the app because there was no fumbling in my purse for my credit card or for cash, no change to worry about, no signing, no making sure that my credit card got back into my wallet.

Simply put it was quick and easy, and I think it will be the future --how all of us will pay for small items. I definitely think Starbucks will be the merchant to make mobile payments accessible even to those of us who reject such notions. And I think that this is one technology that baby boomers will readily adopt.

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