The bean counters at the popular coffee mega-chain Starbucks are speeding up the drip-drip-drip toward a completely cashless society. Starting this Autumn, you'll be able to pay for your Starbucks coffee, scones, and triple soy latte macchiatos without using cash, credit cards, or debit cards -- you can pay with just a little click with your mobile phone.
The new payment system will be rolled out to 7,000 Starbucks stores this Fall. It's part of a larger strategy to get people paying for items with their mobile phones -- both for convenience, and to add yet another middleman who hopes to get filthy rich off your everyday financial transactions.
Starbucks is pairing with the mobile payment startup Square to allow digital payments at Starbucks outlets. Square already performs this service on a small scale with New York taxicabs. Square provides a free app and a free little dongle that allows anyone to run a credit card purchase right there on their own smartphone.
The technology is called Near-Field Communication, or NFC, and it allows your smartphone to act as a "digital wallet". Marketing people and smartphone company executives have been clamoring for this for years. The rest of us? Not really so much.
But these marketing people and smartphone company executives figure that if we see this technology in use every day at a ubiquitous business like Starbucks, we'll all want to perform NFC payments as regularly as possible. It does save money -- Square charges only 2.75% cut per credit card swipt. The industry standard rate is 3.5%, plus fifteen cents per transaction.
The Starbucks-Square app will be available in a couple of months for iPhones, iPads, and Android phones. The first time you use the system, you'll need to show Starbucks a bar code on your phone. From that point onward, each time you enter a Starbucks store, Starbucks' GPS will recognize that you just walked into their store. Your name and photo will pop up on the the barista's register screen.
Okay, how comfortable are you with that?
The upside, however, is that you will theoretically spend less time in line waiting for service. You just confirm your name to the barista, they enter your total, and you're off enjoying your coffee and/or Winter Wonderland CD.
Of course, that probably won't help save you time if the person in front wants steamed soy in their triple soy latte macchiato.