While at the RSA Conference in San Francisco last week I had the need to drop into the Apple Store. I was looking for a stand for my iPad that I could use to view the script of my presentation while on stage. With the help of an Apple Genius I as able to find exactly what I was looking for. Then, to my surprise she whipped out her POS device, Point of Sale device that is, and advised me that if I was done shopping, that she could complete my purchase. On her modified iPod she swiped my credit card and emailed me a receipt. Purchase complete no fuss no hassle.
We put a lot of trust in retailers when we hand over our credit card to them to complete a transaction. In many cases we are standing at a checkout counter, we usually swipe our card ourselves or hand it to the checker to swipe for us, but most of the time that card never leaves our hand, or at worse it never leaves our sight. The major exception to this is restaurants. At most restaurants we order, we eat, we get a check, and we hand over our card. Then our card disappears for a few minutes or on some cases more than a few minutes. What is going on back there? Where is my card? Is it being skimmed, are the numbers being transfered or copied, did it get handed to another customer by mistake? There are so many things that could be going on when that card is out of our sight that we have no control over.
If Apple can create a POS system that uses a presumably secure wifi connection and a presumably secure iPod device to complete a credit card transaction why can't Applebee's, and Denny's, and every other restaurant out there. This technology is available, it may cost a little more then their current POS devices, but it could save them:
Time; the wait staff could use one of the devices to deliver the check and take immediate payment, then have the receipt emailed or printed back at the register. The customer, who often is ready to leave can do so without waiting even longer for the ticket and their card to return.
Security; the customers card never leaves their site and there is no question as to whether or not the card is tampered with or copied. The wifi and devices would be compliant with laws and regulations that regulate such transactions, not only in transit but also in rest.
Cost; the establishment simply needs to purchase and design the system for a handful of devices. The wait staff could share multiple devices between them. After all, in most cases they only have one or two current POS devices to complete these transaction now.
Reputation; when a theft does occur or even a suspected theft, that customer is going to complain. But often that customer is complaining loudest to other customers. They will tell everyone about the theft and how they think that it must have been that waiter that stole his card. If the card does not leave the customers sight the opportunity of skimming or theft would be low.
Satisfaction; the customer will be very pleased that their credit card does not leave their sight, that they don't have to worry about losing a receipt because it has been emailed, and they don't have to wait for the lengthy payment process at the end of their meal.
Good job to Apple on this one. Another great device even if it is just a POS device.
John "Mike" Wright