Posts tagged “payment”

Financial pings

I received the above notification today. A new client has put a penny in our bank account. We haven’t started the project (or even signed the contract) yet; this is clearly some validating that they have the correct bank details in their system.

I appreciate the gesture (better to work it out now then when they actually owe us something), but it’s such a weird artifact. There’s some interesting signal processing thing happening here; the message (“Hello Portigal bank account, are you receiving?”) isn’t meant to contain any actual content (“Here’s some money!”) but the system doesn’t allow any contact without content, so $0.01 is this meaningless amount that gets moved in order to prove out the connection.

I’ve authorized services like PayPal or Quickbooks to read and write my bank account; if I recall, they send a value below $1.00 and then ask you to verify the amount.

But this is just write access and we’re still doing ping/validations.

Will they deduct $0.01 from my first invoice? Will they try to get it back? Are penny errors so common now that there’s no concern about these piling up here and there?

Otherwise, I guess, woo-hoo! Free money!

Calling out, around the world?

(originally published at Core77)

Subway ad for Suica, transit fare payment by mobile phone, Tokyo, 2008

Why Japan’s Smartphones Haven’t Gone Global is a toe-dip into the case study of factors that have limited export of Japan’s cutting-edge mobile phone innovations.

Yet Japan’s lack of global clout is all the more surprising because its cellphones set the pace in almost every industry innovation: e-mail capabilities in 1999, camera phones in 2000, third-generation networks in 2001, full music downloads in 2002, electronic payments in 2004 and digital TV in 2005.

Despite their advanced hardware, handsets here often have primitive, clunky interfaces. Because each handset model is designed with a customized user interface, development is time-consuming and expensive, said Tetsuzo Matsumoto, senior executive vice president at Softbank Mobile, a leading carrier. “Japan’s phones are all ‘handmade’ from scratch,” he said. “That’s reaching the limit.”

Learned Behavio(u)r

One of the fun yet challenging aspects of spending two weeks in another country was stumbling over all the little things that I know how to do back home but didn’t work. I paid for a snack using pocket change, and eventually had to hold the pile of coins out to the counter dude so he could take the right amount. The coins say their value, in English, but in order to complete a transaction in the normal amount of time, you have to be familiar. It was an interesting feeling, to be such a foreigner.

At another point, I was riding the DLR (train) with my Oyster (smart card). A conductor comes along to swipe the card and there’s a small interaction where the passenger holds out the card and the conductor holds out the wand (yes, it was a wand, not the usual credit-card-swipey-slot thing). I wanted to put my card on top of his wand, but he wanted to put his wand on top of my card. I was just supposed to know the gesture. Sounds like a bit of a dominance issues, actually.

In using the self-check at Tesco (a grocery store), I realized the software was the same as what I’ve seen here at Home Depot, etc. but when it came time to pay, the voice prompt told me to insert my card into the chippenpin device. Turns out this was Chip-and-PIN, where credit cards and/or ATM cards have extra security via an embedded chip, and an associated PIN. These readers use a different swipe gesture, with the card going in the bottom of the keypad. Anyway, I stood there with my non-chipped credit card, putting it in and out of this bottom slot, to no avail. After I surrendered and paid cash, I realized there was the familiar vertical swipe slot along the bezel of the monitor, a different piece of hardware than the chippenpin.

And this one was subtle but confounding:
This is the TV remote from my Paris hotel room but the London hotel had a similar issue. In my experience, the red power button turns the TV on and turns the TV off. But in both these hotel rooms (and maybe this was a hotel issue more than a Euro issue) the way to turn it was to press the channel buttons. Enter a channel and the TV would go on and display that channel. The power button was actually on “off” button. You can imagine me sitting in front of the TV with a remote and trying to turn it on, in vain, until frustrated random button press gave me the result I wanted.

I often look around at local transit and marvel at how much the cues and other information in those systems are designed for people who already know how to use them; but I was able to plan for and learn about transit enough to be come a fairly comfortable user. It was these small interactions without cues, and under time pressure, where I found myself bemusedly incompetent.

Lame Budget practice

I rented a car from Budget earlier this week. I probably won’t do so again. They have a new practice, presented as a time-saving feature. If you drive less than 75 miles, they add $9.00 to your bill as a flat rate for gas consumption.

If you filled up yourself, present the bill and they’ll deduct the amount.

I didn’t pay that close attention upon renting when they asked me in their script-like manner if I planned to drive more than 75 miles. I mean, who the hell knows? I didn’t realize until checking the paperwork later that it wasn’t an optional program. I guess I could have used the odometer in the car to track my mileage to see what was going to happen, and then do some estimating math to see if the price of gas available locally at the car’s typical MPG would be more or less than $9.00. But I didn’t. I filled up the car myself, and remembered to have the receipt handy.

When I pull in to the return and am unloading the car, the usual parking-lot-Borg comes over with all their electronic gear, and when I ask about the charge, they tell me I have to go inside. So they ring me up, effectively charge me the amount including the $9 and then I have to take my bags back inside and wait for the one employee working inside to look over my receipts (one for gas, one for their service) and issue me a new version of the latter.

This is not a time- or money-saving feature for me. It probably makes money for them based on some estimated cut-off level, etc.

It’s not optional; I’m forced to alter a fairly traditional way of managing things to suit them. I’m not doing it. I’ll go somewhere else. It’s pretty much a commodity business anyway.


About Steve