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That’s the Ticket!

I’ve just read Sarah Perez‘s post on ReadWriteWeb about the future of mobile ticketing. I know that doesn’t sound like the most enthrawling subject to read about, but it is actually hugely relevant to LosingFace and will definitely being commonplace for all of us in the next year or so.

Think of the implications of being able to buy cinema tickets whilst stuck on the bus on the way to the theatre knowing you’ll miss it otherwise. Imagine being able to choose your seats and click OK, knowing it is already registered to your current account. Imagine being able to rock up at said cinema, by-pass the box office and simply flash your phone at the attendant outside the door to the screen.

Whether at first it is simply a barcode generator so that the attendant can scan it like a printed ticket or (in the long game) the ability to simply read your phone using NFC – this will be huge amongst those of us out there that aren’t too hot at remembering everything when we leave the house, those of us who could really be more prompt and more so than any other, those of us who really believe in ‘The Simpler The Better’.

I’ve already used a bodged attempt at mobile ticketing. When I flew to the states with my best friends and their band in November I checked in with just my passport and the e-ticket details saved on my phone.

I didn’t need to print anything off only to forget it before leaving the office. I didn’t have anything else to make sure I didn’t leave during two weeks of mayhem. All worked perfectly smoothly.

My only concern with mobile ticketing (in contrast to my massive desire to see this implemented worldwide, across every industry as of tomorrow morning) is that age old concern with mobile phones, the one bit of their technology that is edging forward barely at all – battery life.

How pissed would you be if you had a mobile ticket for your favourite band in the whole world and you battery dies before you reach the venue? Suddenly, the ticket you used to remember to pick up before leaving the house now has to be sufficiently charged!


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It is on it’s way!

Through the ever useful, Contactless Intelligence newsletter, I came across a piece of coverage about Nokia’s intention to integrate NFC (Near Field Communication) into more and more of their handsets, including the new N900 – which is coming out very very soon.

Thanks to being chummy with VISA over the past couple of years, I got to play with one of the prototypes of the phone for a good 6 months in 2009. I must say, it didn’t stick immediately but I am convinced that, by 2012 – the user interface will be waaaaay more intuitive and, as that was the biggest roadblock as far as I was concerned, I expect the pick-up will be much greater.

This doesn’t mean it will be a walk in the park for Nokia, it isn’t as if NFC will be considered as big a commodity as SMS was in the 90’s – not by a long shot – but it isn’t anything a healthy publicity campaign wouldn’t solve. The moment a bunch of 20+ year olds see, believe and trust that totting up and settling debts amongst friends can be as quickly solved as a couple of buttons, beeps and a waft of their mobile – the peer-to-peer micro payment will be alive and kicking.

From my perspective, this would have been incredibly helpful over the past few years for exactly that reason. The amount of times I paid for dinner with a friend, or bought something in full that would then need to be broken up amongst a small group of friends, only to find that all they had was cash or a 3 week wait whilst they finally found a moment to log onto the online banking was utterly frustrating.

Equally, instead of using this technology to settle up on shares of a larger debt to one person, a bunch of friends (all with NFC enabled handsets) that need to split a dinner bill of £60 directly to the waiting staff could simply apply a bit of basic mental division, type in their individual totals and send the authorised amount to the waiting staff’s handset/PDQ machine!

On an utterly serious note, I would very much like to see NFC technology adopt a far more consumer friendly title (and verb), “Bamph”. As in…

“Mate, you still owe me £8 from that round last night, I’m away next week so can you just bamph me it now?”


“Little Mikey, I’ll bamph you your pocket money… but first give your old Nan a hug!”

See? Sound awesome. Way more colloquial than NFC and one syllable shorter than PayWave!

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Square Demo – iPhone cashless payment app (and accessory!)

Thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter, a friend that always seems to have the very latest or very coolest news to share (@Jasonfas) inadvertently pointed me in the direction of this Youtube video by Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg.

The video is a run through of a beta/prototype app and plug-in accessory for the iPhone that allows the user to create their own credit card transactions wherever they might be in the world (with signal).

Whilst, from my own cashless point of view, this is an excellent concept and will certainly radicalise how vendors and consumers go about transactions – there are a couple of big concerns at the same time…

Firstly, it is based upon card swipings. Swiping a card, as far as I am concerned, is as archaic as paying in pennies. It is unsafe and usually means signing for authorisation rather than the far more trustworthy chip and pin. The action alone is bulky and unnecessary and, worse of all, it means that the card owner has to hand over their beloved card to the vendor, allbeit temporarily. The major card manufacturers and some serious 3rd party players are leaps and bounds ahead of swiping… even the highstreet-ready paywave contactless technology seems more fitting but that is just the beginning of what is (and could be) out there.

Secondly, who is going to allow a complete stranger running a cheese stall in a marketplace to take your hard-earned money through all you know is their own personal phone? There is going to have to be an incredibly heavy brand-trust building exercise that needs to take place before these things can hit the shelves in a sustainable way. VISA, Ammex, Mastercard etc are all household names with huge swathes of brand history and huge consumer/celebrity and corporate endorsement and they are all still struggling with the public’s relentless grasp on cash. If Square think they will be able to waltz in to a market as polluted as transactions is already without a steep learning curve… well… I guess they’ll have an even steeper learning curve to battle!

So what could Square do to make their lives that little bit easier?

Work faster. The market place is already beginning to emerge with similar propositions, like Mophie for example. Even in England alone it is clear to see that battles like this rely on brand preference, MasterCard vs. VISA will continue their epic marketing and PR battle for eternity; constantly pitching themselves as the consumer’s choice. If more than one Square comes to market in a short period of time, how will they place themselves in people’s minds.

Team work. From what I have read so far, there doesn’t seem to be a corporate partner involved which is certainly heroic and, hoping it takes off, such an absence will lead to an exceptionally profitable venture for Square. But teaming up with the guys at Visa or suchlike might actually yield more in the long run that initially thought. VISA invariably has a huge resource of consumer feedback, trials, psychology and advance technologies that they are just itching to get out of the lab and onto the high street. If the minds of Kevin Rose and Jack Dorsey (another investor and coFounder of Twitter) who’s’ entire success has been built on implementing the worlds most simple user interfaces to something we all do every day anyway teamed up with the techs at VISA and brought to market a joint concept – consumer friendly and accessible and still safe, secure and cutting edge.

I’m still really interested in how this will work in the future…  I don’t want to poo-poo the concept at all but right now I don’t believe Square is going to pave a way to a cashless society with this incarnation but I believe they will eventually as long as they listen to the old boys in the game and build on their learnings from over the years.

If anyone at Square ever reads this, I’d love to know the answer to a few questions – namely, micro-payments (which this is all it will be used for initially): who picks up the transaction fee? Especially in light of Ammex’s incredible fee for vendors? And, please tell me you’re using the technology behind the app, Bump for secure iPhone to iPhone transactions? That’d be mega.

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I’m Still Here!!

Well, after more than a month since my last post (and far, far too long since my last positive post) I thought it was about time I checked in with LosingFace. In actual fact, it took an email from my grandfather asking me if I was still doing the cashless thing for me to log in… over a week after receiving the email.

Before deciding to write a new post I read through the last few – it was quite a depressing read!

Sorry about that. I’ll try harder to be more positive in the future, I promise.

The truth is, what usually happens, happened. I stagnated. What was possible became common place, what wasn’t became unachievable and therefore irritating. What is there to write about when nothing eventful happens? Nothing. What is there to write about when the only things that do happen aren’t exactly happy happenings? Pessimistic rantings, and that is all. Great.

Instead of personally experiences, on the grounds that the only things that stand out are hurdles I usually jump, maybe I should just write about other people’s cashless news? Fictional happenings? Maybe I could spend my days sat dreaming up a future for my Utopian cashless society…! Well, as exciting as that last option sounds, I think the answer is a mix of all three.

I’m still fascinated by cashless living, the gargantuan efforts undertaken by some great minds to persuade our public to adopt new and initially-uncomfortable new processes in what they do best, spending.

I’m going to write more about what interests me, rather than what just pisses me off.

…starting tomorrow.

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I’m Not Muggable… but I am still attackable

One of the most positive outcomes of living without cash is my careless disregard for getting mugged. Beyond the sheer lack of cash upon my person, I have a mobile phone that is pretty worthless and a £20 Borders birthday gift card from my aunt that I’m yet to spend.

That doesn’t mean I waltz about the deepest, darkest depths of East London without a care in the world – it just means I’ve been more relaxed than I would have been before.

Well, I now admit, whilst it might not be worth the effort of trying to mug me, that doesn’t necessarily mean some little bastard won’t try their luck.

In this case, three little bastards.

Last weekend was Notting Hill Carnival, an annual tradition of walking slowly past row upon row of blown speakers and always wondering where the actual carnival procession is.

This year was no different, we walked about for ages, soaking up the sights, smells and atmosphere, found some friends at the Good Times stage and queued for the best part of an hour for the toilet (that cost my girlfriend £2).

On our way back up the main strip through Ladbrooke Grove, it was gone 7pm, the stages were shut and the crowds were thinning down.

After saying goodbye to my brother, friends and friends of friends that were heading to West London, Justine and I headed to a friends house party just off Portobello Road.

We were talking along, arm in arm when these kids charged past us and one of them brushed their cigarette across my arm. I didn’t think anything of it, I knew it wasn’t worth saying anything and it didn’t even really hurt. We carried on walking.

20 seconds later, an arm wrapped around my neck from behind. It was the kid that had scorched my arm moments before.

“Mate, you owe me a pound, yeah?” He said.

Let me just explain, this guy was about 5”4, fresh faced and utterly unintimidating. I’m nearly a foot taller than him and, thanks to him putting his arm round me, I’m holding his right wrist and keeping him completely off balance. Therefore my reaction was, quite simply,

“What? Fuck off.”

Then his two little friends turned up. Not so cool. The tables irreversibly turned.

“You made me drop my last cigarette, you owe me a pound.” He said, again.

At this point I thought it might be worth getting out of this situation as fast as possible.

“Sorry, guy, I don’t have any cash.” I said.

“Nah mate, you do. Give us a pound, yeah?”

Justine jumps in …always one for a bit of confrontation!

“He’s serious, he never carries cash. You can look him up on the internet.” As true as that is, and as utterly grateful I am that the darling girl stood up for me as she always does, not the hardest thing that could have been said.

At that point the little fucker thought she was a cute one and stroked her chin. That immediately pissed both of us no end – definitely making the situation worse.

She grabbed his wrist and threatened the crap out of him if he was to ever do it again and I pushed him away by his throat and kept him at arms length.

He didn’t like that. He looked like he didn’t like that.

Recognising that he was getting shitty rather than just cheeky, Justine coughed up a pound from her bag and gave it to him with the words,

“You sad, pathetic little boy.”

They left.

I felt furious. Justine was beyond words. We continued walking in silence.

The problem is, until no one carries cash, everyone will still expect to get money if they threaten someone enough, however impossible that might be to achieve. What is worse is, if you are of the mentality that going up to a stranger and demanding money is acceptable, you’re probably ethically challenged enough to think its acceptable to lash out after an unsuccessful attempt which would leave the likes of me worse for wear anyway.

The problem with the situation on Sunday was compounded by the startling and depressing truth that our society is still archaic and divided; instead of it being three kids demanding money from an adult couple that could have easily and justly retaliated both verbally and/or physically – it looked like three black kids demanding money from a white couple and ANY retaliation from us would look like a hostile racial divide and, on the main street of Notting Hill Carnival, the situation would have only got significantly worse.

I really wish that wasn’t the case, not just on Sunday. Always. I dread to think how many situations like that, in any context, end badly because of the racial prejudice one way or another rather than the situation on its own… three little kids shouldn’t be able to intimidate two people 10 years older than them. Ever.

Thank you Jus, for carrying a pound and for just being very, very supportive.

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The Human Element

For anyone that reads LosingFace and doesn’t actually know me, I am not a shy person. Nor am I afraid of drawing attention intentionally or otherwise. I wear ridiculous socks, deliberately rolling up my trousers, I don’t own a ‘typical’ suit, I will occasionally refuse to whisper at inappropriate moments striking up a conversation with a stranger is an integral part of my day.

It isn’t a natural personality trait, far from it; It is part-and-parcel of being a 6foot 2inch, lanky, quasi-ginger… if it is difficult to blend into a crowd, why not try your hardest to stand out?

Quite a simple philosophy.

So with that in mind, please don’t take this lightly when I say, I have had the most embarrassing two weeks of my life.

What has made my life so mortifyingly awkward? Living without cash and relying on two cards that have both been disabled.

Two weeks ago I was in Tesco, buying my lunch as usual, and made my way to the robo-tills. After scanning my bread roll, my humus and a decadent sized chocolate bar I shoved my debit card in the PDQ machine and tapped my PIN number in.

Wrong PIN number.

Now, I thought this was odd, I have had the same PIN number since my first current account 10 years ago and, beyond that, I’ve used the same 4 numbers to buy almost everything for the last 18 months. I know my PIN number better than I do my own middle name.

I entered it again, in case I’d caught another button by mistake.


Last chance. I start to doubt myself. I really want my god-damned lunch. I decided to go for it again.

With the accuracy of an autistic neuron-surgeon I went for it one last time. Tapping each button with unparalleled accuracy and care. Speaking the numbers at the same time. This time I had to be right.



In a matter of moments I had wiped out my main tool for consumption knowing that I’d have to wait 7 working days or longer to receive my new PIN. Fuming, I resorted to taking out the credit card, usually reserved for particularly fancy purchases in which my grubby 3 year old debit card just won’t do.

I entered in the PIN and blam! – Wrong!

I decided to not chance it again, I moved robo-till and tried again, it worked. The PDQ machine was broken… it had cost me my debit card. I was so frustrated I barely wanted my chocolate treat any more, let alone my bread roll.

I trudged back to the office in a mood and scoffed my lunch whilst whinging to anyone that would listen. This was the first time in a long time I’d faced real difficulty living without cash.

“That isn’t that embarrassing!” I hear you cry. It wasn’t – it was simply setting the scene for the past fortnight – for which I will continue.

So, one card down – not the end of the world. I’m pretty good with my pennies; I can live in credit for a month and know I can immediately pay it off at the end. I decided this would be OK.

I was right for two days; I managed just fine. Better than OK actually, I’d got to use the Paywave functionality on the card almost every morning with my daily coffee on my way to work. It just doesn’t get old…!

After the two days, however, things took a turn for the worse.

I’d waltzed into Pret, like I do every morning, to buy a coffee and a croissant from the same beaming woman that serves me on every single occasion… she can unwittingly dig you out of the darkest of moods – an absolute wonder!

Anyway, without even ordering, my coffee and croissant was put in front of me, all I had to do was pay. I used my credit card and tapped in my new favourite 4 numbers.

Beep. Refused.


My poor coffee lady friend person looked devastated; like she was breaking the news of a loved ones death. I asked, humbly, if I could try again. She agreed.


Double fuck.

It was too much; I was embarrassed for her more than I was myself. I conceded, made up some silly excuse and went to leave. She kindly offered me the coffee on the house and I couldn’t have been more grateful (that’s why I love Pret a Manger!)
When I got back to the office, perplexed and worried about living the rest of my month as a free loading hermit, I rang the customer service for my card. It took 3 minutes on hold and two separate attempts at inputting my card details in the phone keypad before I got to speak to anyone.

I wanted to know why my card had been refused.

This is what the nonchalant woman on the end of the phone said.

“You’ve hit your credit limit.”

What?! How?! I hadn’t used my credit card for ages! What the hell was wrong?! Was this fraud!?!  I asked how.

“You’ve spent too much. You’ve hit your limit.”

A valuable insight. Not what I was looking for by way of an answer. I ask what my limit was, sure that it was at least £1000.

“£260.” She said.

“What?! Why is that?” I asked, increasingly frustrated.

“Because there was a late payment in April. We reduced your credit limit.”

“But I set up a direct debit in February for that card. There shouldn’t have ever been a late payment.”

“Yes, you did. I can see that. But it takes three months to process a direct debit, so it didn’t go live until May.”

“So if you could see I’d put in place a direct debit to always pay the full amount, why didn’t you think it was a bit ridiculous to then reduce my limit?”

“Policy, sir.”

Livid, I paid off the remaining £256 on my account so I could continue using it immediately. I needed to.

Naturally, an electronic payment from one computer to another takes 48 hours, naturally I had to rely on my brother to bail me out. Naturally I was pissed off.

Well, if you’d please excuse my language, what the fuck are they playing at?! When, in the name of all things holy, does it take 3 sodding months to process a simple direct debit from my current account and my only credit card?

With all this technology, with all this singing and dancing contactless transactions, at the end of the day, it is some mindless button basher that holds the entire process up.
And what now? My credit rating is fucked. All because I am trying to live without cash. To anyone else that obviously doesn’t know me, another auto-bot that will decide, without prejudice, that I am unreliable, that I can only be trusted with a £260 credit limit.

I am seriously looking into getting on the property market, it will be a struggle already even before an organisation that has benefitted from me wafting their product in an almost-full-page picture in The Telegraph for piss all has systematically declared me untrustworthy with credit.

This is, singlehandedly, the most frustrated, the angriest, and the closest to giving up I have been so far in over 18 months.

I’ve lodged a complaint, I’ve written to them, I’m even trying the backdoor route through anyone I’ve spoken to by way of affiliation over the last year and a half; hopefully this will get flagged up by their Google Alerts.

Maybe, just maybe, it won’t take them 3 months to process this. Here’s hoping.


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Learn from your Mistakes

Yesterday NatWest and O2 announced the launch of their new Load&Go card, which is primarily aimed at children of 13 and older.

The card will all kids to use ATM machines and to buy stuff online but does not have an over draft facility. Effectively, parents will load the card with a predetermined amount of money or set up a direct debit for an allowance/pocket money every week or month and the child will then be responsible for their own budgeting.

Learning about this on the Daily Mail website, I was itching to finish reading the article so I could get to the comments – knowing how terribly ‘right’ they would be.

By the way, I don’t mean ‘right’ in a correct sense… I mean, out of touch middle income, middle England loonies with too much time on their hands ranting about how ALL kids cant be trusted, they’re all scam artists, all the banks are up to no good and don’t deserve to get paid, how could the government possibly allow such a hennas proposition?! Etc… Etc…

I wasn’t disappointed.

But, as much as Carol B, from the Cotswolds, thinks this is a “ridiculous idea” and how fed up she is to “the back teeth of kids being treated as adults and being given a free rein to so exactly what they like, that is why they are so badly behaved nowadays.” There is merit in some of the comments.

Whilst it is obviously a good idea that kids learn to budget properly like they will in adult life but without the ability to monumentally screw up and wind up in all sorts of debt; does this expose 13 year olds to the debauch online world of sex toys and prescription drugs?

That’d be rubbish.

Again, on the positive side, this Load&Go card will provide a new safety to a kid wanting to go any buy something with his or her pocket money. Instead of waltzing down the high street with however much money in cash only to then walk back the other way with a new possession of equal worth to the original cash – at least this way the little whippersnapper is only at a heightened risk on the return journey.

…I’d like to think I still have enough faith in society for a 13 year old to remain unscathed as no one will both mugging him, tourturing the PIN number out of him and hightailing it to a ATM to withdraw about £20. If I read The Daily Mail comments much more, I will begin to think otherwise.

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