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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Tea for Two

Last night I found myself in a new predicament. After months of happy cashless existence; I got in a pickle over the bill for dinner with friends. It got awkward.

After a typically slow-paced Sunday, it got to about 6pm and my two housemates and good friend decided it was time to eat. Due to the wonderfully frustrating and odd Sunday shopping laws in the UK we were unable to cook for ourselves and forced to leave the house in search of nutrition.

Never failing to impress, our only real considered choice was the local Vietnamese restaurant further up the road in Victoria Park. (It is really, really good by the way, if you are ever in the area go to Namo).

By the time we got there we were bloody ravenous and I could have quite easily found myself picking off strangers’ plates if we’d been sat closer.

Due to said hunger, we all put mid-month budgets aside and went crazy with a starter and a main course… renegade, I know.

Fortunately, an in depth and ethical debate kicked up amongst the four of us about the sustainability and conservation of sea life, especially the mass fishing of critters like prawns. That meant that, by the time the prawn crackers (18% of which is prawn by the way) arrived, two of our diners had talked themselves out of being able to eat them leaving twice as many for myself and another less moralistic co-patron.

Awesome, apparently absolutely unethical, tasty but utterly satisfying; I was looking forward to my starter.

My starter was a equally exclusive, [100%] prawn summer roll or four. Strike two but the scornful looks from across the table were no deterrent against the almighty rumble of my stomach.

One of the things I like most about Namo is how quickly one course will follow another. It is crazy-fast. The moment we had all put down our choice of eating utensils (chop sticks for some, spoons for others) down our plates were cleared only to be replaced immediately with our main courses.

Round two. Go!

Whilst no one had a problem with my ginger and lemongrass chicken with coconut rice beyond the odd combination, they all had their own food and I noshed my way through another helping of eastern-themed goodness.

An executive decision was made that dinner would be adjourned before desert and we’d pick up a couple of pots of Ben and Jerry’s on the way back to mine to be enjoyed in front of a good movie.

The bill arrived in as little time as each of our courses and, thankfully, the four-strong diner party aren’t the type to quibble over £1 here or £2 there and would rather just split the bill fairly and be done with it.

Three cards and a £20 note found their way onto the little tray thing. (I still smirk to myself when the number of cards out number the cash in these situations!)

Without going into why, suddenly it became two cards and a £20 as one guest was picking up the tab for two. When the waiter came to settle up the bill was split by four and the first card was charged for twice that sum.

As I was in the middle of a conversation I hadn’t even realised that I’d handed the waiter a card that was recently blocked after I managed to submit my PIN ‘wrong’ three times in a row.

By the way, whilst we are on this, I didn’t. Tesco screwed up. I have no way of backing this up other than saying; I’ve had the same PIN for over 10 years.

There was a mild kafuffle and standard embarrassing remarks from the rest of my table as I made the above excuse and handed the waiter, PDQ at the ready, another card.

Still in a flap, it wasn’t until the payment had gone through that I realised he had charged me for two people’s share as well as the other cardholder. He then strolled off with the £20 only to return, red-faced and apologetic, moments later.

To him the problem could be resolved easily; I take the £20 and we are all even. Little did he know I was a far more awkward client than that! The entire situation broke down into fits of giggles and quasi-explanations from the four of us whilst the poor man stood, confused wanting to give the bloody £20 to anyone that would take it.

Finally, as one of my housemates already owes me for a night out a week or so prior, it was decided that she would take the £20 and would then transfer it and the rest of the outstanding money by Internet banking when she gets a moment.

That, by all accounts, is quite a long way round to resolve a pretty simple problem. The only thing that bugs me is that it really wouldn’t be if I used cash!

But what would have happened if we all paid by card? I have absolutely no idea if a restaurant can reimburse a card transaction there and then. Can they?

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La Roux[bish] at the Round House

On Saturday night I took a dear friend to see La Roux at the Camden Round House. It was one of the nights during the iTunes Festival that happens every year in London.

Despite not really rating La Roux, I was quite excited; I love the Round House and, better still, the tickets for the festival are free – instead of buying tickets you just add the iTunes Festival application on Facebook and apply for the tickets for the nights you want to go to.

Even further up my street, the tickets are an emailed PDF with two of those square barcodes on it (one for each guest) so you just rock up with your confirmation, one of the many Apple-clad door staff fire a barcode reader at your print off, a MacBook beeps in confirmation and they give you a wristband and a little credit card token thing that gives you 10 free downloads from the iStore.

From application to entry – not even a suggestion of cash, not even a traditional transaction; at no point did I let go of anything I owned, I just showed a barcode and walked in. Perfect.

Saturday night unfortunately followed Saturday daytime, like usual, and that particular Saturday saw me haul myself and a gang of another 5 or 6 colleagues around East London flyering all the markets to death in the name of our agency’s huge public event the following day (see below).

I was tired, sodden and impressed I had managed to drag myself out of the house in the first place – if I was going to make it through an entire gig, I wanted a drink.

We went to the bar at my suggestion, queued for quite a while and, when we finally got to the front I did my usual recognisance, “you take cards, right?”

I say it so blasé these days, I am so used to, “yeah of course,” or “yeah but you have to spend a £5er.”  It is so rare to hear anything else, especially at a bar… like this time…

“Nope. None of our bars do. There is a cash point around the corner in the foyer. Get cash out there.”

Brilliant.

A venue that doesn’t allow re-entry under any circumstances has completely cash bars and a private cash-point that stings its users £1.50 per transaction. It is like it is 2002 again.

For the first time in a long time I had that embarrassing situation of having to rely on my friends (despite my final ‘don’t’ in the hung-over video) and I didn’t like it one bit. Especially as it was my idea in the first instance!

It has been so long since I’ve found myself caught out like this and I didn’t think for a second it would be somewhere like the Round House… one of London’s leading cultural venues?!

Further more, despite our best efforts of getting ruined and numb to whatever the performance would be like, La Roux finally waltzed on stage and failed to wow just about anyone than her hardcore fans in the front two rows. She sang like she personally hated every one of us in the audience, that playing this show so unbelievably inconvenient for her and we were just in the way of her and her bed.

Beyond her attitude she also sang like she was on a hen-do karaoke.

It might just be me but I’d be phenomenally grateful for even the slightest attention I received after a DJ took one of my averagely bland tracks and made it good. Not a monosyllabic, obstinate child-in-a-huff.

Oh, and this is the footage from our big dance stunt on Sunday, we got the best part of 1000 people down to Shoreditch to act out the street scene from the 1980 film, FAME.

I got sun burnt. But it was one hell of a day!

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“Where on earth have you been?”

I haven’t updated LosingFace for what seems like an eternity.  It isn’t because I haven’t wanted to; I just simply haven’t had as much to write about. It has been well over 18 months since I began this cashless endeavour and I’m used to it now. I know what I can do; I know what I still can’t and therefore how to get around the trickier situations anecdote-free.

My shoulder is almost 100% fixed after a careful year of scans, restricted movement and very little boisterousness so I am back on a bike every day – no hassle with Oyster cards breaking or running out of money any more.

I always carry two cards after the run in with HSBC’s overly cautious fraud department and I found myself without any money for seven days. At worst a bar tab gets too big for me to remember I have one and have to return the next day to settle it in order to retrieve the whichever card is behind the till.

I even made it through the whole of Glastonbury festival without resorting to cash. Although I think it deserves it’s own post in the not-so-distant future, in short – preparing in advance meant I didn’t need to rely on anyone (minus one pair of sunglasses) and could stay as sloshed as my friends all weekend.

So what have I been doing all these months? Well, amongst a new job, the end of a relationship and the beginning of another, I found myself making a pseudo public service announcement about living with out cash with the guys at VISA.


Upon watching, I must explain – I don’t usually look quite this rubbish. That isn’t to say I ever look good, heavens no. But this was a day in searing London heat, wearing a leather jacket and a hangover so horrific that it felt like Satan had gone for a number two behind my retinas.

Seriously, I spent an entire 12 hours sweating pure evil and forgetting my embarrassingly short lines.

I promise to write more in the future. Sorry.

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“Salaire du salaire I par la carte?” …eh?!

I’m in Cannes, South France. I’d love to say I was invited out here by the festival jury for an award nominated screenplay but that wouldn’t be true in the slightest.

No, whilst I won’t go into manic detail as to how I have found myself writing this in the backroom of a nightclub waiting for shenanigans to begin later tonight, I will tell you that the highlight of the evening will be a great view at a small, intimate gig by none-other than Debbie Harry!

That I cannot wait for!

Anyway, this has been my first expedition into Europe since I began my cashless endeavour. I’ve been to the US a number of times but simply hopping on the EuroStar at St. Panc’ simply hasn’t happened.

Whilst my original year was based on a bet that prevented me from using anything with the Queen’s profile on to buy or sell anything; this year seems to have evolved and now it looks like I just live without cash – period.

If I was here a year ago I wouldn’t have had any problem at all, I could have used Euros to buy whatever I needed and, in fact, my daily existence might have actually proved easier than being in London. This year, however, I’ve found myself hidden in my hotel room for the best part of today, afraid to really venture out.

It isn’t so much that I don’t want to discover Cannes, sightsee and/or ‘sleb watch’, it is more than I’ve suddenly suffered a massive shyness. I don’t know how accepting the French are to electronic payments, the systems they use, the language surrounding currency and transactions – instead of finding out the hard way I have inadvertently chosen to avoid the situation entirely.

I’ve been here for the best part of a day and I thoroughly regret my decision so far. Catching a taxi into town with a woman from the same hotel showed me just what I have missed out on today. And for what? Saving my skin from a few momentary bouts of awkwardness? Frustrating a local with the typically British language barrier? It isn’t as if one or two awry experiences would do the English reputation a huge injustice – I think, in some parts of Southern France, ‘we’ have very little left to lose!

I can remember doing this exact same thing when I first started LosingFace, I found myself taking the easier, less experiential, options when it came to stepping outside of my comfort zone. It took months to overcome and the longer I left it; the worse it became.

Worse still – the less I would have to write about!

I fly home tomorrow afternoon. I don’t have months to get over this; I have hours if not minutes! I hereby declare that; tomorrow I must wake up, check out of my room and not look back. Mediterranean France is wonderful and I must make the most of my time here.

Obviously, if tonight goes the way I expect it will and tomorrow arrives with a throbbing head and without waking up, the above declaration is void.

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More Numbers = More Safety / More Confusion + More Effort

When I woke up this morning, waiting in my email inbox from a dear friend and long-time-loyal to Losing Face, was a link to an article from the BBC News website. The only other text was, “Get on this quick…”

It is about the new Emue card technology, aimed at tackling the growing level of internet and phone card fraud or, as the pros refer to it, ‘Card Not Present Fraud’ (CNP for short). The Emue technology isn’t all that new, Australia has already had a trial run (complete with prop-destitute trailer) last year and Visa have been talking about it for a good 18 months, still this is its first real public break in the UK.

Reading it within minutes of waking up was more than a little tricky but, two or three attempts later, it made sense and I’m left with mixed feelings toward the proposed technology.

The card has a built in 4 digit code generator which will be needed whenever making a transaction online or over the phone, therefore eliminating [or at least reducing] the ability to thieve a card, go to an internet café and blow a couple of grand on bits and bobs from Amazon.

As a concept, that is grand; I, myself, have fallen victim to CNP fraud only this year and it is quite a horrible ordeal. Whilst your money is still ensured by your bank, the lack of an actual event makes the entire experience quite murky and uncertain. At least having your card stolen in person provides an awareness of what is happening and what might then happen!

With CNP, you might be utterly unaware of any ill behaviour until a voice at the end of a phone line casually informs you that someone has pretty much drained your entire account from the other side of the world whilst you slept soundly and unaware.

But, whilst the concept is bang on, and there is a clear and present cause for concern surrounding CNP fraud, is this the right mechanic to solve the problem?

Assuming everything works, and Visa are confident that the battery life on the card will outlive the valid dates, I am sure this really is will dramatically reduce CNP fraud following a worldwide roll out.

But, what happens when it doesn’t? Buttons that need to be pinched rather than pressed, a little LCD screen that could crack… operationally, a number of new things could go wrong that would result in needing a new card more frequently than our current system.

Personally, I’d rather have to order a new card every 6 months than have to go through the uncertainty and rigmarole of losing a load of savings to some faceless arse-hole hiding away somewhere in the world but I can’t help thinking that this creates a new set of user-facing problems whilst resolving a worldwide concern.

Isn’t there a way of securing online payments that doesn’t rely on additional, physical processes? And why does the resolution usually boil down to numbers and codes?

If a bank card is personal, the money that that card represents is personal and the purchases made with that card are personal, surely there is an opportunity to do away with adding more identity that will inevitably be copied and relying on physical ambiguity and personal recollection?

What if the online (CNP) access to my current account had nothing to do with my day to day electronic access (whether that is a card, phone, sticker – anything) and instead was simply something I had engrained in me?

If I was to purchase a CD from a website and, when settling my order, I had to submit utterly unique and personal anecdotal information plus one bank-issued serial?

The bank serial could be different from my actual account number thus reducing the online/offline data cross over, the personal information or passwords could be three tiers deep, and all of which would never need to be written down or stored because it is all already deeply engrained in my personal memory. Hell, one of the references could be a favorite quote or sentence from a favorite book or film or song!

As an example, below are four variables that could, literally be anything. Even the people that know me inside out wouldn’t know what to write if there weren’t any prompts next to the input boxes.

  • Account Reference: 12345678
  • Personal ID #1: “I heard that!”
  • Personal ID #2: “I’ll love you forever, if I ever love at all.”
  • Personal ID #3: Sunbeam S7 Deluxe

Written like this, it is more like playing Jeopardy than a secure way of buying something from the comfort of your home but if, when registering for CNP authenticated transactions with your bank in the first instance, the user was given a choice of 10, maybe even 20 prompting questions in which they choose 3, the answers could be anything as long as they mean something to that one unique user.

No need for pressing extra buttons on a card, or another random 4 digit pin, just memories.

Unfortunately, whilst this is all well and good [albeit utterly unfounded and non-academic opinion] but I have had the great fortune in meeting some of the industry’s leading innovators and developers – I’m positive, anything they are putting forward to trial is the most logical and appropriate solution for a worldwide market… In short, I hope I get to play with an Emue card sometime soon!

I’d still like to pay for things whilst remembering some of the most funny and monumental moments from my own personal history though. If I’m shelling out savings for yet another steep electricity bill; I’d rather do it with a smile on my face.

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Punks and Pennies

As I am sure I have mentioned a number of times on Losing Face, I live with two best friends and together they make up a two-piece band called Apologies, I have None.

Living with a band, especially an aspiring, dedicated band, has its occasional frustration (namely regular practice sessions and severe shortage of spare time) whilst it is also comes with an awful lot of perks.

One of which is the incredible and very much extended group of friends that now surround their act loyally and enthusiastically. My housemates are fortunate to have a steadily growing group of people that are more like good friends than they are simply fans but it would now be impossible to separate the two roles.

It has been a while since I have found the time to really indulge in a slice of the culture that they have become such a crucial part of, months in fact. Few things can make me feel as positive about the world like DIY punk can; it is phenomenal how competition is completely disregarded for collaboration and how utterly uncompromising some of the audience regulars can be as to what they like and dislike.

Bands look out for each other; the majority of the crowd know each other and anyone new to the scene seemingly gets swept off their feet and into the thick of things in no time at all. It really is heart warming when compared to the professional life that I lead and the stark opposites that I am often confronted by.

On Sunday there was an all day show at Bloomsbury Bowls in… well, Bloomsbury. From 2pm ‘til 11pm were back-to-back bands; the line up, free entry and venue was a combination not to be missed and I headed down with my housemates and others to enjoy a fun packed day of sweat and tinnitus.

Hanging about with my roomies at shows over the past two years has meant that there have been a growing number of familiar faces at these things and always the opportunity to meet new people, Sunday was no exception.

All day I was meeting people I hadn’t met before, all of whom were lovely and [when they made the connection] some were enthralled to meet “Justine’s Housemate” or the guy that actually lived on “Eason Drive” – something I consider more of a celebratory status than the recent Telegraph honour!

One thing that does occasionally come out, and the actual purpose of this long winded post, is my cashless existence. Some saw the London Paper in November and some heard one of the radio spots I have been lucky enough to feature in whilst others had no idea who or what I was up to or why and it is their reaction that I savour the most.

I’ve never really gone into it with any of them properly before, but I am always intrigued as to which way their opinion might fall.

Some love the anarchical, anti-monarchic slant on my actions – something I personally don’t wish to engage in. Others must immediately think ‘corporate ass’; expressing fear after concern after conspiracy theory. Am I OK with BigBrother knowing my exact whereabouts and spending habits 24/7 or can I sleep at night knowing that a big corporation like Visa has given me a helping hand every now and again or that I might be forced to choose Tesco over a local grocers if I haven’t thought ahead.

It is always great fun relaying the counter argument to whichever moral stance they chose in the first instance. Suddenly the entire situation isn’t so black and white – am I fighting ‘The Man’ or condoning ‘her’ rule? Do I particularly give a shit about either?

I have been witness to some of the most eloquent soliloquies and utterly incomprehensible rants from all manner of people in response to me telling them that I ‘live without cash’ and I hope I will be for a long time.

The scene my housemates are in is about Doing It Yourself, not because it is a trendy thing to say or do, but because they have to do it themselves – it is a lifestyle born out of passion in every case and every sense. Its sheer survival is impressive and hugely admirable even if the vast majority of the crowd don’t realise how perilous their sub-culture is.

There is very little different between DIY punk making the most of what they have got without compromising their passion and devotion and my voyage toward a complete and sustainable cashless existence. We are both defending something we believe in and, with a counter argument at hand, will defend our decision to accept support from someone or something bigger than us when we are given the opportunity to do so.

That is why I can listen to bands like Against Me! on Spotify and that is why I know cash will be a thing of the past in the not-so-distant-future.

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