One of the key tasks set by the Gemalto team for the Contactless Challenge is to exist for a day using only Contactless. In practice, the Gemalto team qualified this to mean (something like) buying breakfast, lunch and dinner using just the Samsung Galaxy SIII.
Yes it’s possible — but what are the practicalities? I could simply have gone into McDonalds three times since every McDonalds has this technology. That’s no fun and it’s a bit repetitive.
So I hatched the following plan. Pret a Manger for breakfast (on account of the fact I worked ’til midday without doing breakfast – bad, I know). Somewhere else for lunch (possibly M&S) and then somewhere else for dinner (possibly somewhere like Tesco, EAT or similar).
I began strongly.
Here I am across the road from Pret a Manger:
It was an entirely pedestrian experience in Pret — which is good. Like McDonalds, it seems the team there were more or less fully up to speed on contactless. The lady simply nodded with mild disinterest when I eagerly asked if I could “pay by phone”. The transaction was approved in super quick time and she handed me a receipt. I’ve been taking receipts as proof just in case, although I am quite content not bothering with them on-going.
Here’s my reaction to the Pret experience moments after I’d exited the shop:
So that was breakfast.
Fast forward a few hours and I went in search of lunch. Yes it was just gone 5pm but run with me — I’d only just had breakfast at about midday thanks to the crazy busy morning.
I resolved to check out Cafe Nero. I’d been hearing good things about them and contactless from many social media followers so I popped in there to see what I could buy. I ended up selected a Panini (although the term escaped me when I was recording the video) and found that to be a very pedestrian experience too. This is good. The one thing I was seriously concerned about (see my Chinese takeaway video) was how people would react to me paying with a phone. At worst I have been expecting people to think I’m trying to do some trick or trying to defraud them. I was wondering if I’d have to wait whilst the manager was called and so on. But no. It was perfectly fine in Cafe Nero. The chap who served me barely raised an eyebrow as I presented and paid with my Galaxy.
Here’s the video overview:
And here’s where things spiraled out of control.
My first notion was to go to Waitrose and buy some salad stuff to make a meal later on at home. That would certainly qualify as a “contactless dinner” — and a very healthy one at that. I was, I think, trying to counter the rest of the stuff I’d been eating today.
Again, my social media followers had suggested Waitrose was either fully contactless or almost there. I ‘cased’ the Richmond Waitrose and found zero mention of contactless. The payment terminals all looked old. No payWave signs, nothing like that.
I was not impressed:
The future hasn’t quite reached the Richmond Waitrose!
So I changed plans. Marks & Spencer, at the station. M&S is now completely contactless as far as I’m aware and I was heavily relying on them as a fix. I walked around and selected a few items for dinner then hit the queue… and recorded this mumbling video:
Disaster. Absolute disaster. Here’s the resulting video:
Yup. Total arse. I tried to pay £8 with my Galaxy and the M&S unit simply gave the error message, “multiple cards detected”. I tried standing away in case my Barclaycard and MBNA (both contactless) were interfering. I asked the highly patient lady to try again and again. By that point the queue was getting very big behind me and I could sense attitudes changing as I repeatedly tried to get the thing to work. So I eventually brought out the Barclaycard and bought the food with Chip-and-PIN. Arrrrrrrrrgh!
Faced with failure to adequately perform a contactless purchase for dinner, I thought quickly.
To make things worse it was 618pm. There was a train due at 623pm that my wife *WANTED* me on. What to do?
I thought of trying McDonalds. But that’s quite far away. Then I remembered Subway round the corner from the station. I walked fast and arrived at 619pm. I thought about getting a roll or a wrap and hesitated as the only person in the queue ahead of me spent precious seconds trying to decide on what bread type she wanted.
So I did a McGyver.
I walked to the front cash register and asked the vacant chap there for 6 white chocolate cookies. He thought it was a strange request but I think he could tell with a glance that I was serious. He stuck them into the bag and I held my phone over the card reader. I didn’t have time to explain to him — instead I adopted the ‘know it all’ forceful viewpoint. He typed in the value and I heard the beep.
Did I want a receipt? I took it anyway. The time? 621pm. THIS is why you need contactless! It is FLIPPING FAST.
I walked out of the Subway and powered it over to the platform. The train was just arriving as I shot this video explaining what I’d just achieved:
So, to be clear, I wasn’t able to buy dinner via contactless. But I think I rescued the situation with the Subway cookie purchase. Further, I think the time pressure I was under helped to specifically demonstrate the unique capabilities of the contactless technology. Speed and convenience, basically.
I’ll leave it up to the Gemalto judges as to whether this breakfast-lunch-dinner approach qualifies as task completion. Here’s hoping.
I trust that some NFC experts will be able to give me an indication as to what went wrong at Marks & Spencer. Was it the cards in my pocket playing havoc? I hadn’t had similar issues in other stores. I *KNOW* that contactless does work in M&S because I’ve been using my Barclaycard for that there quite often.