I snapped the above photo on Friday evening as I strode through Waterloo. It’s an absolute shocker of a photo. There are six ticket machines shown, each with a queue of at least 6 people waiting behind someone struggling away pressing buttons to buy a piece of paper.
There’s another bank of machines on the other side, each with another 6-7 people queuing.
It’s absolutely ridiculous.
We’re past the half-way point in 2013 and this is still a primary problem.
The ticket machine purchase process doesn’t help. It’s incredibly difficult to make a purchase within 30 seconds, particularly given the inordinate amount of time the credit card processing element takes. Even if you know the machine off by heart (and many clearly do), if you’re stuck at position #4 in the queue, you’re going to be delayed by at least (90 seconds x 4 people = 360 seconds) 6 minutes. Charitably. A lot of people in the queue waiting haven’t chosen their precise ticket. A lot of them don’t have their wallet out — and will wait until they see the price displayed on screen before fumbling for the credit card. Or worse, sticking in money.
Sometimes actually paying with cash can be quicker — but you run the random risk of the machine taking your £10 note, holding it for a second (tricking you into a degree of relief) before spitting it back out and refusing to accept it.
Each of these people has a top of the range smart phone.
They just do, right?
Look at them. I don’t see anyone in that queue likely to bring out an old tattered Nokia 1000 series device.
The majority will be on iPhones — 4, 4S and 5. There might be a Samsung or an HTC in amongst them.
I’d go so far as to estimate that of the people in the front queue there, all of them regularly buy online. Are all of them Amazon customers? Probably. If you can afford to buy a peak time rail ticket (in London) you’ve probably got an Amazon account. How many of them have actually bought something via their mobile phone? I’d estimate 80% have done so and 40% do so on a weekly basis.
Perhaps that’s the issue holding back Southwest Trains, the rail company that serves Waterloo. Maybe they’re concerned that folk just don’t get mobile yet. Perhaps their policy is to wait until mobile is well and truly proven…
It seems we’ll be waiting a long time at Waterloo.
So if anyone tells you what an amazing mobile world we’re living in, nod away, by all means — buying a flight on your phone rocks. Buying boring stuff like soap or plastic storage boxes via Amazon Mobile whilst you’re in the middle of doing something else rocks. Mobile is brilliant. But the basics just aren’t here yet.
Folk are still having to queue to pay for bits of paper as permission to travel. No different than 200 years ago.