Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Alternative Payment Methods

NOTE: This post is rated PG-13 for mild strong language and an intimation of ethical turpitude.

The check card
  • Pack of gum: $1.49 
  • Payment by: Visa- or MasterCard-branded check card 
  • Accepted at: any retailer who takes payment cards (i.e., all but the strange lady selling homemade costume jewelry at a street fair) 
  • Cash back: $40 
  • Ability to withdraw cash from checking without having to use another bank’s ATM where you’d pay $4-6 in totally bogus inter-bank payment fees, thus enabling venal, unwarranted cash grabs by both banks (even if you didn’t really need the pack of gum): priceless

The EMV chip card 
  • Pack of gum: $1.49 
  • Payment by: Visa- or MasterCard-branded EMV chip card 
  • Accepted at: supposedly any retailer in America who takes payment cards, except for all the ones who have the chip card reader taped over 
  • Weird new “feature”: upon completion of transaction, a series of low-pitched angry-sounding blats normally indicative of an error, which is a bit jarring because it really did seem like you did something wrong, since for years terminals have told us “Insert card and remove QUICKLY” and now the EMV terminals are telling us “DO NOT REMOVE CARD” and everything just feels weird 
  • Ability to hold up a whole line of shoppers while this insanely slow transaction completes, all for a stupid pack of gum, without getting so much as a dirty look from the cashier, because this is America, a land of freedom, where we can charge as small a purchase as we want, just like we can drive along in the left lane of the freeway at whatever speed we want, just to enjoy the freedom of it (which is fitting because you can’t do that in Europe, which is where this whole EMV chip card thing originated): priceless
Mobile Payment
  • Pack of gum: $1.49 
  • Payment by: modern smartphone with mobile wallet app and Near Field Communication (NFC) capability 
  • Accepted at: at least three retailers including Walgreens, Whole Foods, and … okay, maybe only two retailers 
  • Opportunity to show off to your teenage daughter by having her hold your wallet like a magician’s assistant while you pay with your phone, along with that irresistible high-tech throb the phone makes as it completes your purchase, and the belt-with-suspenders secure feeling you get from the knowledge that your credit card number is being “tokenized” (i.e., turned into a different number that somehow gets resolved in “the cloud” so the cashier doesn’t have the opportunity to steal your card number and go shopping online with it): priceless 
  • Full disclosure: Of course no teen would actually be impressed by this, and the kind of person who actually cares about tokenization is the sort who not only uses shoe trees but would bring them on a business trip
  • Zynga video game in-app purchase: $5.00 
  • Payment by: Bitcoin
  • Accepted at: most online hacking forums globally; certain other questionable venues 
  • Little thrill of being able to pay for something (albeit something that costs nothing to distribute and has no practical value) with pretend money: priceless

Mag-stripe reader accessory for tablet
  • Baby back ribs: $11.00 
  • Payment by: credit card via wireless terminal/dongle attached to tablet PC or smartphone 
  • Accepted at: an increasing number of food trucks, street fair vendors, and pop-up stores 
  • Novelty of being able to sign your name on the little touch-screen using your finger, and better yet, to sign your name in barbecue sauce, creating the visual effect of signing with blood: priceless
Apple Watch
  • Pack of gum: $1.49 
  • Payment by: Apple Watch 
  • Accepted at: at least two retailers including Walgreens and the Food Hole 
  • Ability to show off to the cute cashier by paying with your watch, while also helping to justify to yourself the purchase of this very expensive gadget that will soon seem laughably primitive when the newer model comes out: priceless 
  • Full disclosure: the cashier isn’t a nerdophile and actually couldn’t care less about your hi-tech watch
Sensoria biometric bra
  • Cup of coffee: $2.50 
  • Payment by: Sensoria biometric authentication bra, which (according to this article) measures not just heart rate but “the unique shape of the electrical signals generated by our hearts” and could in principle be paired with an NFC payment terminal 
  • Accepted at: nowhere yet, but just you wait 
  • Having a perfectly valid reason—i.e., the practical working range of NFC being about 4 cm—to flash the cashier some serious cleavage while authorizing your payment: priceless 
  • Full disclosure: this scenario, though technically possible, would only actually occur in the daydreams of a nerdy product developer and/or bored cashier

  • Kid’s soccer shoes: $24.99 
  • Payment by: cash, since the last two times you used your credit card at this discount sporting goods chain, the card number was subsequently compromised so you had to deal with the bank’s fraud department and have your credit card reissued 
  • Peace of mind in knowing that you’ve dodged another instance of fraud, even though (or especially because) the young cashier finished off the transaction by conjuring up a giant bottle of Nyquil from under the counter and saying, “Hey, man, you wanna party with us?”: priceless 
  • Note: All this really happened to me, exactly as described here!
  • Two rap CDs: $22 
  • Payment by: “I’m in the record shop with choices to make/ ‘Illmatic’ on the top shelf, ‘Chronic’ on the left homie/ Wanna cop both but only got a twenty on me/ So fuck it, I stole both, spent the twenty on a dub sack” 
  • Ability of an underprivileged inner city kid to give himself a cultural education by steeping himself in quality music through a self-administered need-based subsidy program and then “giving back” to society by turning the account of his cashless transaction into brilliant rap music: priceless

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