Thursday, 23 June 2011

Pasta and PayPal

I normally try and avoid chain eateries, but I made an exception last night to check out the new mobile PayPal payment mechanism at Pizza Express. The Richmond Pizza Express is an interesting fitout in huge space at ground level in an curious stripey building that looks like it was originally built in the 1920s. This design conceit was echoed in the china as in this saucer.

For those unfamiliar with this chain, the quality of the food is a definite step up from the internationals and the decor is usually quirky and different at each location. This one has crazy round booths and black and white Italian movies projected in loops on the end walls.

Payment works via an iPhone app only at the moment, developed by 2ergo. I'm not keen on the user experience of the app in general, but the payment mechanism is very cool indeed. It is deeply integrated into the point of sale system. When you get your bill it has a long number at the bottom. You type this into the app and up comes your bill - really quickly. You add your tip and authenticate with PayPal, agree the sum to be paid, and that's it. You may now leave the restaurant, the app says.

I didn't as it struck me that I'd have half the staff running after me if I did so. As it happened I had a surprised waitress appear saying that the payment had popped up at her when she started entering someone else's order.  All very smooth and efficient. And astoundingly fast.

What was striking was the huge step difference in user experience from credit cards and banking. This is user-centric and design-conscious payment, not something that comes at you in the battle-hardened-we-don't-trust-you way of conventional systems.  No clunky hardware interfaces. No bits of paper. All electronic and all filed away conveniently. And by the way, did I mention that it was fast?

One thing the app didn't let me do was request a change of movie. My end of the restaurant was projecting the incredibly sad Ladri di Bicilette, a grim tale of poverty in post-war Rome totally unsuited to the cheery venue and the conspicuous consumption of good food.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Incomprehensibility of roaming data

This comes to you from a windowless meeting room in the middle of a US office block, just like all the other windowless meeting rooms. Outside it could be snowing or sunshine, as it happens it's bright sunshine with a brilliant window.

Since arriving here last night I've had a variety of SMS messages from Vodafone on my various devices. All of them slightly different and none of them readily comprehensible. My favourite is this:

From Vodafone: To let you know it's nearly midnight in the UK. If you do need to carry on using data after midnight, you'll be charged £12.75 per 25MB.

I've read this several times and I think they are saying that the current 25MB batch that I've been using isn't finished but is going to be reset because it's midnight in another timezone and that I've to buy another batch to keep using the data.

Surely at that inflated price they could afford a copy writer who could craft better messages?