Cash? Card? Why not pay with your face?
Shoppers in Richmond can now pay for goods using a profile picture. Greg Bedson heads to the shops to find out more
It seems that nowadays you can do almost anything using your mobile phone, be it update your Facebook status, watch television and now, in Richmond at least, pay for things on the high street.
That’s right, Paypal have developed a new piece of software, dubbed the ‘pay with your face app’, which allows shoppers to buy things without the need of cash or card.
With 12 businesses in Richmond among the first in the UK to offer the service, I decided to try it out for myself.
First things first, I needed to download the Paypal App for my iPhone. Confusingly, there are rather a few to choose from, but the top option, titled simply ‘Paypal’, turned out to be correct.
I am then prompted to sign in or register. Racking my brain for my scarcely used password, I enter my details and, hey presto, I’m ready to go.
If I’m going to ‘pay with my face’ I need to upload a picture. That’s easy enough. Anybody familiar with Facebook or Twitter phone apps will be adept at taking a ‘selfie’.
So I’m now logged in, I have a dashing picture of myself so the shopkeepers will know it’s me, and I’ve deliberately left without my wallet – let’s hope it works!
After a bit of playing around, I find that if I press the ‘Local’ icon there is a list of nearby businesses that accept payment by Paypal.
It’s mid-morning, the sun is shining, and my stomach is grumbling, so I decide to head to The Farmery for a frozen yoghurt.
Ismail Ahmed, one of the co-founders of The Farmery, was happy to talk me through the process and show me exactly how it works.
I click on the store to ‘check–in’ and then place my order. I then enter the amount, click on Paypal and I see a guy that looks like me, so I click on the face and confirm that I want to complete the payment. Then it’s all done. I will be sent a receipt through Paypal, which can also be delivered via text message or email.
“We’ve been sampling it for a couple of months now, starting with the Paypal staff but now more and more people are using it.
“Since we’ve gone public, we haven’t had any glitches and it’s much quicker than using the card machine.”
It all seems fairly straightforward and once I had logged in it was remarkably quick to use. But is it likely to catch on? While I was in Richmond, I asked a few shoppers if they would use the app.
Kate Williams was very impressed by the service: “I think it’s really good. I actually used it for the first time yesterday and I found it extremely easy and quicker than paying by card.”
However Michael Scott, who was in town to buy his lunch was a bit apprehensive. “I can see why some people would use it, but I think I’ll stick with using my card.”
The launch has been fairly low key and some people, like Jo Burchwood, were unaware the app even existed. “It’s not something I’ve heard of, but I’m sure that as with all things like this, sooner or later everybody will be using it.”
That is one of Paypal’s objectives, and while other businesses are yet to sign up, the company estimates more than 2,000 locations will be able to use the app by the end of the year.
PayPal's head of retail services, Rob Harper, says it will be common practice to use the app within three years.
"PayPal first brought 'pay by mobile' to the UK high street two years ago. Through our Richmond initiative, we're pleased to help local businesses of all sizes offer a new more personal experience, while never having to turn away customers who don't have enough cash on them to pay.
"Now locals in Richmond can leave their wallet or purse at home and be the first in the country to use their profile picture to pay.
"This is another step on the journey towards a wallet-less high street, where customers will be able to leave their wallet or purse at home and pay using their phone or tablet. We predict that by 2016 this will become a reality."
The Richmond check in pioneers include Cook & Garcia, TheFarmery, The Tea Box, The Bingham Hotel, Revolution, Caffé Paolo, The Cedar Coffee Shop, Urban Diner, Pier 1 Fish and Chips, Noble Jones, Hill Café and Knot Coffee and Pretzel.
Keen to try it out? Head down to Richmond and look out for the 'Now accepting PayPal' stickers in the window.
Have you paid with your face? Think the idea will catch on? Leave your comments!