Venturing into the city the other day to meet a friend for lunch, I was confronted with yet another reminder of why we’re building Nooch. Mobile payments are clearly the future as smartphones and social networks offer new avenues for creative solutions to old problems. While we can do nearly anything these days with a smartphone, handling money is usually one of the more difficult to accomplish on a mobile device.
Case in point: after sitting down at the table for lunch, I noticed the menu stated at the bottom, “Cash only, please.” I appreciated their politeness, but the insistence on cash seems plain un-modern. I don’t like to carry cash. Never have. Every now and then I’ll grab some when it is necessary, but I do my best to avoid ATM’s at all costs.
Now, many people tell me they don’t pay any ATM fee with their bank or that they are reimbursed by their bank no matter which ATM they use. Not me. I went to college in a different region than where I grew up, and therefore where I banked. So my bank (TD Bank) never had branches near my college and so I was forced to use other ATM’s and pay up to $4 per withdrawal. That’s ridiculous in my book.
Back to lunch… I had already committed to eating at this restaurant because the friend had chosen it. So I had to get up, ask the hostess where the nearest ATM was (across the street, somewhat conveniently), and make the dash over there. Of course, it wasn’t my bank so I had to pay a $1.95 fee to withdrawal a measly $60. Sure, I could have pulled out more to make it “more worthwhile,” but the opportunity cost just wasn’t enough to make me.
Anyway, not to complain too much about a relatively minor inconvenience, but I’m just sick of the entrenched system we have had for decades being a roadblock to technilogical progress.
There is no reason that a restaurant should be so fearful of credit card fees that it won’t allow the near-ubiquitous amenity to its customers as credit card readers. But what choice do they have? Yes, there are some small companies offering alternatives: Square, Venmo and Dwolla being among the more visible. But the limitations to each have been well-documented and analyzed. Square is too expensive and perceived as insecure (accurately or not); Venmo’s business model is flawed and the user experience is clunky and inefficient; Dwolla is focused on Mom and Pop stores in Des Moines, Iowa. Don’t get me wrong, each solves certain specific problems. But they are hardly a catch-all solution that will be adopted by the mainstream. Not in their current form, at least. They must improve the experience and functionality.
But even leaving aside that PoS dilemma, why isn’t there an alternative to walking to an ATM when I need to have cash? Had Nooch been live, I could have Nooched my friend my half of the tab and never worried about withdrawing money at all. No IOU, no need to borrow, no need for friction between friends. It would be most convenient for me, the sender, and for my friend, the recipient. But even though mobile payments technology can be more secure than any current financial instrument (just think how much credit card, check and counterfeit fraud there is), the major banks will not rock the boat.
Or, ideally, I could have sent my money directly to the restaurant from my phone. Obviously, that would be the most straightforward, cost-efficient and time-efficient method. We aren’t there yet, though we should be. No more excuses.
I rarely carry cash. I want to never carry cash again. Nooch can’t be here soon enough, stay tuned!