e-cash for Big Macs

'Wand' technology promises faster fast food

McDonald's is trialing e-payment technology in the hope it can serve punters more quickly while building customer loyalty.

Across 26 selected outlets of the fast food chain in Idaho customers will soon be able to pay for their Big Mac and fries by waving a "wand" in front of an electronic sensor. According to USA Today, more than 2,000 people have signed up to the programme, which offers a $5 bonus for the first $15 spent.

Although e-cash offers apparent benefits of freeing punters from fumbling for change the idea hasn't taken off anything like as quickly as early pioneers hoped. In the case of food retail, Burger King dropped an electronic payment scheme using smart cards after a test programme failed to demonstrate any real benefits from the system for its business.

McDonald's seems far more enthusiastic about the idea and is trailing a number of different, though similar, electronic payment systems throughout the US, in places as diverse as California, New York's Long Island, Chicago and Idaho.

The Idaho system uses technology developed by e-commerce payment firm FreedomPay. After signing up to FreedomPay's service customers can load up their account using a credit card or by sending a cheque to the Pennsylvania-based outfit.

After this customers are issued with a FreedomPay "wand" and key chain. Inside the "wand" is a customer ID number, which can be read by a sensor at a merchant's premises. Details on the amount of the purchase and this ID number are transmitted to FreedomPay's server, which debits the corresponding account.

Even though the system uses a "wand", and some fairly spiffy technology, it seems it lacks any magically capabilities that would make McDonald's food taste any better. The move will do nothing to build customer loyalty among Hindus (who consider cows sacred) angry about reports that McDonald's fries are pre-cooked in beef dripping. ®

External Links

FreedomPay
USA Today: McDonald's testing e-payment system

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