Wal-Mart tried the "self-checkout" thing for awhile, and those kiosks
still exist in some stores. But by and large, it's easier for most
consumers to just head to a real person in case of trouble. But that
snafu isn't stopping the world's most recognized retailer from starting
something else: smartcard payment support. According to a new report,
the giant is planning to make every last one of their payment terminals
in the U.S. compliant with "a smartcard-based credit card technology
that is widely used around the
world but isn't common in the U.S."
The plans were unveiling at a smartcard conference held last week, with
Storefront Backtalk quoting Jamie Henry, Wal-Mart
's director of payment
services, as saying that the retailer
was "working on making all payment
terminals in its domestic stores
chip-and-PIN-capable." The reason why? Because signature-based credit
card processing (what they use now) has become "a waste of time." And we
largely agree. Think of the small bits of time that are wasted with
each customer needing to sign a screen, and add all of that up.
Throughout Wal-Mart's stores, that's a big time sink.
Frankly, this move is badly needed. Other developed nations, including
Japan and the UK, have been using smartcard payment operations for
everything from grocery checkouts to getting on/off trains for years
now, and it has improved efficiency greatly. The technology is there,
it's cheap, and it's widely adopted globally. But the U.S. has refused,
for whatever reason, to "get with the program." But if Wal-Mart takes
the first giant step, there's a great chance that the rest of the nation
will follow suit. Wal-Mart is largely credited with promoting RFID in a
big way when they started to track their logistics using these chips,
and the same could probably happen in this scenario.