Can’t We Get An EZ-Pass For Restaurants? Ctd

by Chris Bodenner

A reader writes:

I learned that it’s easy enough to short-circuit the ritual that Tomasky complains about. I’ll ask for the check when I know we’ll be adding nothing else to it, even if we are still eating. Or I’ll say, “…and we’ll take the check, too,” when the waiter is walking away with coffee orders. And when the check comes, I’m all set with my credit card, handing it over immediately so I don’t have to wait for the waitress to come back yet again. (Yes, it’s possible there is an error on the check, but that’s rare, and it can be dealt with even after the card is run.)

I don’t do this when I’m out with casual friends or in a too-large group, because I don’t want to be seen as an anal-retentive clod. But when I’m with my family? Or, especially, on my own? It’s nice to reclaim those 20 minutes.

Two readers recommend apps:

I think your headline just described LevelUp.

You get an app on your phone with a QR code which changes based on the tip percent. If everything works out, you can turn on the app and the wait staff can come by with another phone, take a picture of the code, and the transaction goes through, with a receipt emailed to you. Oh, and:

– LevelUp combines purchases and charges you once every week or two (like iTunes) to reduce draconian credit card interchange fees

– For now, at least, LevelUp charges no credit card fees to restaurants

– Restaurants provide “rewards,” so if you spend $100 you get a $10 bonus (and the restaurant pays an additional percentage here, but remember, they only pay it when you’ve already spent $100 and they’ve saved on interchange fees the whole time). It’s sort of like reverse Groupon: the restaurant gets you in the door, and you get a reward after you’ve given them continued business, not up-front.

I’m not a shill for LevelUp, I just use it a lot, and it works very well. And they claim it’s safer than using a credit card.

The other:

I’m emailing you at 2:40am Eastern so clearly I work in a restaurant and have had my after-work drinks (ahem, forgive typos) so: many restaurants already do this! I’m not shilling for one particular product, but we use Tabbedout in the restaurant where I work. It’s even better than the “hand-held” credit device the author wants. You just use a free app on your phone. Your credit card number is encrypted so it’s safe and really convenient. You (the customer) pay whenever you want and … leave. Seriously, it takes :30 seconds, not 20 minutes.

But, ya know what? Consumers aren’t ready – yet. I push this fantastic app every single night at every single table. The general response: HORROR! NO WIRES! CREDIT CARD STOLEN! Ok, a bit exaggerated, but nonetheless, I could easily map a sociological study about who is ready to embrace this technology. People under 30 = cool, let’s try it! Those 30-40 = interested but must do intensive research. Those 40+ = Huh, I just learned how to text and take pics with my smartphone so there is NO WAY I will pay a restaurant bill with this “new” contraption.

Look, I am a 53-year-old server who is clearly not a millennial. I freak my friends out (even the really young ones!) when I deposit printed checks via a mobile banking app (glorious, I will never need to walk inside a bank again), so I am not the obvious demographic for mobile payment apps. But they exist and work really well. It’s a combo of restaurants not understanding how awesome and inexpensive this is and consumers still – still! – thinking that it’s a risk to pay by phone. The funniest/ironic thing is this: as a server, you give me your credit card. I process it. I could easily steal the number (it happens it all the time, unfortunately, Google it) and use it. When paying via a mobile app, I never see your credit card number. It can’t be stolen. And you don’t have to wait for me. Open app, pay your tab, leave.

So, that dude at The Daily Beast who wrote this article is simply uninformed. I know he got stats from the NRA (the other NRA), but he was talking about a device attachment. There is an app for that and it works great. Catch up to the times, restaurant diners!