Last night I went out for dinner with my family in Crows Nest. Spotting a little pay at the table card from PayPal we decided to give it a try. The process went like this:
- Fire up the PayPal app on your phone and choose from a list of restaurants near your location.
- Enter your table number – the full bill displays immediately.
- Decide whether to add a tip (a small issue here in Australian terms as the only options are none, 5%, 10%, or 15% – when I might want to just round the bill to a nearest significant number).
- Confirm you want to pay.
- You get a confirmation screen and the restaurant is simultaneously alerted to the payment on their point-of-sale terminal. That’s it. The only minor annoyance in the whole process was that the date stamp on the confirmation is clearly not local to Australia.
The best part about all of that is that you don’t need to try to go through the usual process of attracting someone’s attention to get the bill, and then checking the bill, and then attracting someone’s attention to give a credit card to, and then waiting for them to process the card and return it to you. Maybe that process isn’t a big deal to you – I spoke with a friend last night about this and he said all of this would deprive him of a chance to chat up the waitress – but (a) our waiter, the grey-haired Luigi, did not seem amenable to chatting-up and (b) I find that when going out with the family when the meal is over the kids just want to move on with a minimum of fuss.
It strikes me that if I were travelling this PayPal payment would be far preferable to handing over my credit card in a strange restaurant. PayPal is also apparently planning to update the app soon to allow for split bills and ordering via the app.
Paypal is one of those strange beasts that was designed to deal with the new environment of the Internet and is now backing up into the real World. Previously I’ve only ever used PayPal for buying things on Ebay and the rare travel transaction where I couldn’t pay with a credit card. They are making a very clever move leveraging the online trust they have built up into becoming a real-world wallet. The convenience of paying with PayPal wouldn’t influence my choice of restaurants, but it will certainly be changing my preferred payment method.