My first experience with the Davis Square CVS Pharmacy was in April of my sophomore year. The first of several bouts of tonsillitis had kept me in bed for a few days before I eventually managed to drag myself to Health Services. After the usual “Why didn’t you come in sooner?” conversation — which was more like “Why didn’t you come in sooner, you idiot?” — I was told to schlep to Davis and pick up a cocktail of antibiotics from the esteemed professionals at CVS.
After a wait that lasted 45 minutes and involved taking a breather on the floor multiple times, I shuffled back to my room in South overlooking the tot lot, and promptly fell asleep for 18 hours.
Two years later and two tonsils lighter, I stand before you a changed man.
CVS, however, is still terrible.
Both CVS and fellow pharmacy chain Rite Aid announced this week that they would no longer accept Apple’s new proprietary mobile payment platform, creatively called Apple Pay. Though the move was a direct response to Apple Pay’s debut, the chains also disabled other near field communication (NFC) payment technologies, including Google Wallet and Softcard, despite accepting all three just days earlier.
NFC payments use the same technology found in our Tufts IDs to link a credit card or bank account to a transaction. Instead of swiping a card, you simply tap your phone.
While NFC technology has existed on Android phones for a few years, the current generation of iPhones are the first Apple products to support NFC. Since Apple’s way tends to become the gospel of consumers, NFC payments are expected to go mainstream as more consumers transfer to the next generation of iPhones.
Apple Pay is not a separate account. Instead, it links an existing bank or credit card to your phone. Paying with your Visa through Apple Pay is the same as swiping the card, just more convenient.
Though Apple is relatively late to the party, the mobile payment universe has been steadily growing, with upstart consumer-to-consumer services — like Venmo — competing with established players like eBay’s PayPal.
Most of these services are geared towards consumers: they’re easy to use, secure and have a “cool factor” to them.
And then there’s “CurrentC,” another creatively named mobile payment service from a group of U,S. retailers led by everyone’s favorite underpaying, over-lawyered giant: Wal-Mart.
While Apple Pay, Google Wallet and Venmo use the established network of banks and credit card companies, CurrentC circumvents the system, allowing retailers to shed the two to three percent transaction fees that come with every card transaction.
For retailers, this is great news. For consumers, it sounds a bit shady. The app uses QR codes to complete transactions — an older and clunkier technology that relies on physically scanning your phone for each transaction.
Questions have also been raised about the security — or should I say, “secureT” (cue dad laugh) — of CurrentC. While NFC payments can utilize the existing infrastructure of the financial industry, CurrentC operates in an entirely different universe. While NFC payments use a secure connection and established fraud detection services to protect their users, CurrentC’s flaws have already been exposed, as the company announced just yesterday that users’ emails had been hacked.
While the bloc of retailers behind CurrentC account for 20 percent of U.S. retail transactions, Apple Pay — less than a month into its existence — already leads all mobile payment services.
Though CurrentC will probably never catch on, Apple will continue to face fierce competition in the mobile payments space, as retailers, financial institutions and the payment services themselves battle it out for market share and revenue.
Regardless, CVS will always be terrible. Duane Reade for life.