Walmart’s Head of Mobile doesn’t believe in NFC, says there’s no problem with using cash and plastic

by: ŠtefanNovember 13, 2012

Gibu Thomas, Senior Vice President of Mobile and Digital at Walmart, doesn’t think mobile payments are going to be a big thing according to FierceWireless. He even went so far as to say that people are already used to paying for products with cash and credit cards, so what’s the point of introducing a third payment method? Does this mean Walmart doesn’t understand the future? Not in the slightest. In fact, the company is looking into launching a smartphone application that helps customers navigate their massive stores. Using the latest in indoor location technology at their San Jose, California store, customers will soon be able to search for items and then see exactly where to find them on a map. In the future, Walmart shoppers might also be able to scan barcodes using their phones to help speed up the self checkout process.

But back to his comments about NFC, does he have a point? As much as it might pain you to hear this, we think Thomas hit the nail on the head. Cash and plastic work, there’s no denying that. All these companies fighting over making NFC the next big thing are just “more mouths to feed”, says Thomas. What he means by that is that Visa already takes a chunk out of processing payments. Operators and handset vendors want NFC to become the defacto payment method because they too want a slice of every transaction to flow into their pockets. This “battle”, if you want to call it that, is why the whole NFC scene today is a mess. When multiple parties fight for control, no one wins.

All that being said, we’re super excited that there are rumors floating around the internets that say Google is planning to launch a plastic credit card. Even if it means manually having to top it up, just imagine what online banking would look like if Google got in the game?

  • I have no interest in risking my credit cards on a mobile phone

    • MrStylz

      Yes, they are much more secure hidden in a cloth pocket without at least two potential forms of security layers. indeed. seriously, for NFC there are many paths to complain on, but it is more secure than your wallet.

  • I want to pay with my phone. But doesn’t mean that Thomas is wrong, who said I wanted to buy stuff at Walmart :P

  • raindog469

    The only way something like this can get some traction is if their discount rate (what they charge the merchants for the privilege of being able to accept NFC payments) is not only less than what Mastercard and Visa charge, but enough less to justify the rolling out of new terminals, training, customer education/marketing, etc. Then, on the customer side, it needs to be faster than opening your wallet and pulling out a card — that means no 10MB apps with spinning 3D corporate logos on startup, no having to type a password to unlock your virtual wallet while standing in a checkout line, and nothing that requires a server round-trip on the phone side. (Arguments such as “you can start the app before you even get in line” can be easily countered by “you can open your wallet before you even get in line”.)

    In other words, the only way something like this can succeed is if Google makes their solution free (their ad network business means they can monetize your purchase history in ways the other guys never could), or Mastercard and Visa force it upon the merchants. Solutions which rely upon adding yet another middleman to the payment chain are dead in the water.

    As an aside, Stop & Shop (grocery chain in New England) has had an Android app for about a year now, which you can use to scan your own groceries and just swipe your card at the checkout to pay, like the one Wal-mart is just trialing now. But I still use their hand-scanners, because their bar code recognition is faster, using them doesn’t drain my phone’s battery, and switching between the scanner app and the app my girl and I use to share shopping lists is a pain.

    It may come as a shock to readers of this site, but not every advance in technology needs to involve a smartphone.