The problem with Coin

Speaking of Coin, here’s the biggest problem with using it (I’m assuming the thing is actually going to be rock-solid secure, which is a fairly big assumption, I suppose.) Many years of doing things the same way coupled with many years of hearing about credit card theft are going to make the average cashier look at you like you’re wearing a ski-mask and holding an uzi with one hand whilst you perform sleigh-of-hand with the other and twitch your curly moustache.

Ben Brooks imagines two conversations that might prevent him using the card:

  1. “Sir, you can’t use this because we only accept American Express, Visa, and Mastercard. This is neither.” “No, it is an AMEX, trust me.” “Sir, this doesn’t look like any AMEX I have seen. Where’s the logo?” “Ugh.”

  2. “Ummm, I need the three numbers from the back of the card.” “Sure they are right here (points).” “No, I need the ones on the back of the card, there is nothing on the back of this card.” “Ugh.”

I think people are likely to be the biggest usability obstacles.

This is it right here: it doesn’t matter if Coin could make your life more efficient — chances are you’re going to pay for that in the hours you’ll spend explaining it over and over and over again. I’d bet that maybe one in ten times the cashier won’t even let you make the purchase because nuh-uh, don’t understand that, sounds shady.

It’s a shame, because it really is a smart idea. But I think by the time America is socialized to accept techy forms of payment like this, Coin itself will have been superseded by new technology. Most likely some phone-based system. Coin is like QR codes: a nifty technology that’s never really going to find a big enough gap in the market to be useful.