Google Wallet experience is not great and needs improvingReview
Posted by Seth PlanckDecember 07th, 2011 at 7:56 PM Filed Under Latest News, Reviews
Google Wallet experience is not great and needs improving
We are going to come straight out and say we are fans of Google Wallet. We think it’s great for consumers and wonderful for NFC. Having a brand name like Google behind NFC has started to educate consumers to what NFC can actually do and how much the nascent technology is set to change the way we interact with the physical and online world. Of course, the alternative being Isis helps add some sparkle to Google’s offering considering most of the US will be trapped in a closed Isis environment.
So, with that in mind we decided that because we were going to be in San Francisco for WIMA we’d bust out the Nexus S 4G phones and hit some stores we knew would accept Google Wallet. We expected the stores we visited to be fully aware of Google Wallet considering San Francisco is the closest big city to Google’s Mountain View HQ and that we would experience Google Wallet at its best. We took two phones loaded some cash onto our Google Wallets and headed straight for Market Street, more specifically for Old Navy and Gap who have both been featured as launch partners. That’s where the fun ended.
No luck paying with Google Wallet at Old Navy in San Francisco
After loading a cart at Old Navy we approached the checkout and asked if we could pay with Google Wallet. We were told that only a couple of people had ever asked to do so and that the staff were not sure how to make that happen. We waited over ten minutes while the clerk struggled with the POS system and we were not able to get the POS system to recognize the NFC payment at all even though it did recognize the Google Offer discount code. We came away feeling like it wasn’t the best experience, but that it could have been an isolated issue. We had tried with two different Nexus S 4G smartphones to make a payment and failed and ended up paying with everyday debit cards.
Google Wallet at Gap?
As we mentioned, we thought it must have been a bad POS system that wasn’t recognizing the NFC and so headed across the street to Gap. Surely that would yield a better experience, right? Er no, not really. After heading through the store and filling our baskets, we approached the checkout. The first warning sign was when our cashier looked at us like we were on crack when we asked if we could pay with Google Wallet. Although kind enough, the cashier had no concept we could pay with our phones and called a manager. The manager at Gap told us that “The people from Google came in and trained us, but you are only the second customers who have asked to use it that I am aware of.” After many attempts with both phones to make a payment, we again came away without using the Google Wallet and resorted to paying with our normal cards. Again Google Offers worked great, it didn’t even require the cashier to know anything about it. It just worked. Google Wallet, however, was a bust.
Training is a key ingredient missing in retail stores who accept Google Wallet
It isn’t like this is the first time we have used Google Wallet. At our local Sunoco the system works great 100% of the time. However, we actually went around the other side of the checkout counter and showed the staff how it worked on that occasion. What was apparent in San Francisco is that training was non-existent. Nobody had any troubleshooting skills and there wasn’t one person in either store who knew the system and how to use it.
Another problem that we noticed was NFC not being recognized by the POS systems. If it had been on one phone we could have put it down to a faulty NFC chip, but with two Nexus S 4Gs that gets a little harder to believe. Just today we were talking with another industry insider who told us that they had run into problems using both an EMV PayPass card and Google Wallet at Office Depot and CVS, so the problem isn’t isolated to the Google Wallet. Again, our contact found that the staff at the stores didn’t even know that the POS systems had that ability much less knew how to conduct a transaction.
We have used Google Wallet at trade shows and its works 100% all the time. We can only assume that some POS systems are having trouble with NFC payments and that staff need a lot more training. In the meantime, this isn’t the best user experience for consumers if they are trying Google Wallet for the first time. We loaded $100 on our Google Wallets and now there it sits until we need fuel at Sunoco because we know it works there.
We don’t know whether the Ice Cream Sandwich update will improve the NFC reading ability, or whether the Galaxy Nexus has a better antenna when it finally heads to Sprint. What we do know for sure is that staff at retailers need a lot more training when it comes to NFC mobile wallets like Google Wallet. We are in the industry, so of course we will keep trying with Google Wallet but everyday consumers may feel a level of distrust and may not use the product again if they have an experience like we did. We wanted to write a glowing review of Google Wallet because it is open to developers and is a positive product for consumers to use. However, at this time we can’t recommend the experience to all consumers.
If you have used Google Wallet, we want to know how you found it. Was it effortless, fraught with challenges or somewhere in-between? You know how to use the comments! We are willing to accept that the experience could have just been that day in those places, but in the meantime we will keep testing Google Wallet until we run out of cash or we have a string of positive experiences and will report back.