Guess what? Free trade agreements don’t really mean free trade. Free trade sounds good, but there’s always someone here who loses out to someone over there because those over there are able to make some products for less. Free trade and protectionism are at opposite ends of the spectrum. Likewise, many businesses do not want free trade, wherein you give them money and they give you what you bought.
Businesses want more than just your money. They want your loyalty. They want to force you into payment mechanisms you may not want. They want to gather data about you that can be used later to entice you to buy something else. They want to inhibit choice.
Nowhere else is this so obvious than with Apple Pay, arguably the easiest and most secure credit card transaction system on the market. Easy? Pop out the iPhone, touch the Home button, done. Or, just wave Watch over a wireless terminal. Beep, buzz, done.
What’s the problem? Retailers don’t get to track you, and some retailers– CVS, I’m looking at you– would prefer not to allow Apple Pay in their drug stores, but instead saddle their customers with an antique, less secure, barcode-based proprietary mobile payments system that comes with a rewards system to keep you locked into CVS so they can cull more information and use that in a war to get you to buy more. From CVS.
It’s called CVS Pay and you’ll need the CVS Pharmacy app for iPhone.
Here’s what bothers me about such shenanigans and why CVS is now on my crap list of Nazi retailers. I don’t want to be tracked, and while my posture on this may be the minority– most people don’t care or don’t know what goes on behind the scenes– I’m among a trend that is growing. CVS Pay uses an on-screen barcode to transfer account information between devices– iPhone and the CVS terminal. Compare that to Apple Pay which uses a token and secure NFC technology.
Way back in the day 7-11 stores touted ‘choice‘ in soft drinks and sold Coke and Pepsi side-by-side. Coke is dominant here in Florida but Pepsi is my preferred soft drink, so a nearby 7-11 was a frequent pleasure stop. Until the choice disappeared. Competition sometimes does that and it’s likely that 7-11 got a deal from Coke they couldn’t refuse. Goodbye, Pepsi, customer choice be damned.
Drug stores, retailers, and pretty much any place around the country that sells something also takes credit cards; MasterCard, Visa Card, American Express, even Discover and others. So, I have a choice of which cards to obtain from which banks, and a choice of which cards to use at whichever retailers I choose.
At CVS I don’t have that same choice. To paraphrase a Seinfeld episode, “No Apple Pay for you!” says the credit card Nazis at CVS.
This tells me something about CVS. They’re a drug store chain. A massive chain. But it took enormous public pressure over years to get them to stop selling tobacco. Hello? Drug store? Health? Tobacco? CVS was also a charter member of Walmart’s failed MCX consortium which once restricted members from using Apple Pay. Thankfully, Rite-Aid ditched the failed MCS CurrentC product and adopted Apple Pay, so that’s where my drug money goes these days.
I don’t mind a retailer that uses Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or their own Pay, but I want the option to use whatever payment system I choose, and the Nazis running CVS don’t seem to understand that by giving me fewer choices, I get to use the single choice that matters most.