Written By: Jennifer Jones, an official guest blogger for HITEC Houston 2018
I recently took an 11-day vacation to Europe and spent some time in Paris and various cities around Portugal. It was lovely! I toured the vineyards in the Douro Valley outside Porto, hiked the elusive Green Cauldon on Madeira Island, paddled around the grottos in Lagos and sipped a lot of rosé at Parisian brasseries while it poured rain. While my adventures were varied, and most made me feel better about the pounds of pastries I devoured, I noticed a similar pattern every time I went to settle a check. Not one person ever touched my credit card at a bar or restaurant!
We have all heard people say that Europe has been light years ahead of us in the “pay at the table” concept, but I found some interesting things that may be enlightening to some of us still struggling to accommodate this functionality into our own organizations.
Anytime I requested the check, the server brought me the itemized receipt, usually in a leather check holder. In typical fashion, I would review the check and place my card in the holder of the folder. The server would return, only to recognize that I am paying with a credit card and my card would remain on the table in the folder while they retreated once more to go and grab the wireless payment device!
Once the server returned with the payment device, he would manually punch in the total amount of the check on the pin pad and then hand me the device. I would then be responsible for placing my chip card in the slot and following the directions on the screen to complete the sale.
“How do I enter a tip?” I would ask on my first attempts across Europe. The confused server would typically answer “Ah, that’s OK. You don’t have Euro? I cannot add tip onto the credit card machine.” Now I know that Europeans don’t normally tip like we do in America. But I still wanted to thank my gracious European hosts! Baffled myself as to why they would program these handhelds in this fashion that would prohibit me from adding a gratuity, I removed my card once the device advised and handed the unit back to the server. Again, they have never touched my credit card.
The credit card receipt that I would need to sign printed right from the top of the handheld payment device. The server tore it off, asked for my signature and gave me a copy of the second receipt that printed.
That was my journey of “pay at the table.” But wait — what a lot of people don’t recognize is that while those handheld devices transmit the credit card transactions securely and directly to the bank, they do not integrate to the POS! Even if I was dining at a small restaurant eating escargot with ten tables total in the restaurant, they had a point of sale to ring up our orders. But the credit card payments had to be manually entered after the guest completed their credit card payment on the handheld device.
To complicate matters, when I would ask to split the check between two credit cards, the poor server would whip out their iPhone, open the calculator app, and divide the total check between two. That would give them the amount that they would then proceed to type into the handheld device before they would turn over the device to us to chip our card, complete the sale and sign the receipts.
So, what did I learn on my European vacation? To alleviate guest impact on the expeditiousness of getting your check paid, make sure when you ask for the check, do the “air signature” charade with your credit card in your hand. The server will return with your itemized check AND the handheld payment device. Then you can review the check, chip your card all in one swoop without the server having to make another trip to retrieve the payment device. Additionally, if you are going to split the check help make sure the math of splitting checks is correct. Do the math for them ahead of time. They will appreciate you more and you can be assured that your math is correct. Finally, in terms of risk, I am still trying to asses if never having your staff touch a guest credit card is lower risk than requiring them to make sure there is no human error in entry of the sale amount on the payment device as well as applying the same manual payment in the POS.
I am sure there are different rules and regulations here in the states that has made it tough to adopt the concept of “pay at the table.” In addition, there is always the awkwardness factor of tipping on a handheld device while the server is standing right next to us. In addition, we seem to balk at the idea of a bulky payment device that would print receipts from it. Instead, in many scenarios, we may have to print to a remote IP printer to come back again to the guest and deliver the check.
At HITEC Houston 2018, I am intrigued to find out where our vendors are with providing a similar experience as I encountered across Europe with “pay at the table.” There are several variables that should be considered, namely the application certification along with the gateway and processor, not to mention the hardware compatibility. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be long before we can be accommodating this wireless experience and putting our guest’s concerns at ease regarding the safe handling of their credit cards.
Jennifer Jones, president at J2 Hospitality Solutions, is an official guest blogger for HITEC® Houston 2018, taking place June 18–21, 2018 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas USA.