It has been a week since I returned to US, and I am itching to scan some QR codes. You see, I did it almost everyday while I was in China.
There, most payments are done with phones through Ali Pay or WeChat Pay. Believe it or not, the latter is actively used by some 600 million users every month. People can either set up a ‘payment code’ on their phones to be scanned at supermarket’s check out, or they use their phones to scan vendors’ QR codes to pay them.
For example, in stores, you usually see pieces of paper with QR codes at the cashier, outside the door, on the shelves, or sometimes buried under a pile of clothes. Once you finish bargaining and are ready to pay, you just scan these with your phone and put in the agreed price. Once you see the confirmation on your phone, you can go.
Similar with paying for taxi – at the end of the ride, the driver holds up his phone with a QR code on the screen for the passenger to scan and pay. No cash exchanging hands, no card swiping and signing. Quick and easy.
What I find most convenient is its usage in restaurants. Of course, you can scan and pay at the end of a meal like you do in stores, but in some restaurants, you actually scan QR codes to begin. Here is how it works: you find a table to sit down, then scan the code at the corner of that table. A menu shows up on your phone and you order. Once you finalize the food items, you submit and pay through your phone. In a few minutes, a waiter will come over and attach a printout to your table. Then your dishes start to arrive and be checked off from the printout. You take your time enjoying the food, and leave whenever you are done. No asking for bills or waiting for credit card to be processed. Again, quick and easy. I can imagine that in the near future (likely already) it will be robots who bring food to your table.
I heard that this ‘mobile payment’ phenomenon happened very quickly. Almost overnight, QR codes appeared everywhere and people switched to this new way of transferring money without hesitation. There is a saying that even beggars own QR codes now to make it easy to receive donations.
This new convenience is not for everyone though. For example, it is rather difficult for foreign tourists to set up the WeChat wallet, as it generally requires ID or phone number for verification, and a bank card (credit card doesn’t work) to source the money. Also, elderly people tend to find it challenging to do things on a smart phone, and there is potential for hacks and scams. That said, I was still very impressed and went ahead scanning codes wherever I could!