It is with no small amount of glee and even more schadenfreude that I pass along the news that CurrentC's nationwide launch has been "postponed." Why the quote marks? Because that's almost certainly code for "shelved."
And why the schadenfreude? Because from the moment it was announced, CurrentC offended me. It was an example of large corporations designing a system that benefitted them at the expense of consumers while
trying failing to convince those same consumers that it was the exact opposite.
Walmart, CVS, Rite Aid, Best Buy, Target, and a few other retailers all noticed the hefty points they were paying to credit card companies and figured out a way to get around it. If they could get customers to let them draft money directly out of their bank accounts, they wouldn't have to pay credit card transaction fees or all those pesky cash back and point-based incentives consumers love.
Better yet, they could do it through one of those newfangled mobile programs or apps or whatever the kids were calling them and people would be all over it.
To recap, we'd be giving some of the least secure corporate institutions on the planet direct access to our bank accounts so they could save 2-3 percent per transaction for the enrichment of their shareholders.
Personally, I expect it would have failed even if CurrentC and its retailers only had to compete with Google Wallet—or anyone but Apple. It was a piss-poor idea destined for data breaches and catastrophic theft on an epic level.
We'll never know that, however, because while these corporate bean counters were patting themselves on the back, Apple was working on a mobile payment solution designed to solve friction points for consumes. More importantly, it was designed to protect customer data, protect transactions, and it preserved the cash back schemes we love so much.
And Google built on its earlier Wallet efforts with a similar system for Android users.
CurrentC put on a brave face, with two of its retailer members going so far as to disable NFC transactions entirely rather than let people use a system—Apple Pay—that worked on their legacy NFC systems. It was laughable, and the company announced multiple delays and faced retailer defections.
Today, it announced yet another "postponement" and a layoff of 30 people. My heart goes out to anyone laid off under any circumstances, but I am otherwise giddy that this bull&@^% system is one step closer to death.
There has been a major shift in power in recent years, though it it might be more accurate to say a major shift in emphasis. Consumer-facing companies that focus on solving their own friction points at the expense of their customers are losing ground to those that focus on solving the needs of their customers first.
Amazon and Apple are two such examples of the latter, while CurrentC—and to a lesser extent its remaining member retailers—are examples of the former. Other corporate giants should pay heed.