Retailers to Apple Pay Customers: Shut Up and Keep Your Money!

A number of retailers have discontinued wireless payments entirely rather than allow Apple Pay. MacRumors reports that Apple Pay transactions were successful for customers at Rite Aid pharmacies earlier in the week, but then Rite Aid disabled all forms of mobile payment, with pharmacy chain CVS following suit. Because it's a terrible thing for people to want to pay with their phones, as if they are living in the future. 

Rite Aid, accepting the oldest form of payment ever. Exclusively.

Rite Aid's PR issued the following statement to iMore:

Rite Aid does not currently accept Apple Pay. We are continually evaluating various forms of mobile payment technologies, and are committed to offering convenient, reliable and secure payment methods that meet the needs of our customers.

Making the above statement was prompted by questions about leaked documents obtained by SlashGear outlining plans for an alternative mobile payment system "available in the first half of 2015."

That's where the plot thickens: Both pharmacies are members of Merchant Customer Exchange, also known as MCX, which is working on an alternative/competitor to Apple Pay, called CurrentC. Right now a free app is available, but the description says the system is invite-only. This is the same system that Walmart and Best Buy are using which is why neither one is listed as an Apple Pay partner.

Part of what makes Apple Pay so appealing is what made iTunes selling music so appealing: Apple's way is easier. Take out your phone, wave it near the payment system, move on with your life. So far the CurrentC app is receiving less-than-stellar reviews, mostly because companies who accept CurrentC payments are prohibited from accepting Apple Pay, and are therefore turning off all NFC payments until the CurrentC program is more widely available in 2015. Oh, and to use CurrentC you have to get out your phone, unlock it, launch the app, choose Pay, then scan a QR code displayed on the credit card terminal. Yes. QR code. Your mobile payment experience is in the hands of people who decided this was a good payment experience:

There are also assertions that the CurrentC system allows for more customer data to be collected by a merchant, in the name of offering exclusive discounts and loyalty programs, so that's supposed to be awesome. Also, the CurrentC app description and site talk about how you can hook it straight to your checking account, but make no mention of taking advantage of the secure element behind Touch ID to keep that data safe. In short, it's totally cool to store your bank account information the same way you store your Angry Birds progress. Because that's totally not gonna end badly if your phone is lost or stolen.

Here's what's interesting: Right now the only folks who can use Apple Pay are people who bought an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus in the last month. Retailers are shutting off all NFC payment (including Google Wallet) in general to keep customers from using Apple Pay specifically. How come? Because it works? Because people want to? Honestly. We don't have jetpacks or flying cars or anything else we were promised in The Future, why kill this nifty bit of technofabulous for those who wish to use it?

Keep in mind right now the group affected is those who bought a 6 or 6 Plus in the last month, AND updated to 8.1, AND know about Apple Pay and are cool with how it works, AND took time to set up Apple Pay payment methods, AND know where it's available, AND tried to use it. Yes this is a small number now, but it's only going to increase.

A few reports on Twitter have mentioned how someone tried Apple Pay for fun at a place that wasn't listed and yet it worked because NFC terminals are NFC terminals. So why disable it? Isn't the number of people who want to use Apple Pay only going to go up, as the new iPhones become easier to get and the Apple Watch enables even more people to use Apple Pay?

It seems likely this kerfuffle is going to get worse before it gets better. In the meantime, expect longer lines at Walgreen's where Apple Pay is accepted with open registers.