My Barclaycard skin tag

Before the lawyers start to circle, I’m not slagging off Barclaycard, ok?

So, anyway, I have recently acquired a Barclaycard “pay tag“.  This is a tiny card you stick onto something, and it can be used to make contactless payment for things up to £20 in value.

Contactless payment is not new, and works by vaguely waving a contactless enabled credit/debit card next to a contactless enabled machine.  None of that having to put the card in a slot, wait, put a pin in, wait, and take the card out.  Instead, just get it in the right position next to the machine and ‘beep’, transaction done. Very fast, very nice, slightly flash.

(There be a ‘pay tag’ hidden behind that leatherette)

Well, Barclaycard decided to send me and my partner a ‘pay tag’ each for our (my) credit card account.  The whole pitch is that you stick it onto the back of your phone, which, let’s face it never leaves your hand, even when sitting on the toilet, and so it’s already with you and ready to wave in front of a contactless enabled machine. Simples.

Now, this whole process just looks as if you are in some magical way paying ‘using your phone’.  And, of course, since ‘pay tags’ are new the average shop assistant has no idea what’s going on. They just see you ‘using your phone’.

When the ‘pay tags’ first arrived, my lovely partner, who I fear may be liking new gadgetry a little greater than me, was very excited.  We both have Samsung Galaxy S3 phones, and we both have covers over the back of them.  Mine being a posh leatherette finished folding one which also encloses the front when not in use, hers a strange pink coloured bobbly quite thick silicon affair.

I expressed concern that we shouldn’t remove the sticky back to permanently attach the ‘pay tag’ to our phones until we had proved they worked.  To me the issue might be whether they should be stuck to the phone itself or outside of the protective case.  I wondered whether they might not work ‘through’ the case. Cautiously, we both jammed our pay tags unstuck between the phone and case.

It was around 3 in the morning when we excitedly bundled into the car to drive somewhere in order to try them out.  The only place open was a drive through McDonald’s some miles away.  We picked some random stuff to eat shouting the order through the speaker system, and then drove around to the pay window.

Now, had I been in the driving seat I would have just muttered ‘card’ and, when presented with the machine, just casually swiped my phone over it.  Job done.  However, my lovely partner was in the driving seat so she got to use her ‘pay tag’ first.

I must explain that my partner is from Liverpool whilst I am a southerner.  Southerners tend to “stfu” and keep themselves to themselves, relying on a series of grunts and gestures in order to communicate.  This is partly due to the constant fear that anybody living in London suffers from that at any moment a person next to them is going to stab them, and partly due to the fact that nobody in London actually speaks the same language.

In contrast, Liverpudlian women suffer from ‘speech vomiting’.  ‘Speech vomiting’ is when they rapidly spew forth over-detailed accounts of unimportant yet complex information to strangers.  This often happens when innocently sitting on a bus.  A ‘speech vomiter’ will rapid fire verbal nonsense into your ear without pausing for breath or for you to interject in any way.  It’s very common to be stuck behind one in a queue in a shop, too.  Oh, and at my doctor’s surgery.

My lovely partner has her ‘speech vomiting’ under control, except when she’s excited.

On the occasion of the first ever trial of her ‘pay tag’ she was extremely excited.  So, she ‘speech vomited’ all over the girl who really didn’t care but just wanted to be paid for our order.  The girl didn’t really understand what she was ‘speech vomiting’ about and probably put it down to the late/early hours and possibility that my lovely partner was just another crack head out for munchies.

(My virgin ‘pay tag’ naked)

Anyway, the ‘pay tag’ worked and it looked as if she’d paid ‘by phone’. My lovely partner was very excited.  We collected our food at the next window (after pausing for a further ‘speech vomit’ about the pay tag) and threw it straight in the bin.  Only kidding, I could never throw away a McDonald’s food item, honest.

So, having determined that the ‘pay tag’ worked ok behind her big thick silicon case, my lovely partner sat in bed that night carefully removing the sticky back to permanently attach the ‘pay tag’ to the back of the phone.

The next day we diverted 30 miles out of our way to buy some KFC we didn’t really want, hoping their machine did contactless.  Having been warned about ‘speech vomiting’ my lovely partner was being all cool when we got to the pay window.  “Pay by contactless?” she said and the guy handed her the machine.  She tapped it with her phone.  “No way! You’re messing me!” said the incredulous KFC guy, seeing ‘just a phone’ being used to make the payment.

To our horror the machine couldn’t quite read the ‘pay tag’ and despite repeated attempts, including removing the case, it failed and we quickly handed over a real Barclaycard in order to stop looking like we were mad and had escaped from some high security establishment.  It will be a very long time before that KFC guy trusts people trying to attack his card machine with their mobile phones.

It was from this point onwards that there were a series of hits or misses.  Sometimes my lovely partner’s ‘pay tag’ would work, most times it would keep failing, and a ‘real’ card had to be used instead.

At this point, my own ‘pay tag’ remained a virgin.  Then I got an email from Barclaycard saying they’d noticed I’d not used my ‘pay tag’ and was I some kind of a mental person for not using it?  Did I need a special three day course to show me how?  (Ok, they didn’t really offer the course or question my mental health.)

Fearing lots of people sitting around inside Barclaycard laughing and pointing at my account because I hadn’t attempted my first ‘pay tag’ experience, I made a point of insisting we go to McDonald’s to restore my pride.

By this time, I too had glued the ‘pay tag’ to the back of my phone, behind my sexy posh case.

I presented it at the McDonald’s drive through.

It didn’t work.

I rapidly pulled off the case.  It still didn’t work.

My partner’s one didn’t work either.  Case on.  Case off.  Nothing worked.

We noticed that the serving person was saying “Can’t pay by phone, need a card” because they’d asked their boss if people could ‘pay by phone’.  We tried to explain and even show her the ‘pay tags’ on the phones, but it was still greeted with a smile and a “No, it don’t do phones or nothing like that, just cards and contactless cards.”

Realising there was now a queue of cars behind us and the manager and two others had joined the serving person, my partner started to ‘speech vomit’.

“Nooooo!” I shouted, and handed over cash in order to end the matter.

So, there you have it.  I am still a ‘using my phone’ to pay for stuff virgin.  My lovely partner is now scared to try to use hers in case she gets sectioned.

Meanwhile, the kind people at Barclaycard are sending replacements.  Replacements for our ‘pay tags’.  At least they’ll not now be laughing and pointing at my lack of using mine.  Phew.