Making Payment Convenient

Back in 2007, Tim Hortons announced a deal with MasterCard, to finally provide a credit-card payment system across their stores in Canada. One of the key benefits of this payment was the use of the new PayPass system, a contactless method of transferring credit card information without having to sign receipts. They claimed this would avoid the PIN entry of debit, and ensure fast service through the drive through lineups.

Tim hortons takeout cup

At the same time, for those who did not have a MasterCard with PayPass, they would also swipe credit cards, and signed receipts would not be required for small amounts. Again, this was intended to ensure speedy service.

In 2010, Tim Hortons announced that debit cards would also be accepted for payment across Canada. In their press release, they ensured customers that the speed of service would be maintained, after a trail period in some of the Western provinces since 2003.

How convenient are these methods of payment? From my experience, the PayPass option had the most potential, but was also the most flawed. The position of the PayPass receivers at drive throughs are located beneath the drive through window, recessed to avoid collisions with vehicles. This is probably the worst place they could have placed it.

From my car, a low vehicle, I’m having to reach down to access the terminal. From larger vehicles, I’m reaching down to access the payment window, and the PayPass terminal is completely out of reach. Furthermore, when I can reach the terminal, staff at the store actively discourage its use, with some variation of “Oh, that’s not working.” When I point out the poor location, I’m told that the location is mandated by Chase, the bank which provides the service.

Tim hortons standard store

There are a few places which would be more convenient for these PayPass terminals, such as to the side of the payment window, or even inside the payment window. This is presumably the level at which most customers are expected to reach.

Since Tim Hortons started accepting Interac Debit, changes have also occurred in their handling of credit cards. Any MasterCard with a chip now requires a PIN entry, once again reducing the convenience, especially when considered with their discouragement of PayPass payments.

While I’m using Tim Hortons as an example here, other retailers are also making credit payments more difficult. While sometimes, this is likely due to merchant rules changes at the major credit companies, but I wonder if part of these changes are to subtly discourage payments which incur a transaction fee.

(Images provided by Tim Hortons’ press kit page)

McDonald’s Buttermilk Biscuit OF DOOM

I’m generally interested when new products are launched, especially when free samples are provided as part of a marketing campaign. So, McDonald’s refreshed their coffee line last year? I gave it a try. This year, they’re launching new Buttermilk biscuits. Think about their Bacon and Egg McMuffin, but instead of the english muffin, it has been replaced by a biscuit. I thought this might be a reasonable option. While Tim Hortons offers both a homestyle biscuit and an english muffin, I prefer their biscuit.

What can I say about the McDonald’s biscuit? Well… I suppose it didn’t taste as greasy as their english muffins. That’s the good side of things. The biscuit itself was dry and floury. It had very little taste of its own, and the texture overwhelmed the comparatively small amount of eggs and bacon. In the end, I couldn’t even finish it. What I did manage to get down is now sitting like a rock in my stomach.

They’re available for free tomorrow as well. I think I’ll pass. While I’m reasonably certain that this isn’t what McDonald’s intended for them to taste like, I don’t have any desire to try them again. In order for a promotion to work, your product actually has to be good. If it’s an unpleasant experience, it’s going to be counterproductive.

Coffee Promotions

Thoughts on Tim Hortons and McDonalds coffee promotions.

A recent blog entry from one of the hosts of my local news radio station about coffee promotions got me thinking about coffee marketing.

It’s obviously no coincidence that McDonalds started a promotion of a free small coffee at the same time as Tim Horton’s Roll Up the Rim to Win contest. While I agree that McDonalds is not the place I would turn to first for a cup of coffee, I disagree with his statements regarding sticking to certain strengths. McDonalds is attempting to counter the attacks Tim Hortons has been making in the breakfast department. Five or six years ago, my morning routine would include a stop at McDonalds for a Bacon n’ Egg McMuffin, followed by a trip through the Tims drive-through for a large double double. These days, when I need my breakfast on the go, I can get a bacon breakfast sandwich at Tims with my coffee.

I will admit, the McDonalds coffee is decent. This still won’t change my morning routine. I pass three separate Tim Hortons on my morning commute, but there aren’t any Golden Arches in sight. Tim Hortons franchises have a pretty good density in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

I will however, consider ordering a coffee from McDonalds when I’m there already. That is part of the point, I believe. McDonalds is not attempting to become the leader in coffee. They’re trying to remain competitive, especially in the morning breakfast market.

As for the Roll up the Rim contest at Tim Hortons? Earlier this week, a free coffee won me a free coffee, which is about as far as the chain ever seems to go.