2013.10 | Customs Kiosk | Starbucks Square Issues


Canada Customs Self Service – After traveling out of the country recently, I had the opportunity to use Canada Border Services Automated Border Clearance solution in place at Pearson Airport and Vancouver Airports.

The system works very similarly to the original method used in speaking to an agent.    Canadians coming home to Canada fill in the customs form by hand on the plane as usual, and proceed to the customs area at the airport.   Instead of proceeding to an agent, the handlers in the area will ask you if you wish to leverage self service.   If you opt to use the kiosks, you approach, select your language, and follow the instructions on the screen.  Users insert a completed customs form in the slot below the screen, and then scan your passport(s).  The kiosk will categorize travelers with a code indicating whether you may proceed, or speak to an agent.  Then a printed copy of the populated form with the code as a watermark over the form is produced.  In my case, I had indicated I had nuts with me, which required intervention, and had to speak to an agent who passed me through quickly on my way.

While having to speak to the agent after using the kiosk was a bit frustrating, the vast majority of the times I cross the border I would have had no issue at all.  The kiosks are very simple to use, they have a huge green light at the top indicating availability and instructions are shown simply and on screen.  About the only criticism I can make is that it’s a waste of paper to print out a copy of the form which is already a waste of paper.  Moving towards electronic interfaces in these situations will take time, and this is a wonderful step towards simplifying this much loved process.


Starbucks Square Issues – Fast Company recently reported on issues that Starbucks has experienced around implementing the acceptance of payments via Square Wallet.  The fundamental issue appears to be a challenge with communicating the ability to accept Square Wallet at Starbucks at their outlets.  I read this article with a great deal of interest.  I’ve been part of numerous deployments in retail and there are so many opportunities for a deployment with a great concept to go awry.

In order to justify a change to a retail solution, there have to be benefits:

First, there must be a benefit to the retailers’ customers.  At first glance, that appears to be missing.  At present, the benefit of using Square over the standard Starbucks mobile app is a bit of a puzzler.  If they use Square Wallet, customers don’t get to count purchases toward future free beverages as part of the Starbucks loyalty program.  That is actually a DIS-incentive to use Square Wallet.  If Starbucks want to drive usage, they should change that.

Second, there must also be a benefit to the retailer.  I don’t see a real benefit to Starbucks beyond the ability to accept another payment method.  It would seem that drawing additional traffic with additional payment options would not be a key driver at stores with long lines in place most of the time.  In fact, throughput would be more of an issue, and the acceptance of Square as portrayed in the article is actually a hindrance to throughput.

Hopefully there is more to this solution than meets the eye.  It would seem logical to assume that getting the Square Wallet in place at Starbucks is to lay the foundation for the geolocation version of Square Wallet which would allow tendering without presenting a mobile device at all.  That would provide benefits for both the Starbucks and their customers.

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