Cashiers don't understand Apple Pay and it's totally adorable

apple pay whole foods

Apple Pay is so easy to use, it’s almost not worth writing about. It’s laughably fast and stupidly simple. So simple it’s confusing the heck out of clerks and cashiers nationwide.

Here’s how it works: You walk up to the kind of payment terminal where you would normally swipe your credit or debit card. You notice a little icon that looks like a sideways Wi-Fi symbol—that means you can also use contactless payments, like those tap-and-go Mastercards that no one uses. That’s your clue.

So instead of swiping a card, you hold your iPhone 6 or 6 Plus near the terminal, your default Apple Pay card pops up on the screen, you smugly put your thumb on the Touch ID button, and boom, transaction completed. It took me approximately 17 times longer to type this than it does to actually make a payment.

But in these early days of Apple Pay, the speed and simplicity are also the perfect recipe for hilarity. As in, the cashiers I’ve encountered definitely did not get a memo, and to a man and woman they had nooooo idea what was going on.

This makes sense, though. The payment terminals aren’t new. The cashiers don’t really get involved when you use them to swipe cards, except occasionally to remind you to push the green OK button or something. So no training was necessarily required for them—literally the only change is customers paying with a phone instead of a card. So I understand why they didn’t know what was happening. But it's still been funny.

The sorry guy at Walgreens

First, I went to Walgreens. I selected some socks. Four pairs for $7! You can never have too many socks, I always say. The socks were not on sale, but the cashier—a very nice man in a Walgreens vest, who kind of looked like one of my uncles—really wanted me to log in to my Walgreens rewards account anyway. So I typed in my phone number, and he called me Susanne, and I got that weird feeling you got when you were a kid and your mom called you by your full name after you did something bad.

Then I casually used Apple Pay to buy the socks. The smiling man must have thought I was checking my texts or something, because he was totally unprepared for the transaction to be complete. “What did you do?!” he exclaimed in the tone of a caveman who just saw someone light a Zippo instead of rubbing two sticks together.

walgreens store exterior Walgreens

Walgreens accepts Apple Pay!

I said, “Did it go through? I just paid with my iPhone. It’s called Apple Pay. It just launched today.” (Quotes approximate. I wasn’t recording this or anything.) He was astonished, and started falling all over himself apologizing that he didn’t know about it. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I didn’t know.” And then he repeated that a few more times. He was sorry. He didn’t know.

“It’s OK!” I tried to assure him. “It just launched today!” I picked up my socks and receipt and headed toward the door, feeling bad that I’d put him in a position where he felt like he had to apologize. (For what? I’m still not sure.) “Be well!” he called after me, which is a thing they’re doing at Walgreens now, and then as the automatic door whooshed open, I heard him yell, “EMILY!” to someone else in the store. Maybe a manager. Maybe a manager with an iPhone.

The sleepy guy at Rite Aid

Then I went to Rite Aid. Rite Aid also sells socks, but instead I found a bag of gummi bears that purported to contain extra juice. Extra juicy gummi bears! Who was I to say no? I paid with Apple Pay. This cashier, a lanky, sleepy-looking fellow in his early 20s, wasn’t even ready yet. You know how you can swipe your card before they are done ringing your stuff up? That didn’t work with Apple Pay at this time, in this store. When he was done ringing up my one and only item (he was really tired, I’m telling you), I did the Apple Pay trick again.

“Thaaaaat is coooool,” the man drawled, as he watched me do it. “But how do you know if you can trust it?”

I scrambled to think of a way to explain single-use tokens in 10 words or less. “It makes up a fake account number,” I tried. “But the bank still knows it’s me.” Fourteen words! Not bad.

rite aid receipt2

The last four digits shown on the receipt are not on my card—that’s the token! Also, it says “Card present” but that was really my iPhone. (Also? Juicy Gold Bears would be a good name for a band.)

He looked me right in the eyes. “It sounds won-der-ful,” he said, very slowly and intensely and he handed me my receipt. I grabbed my gummis and left.

Striking out at Chevron and getting ripped off at work

I also went to Chevron, but the convenience store part had already locked its doors, and the cashier wanted me to conduct my transaction through the bulletproof glass window on the side of the building. “Apple Pay?” I asked him, hoping maybe he’d open the doors so we could geek out on contactless payments together. He gave me the blank look my ridiculous question deserved. I said, “Never mind!” and filled my tank at the pump, where my only option was swiping.

Later I used Apple Pay at the soda machine in our office. The sodas are delivered by robot arm. It’s the most high-tech soda machine I’ve ever used. When I first started working here I thought the fact that you could swipe (or tap!) a credit card to buy $1 can of soda was pretty funny in an “Only in America!” kind of way. Joke’s on me, because when I don’t have cash (which is always), I use my card to buy soda all the time. So I used Apple Pay. And I was cruelly charged $1.10 for a soda that would have cost $1 if I’d used bills or coins.

I’m never using Apple Pay at that soda machine again.

How about you? Have you used Apple Pay to blow a cashier’s mind yet? Did you feel like you were giving a demo? Tell us your stories in the comments!


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