I’ve had the pleasure and pain of using two killer apps on my iPhone that want to advance mobile transactions in the UAE.
The first one is a coupon based app called TWOFORONE GO (why all the caps guys?) which is very much like the “Entertainer” voucher book. It generates coupons on your mobile phone instead of plucking them from a rather large and heavy book that you have carry around.
The concept is wonderful and the app helps you easily locate places around you that can accept TWOFORONE Go voucher. Except that most of these places I tried out had no idea what TWOFORONE GO was and refused to honor the deal. Only two out of the five restaurants listed in the app accepted the coupon and that too involved minutes of negotiations and a few phone calls. When I’m at a restaurant, the last thing I want to do is stay hungry.
From what I can tell, the problem lies with the fact that TWOFORONE had approached a lot of restaurants to educate them about their promotions but it took them forever to actually launch and promote the app to consumers. By the time a consumer walked in, the restaurant owner had pretty much forgotten about the service. There needs to be an ongoing effort by TWOFORONE to not only acquire new partners but keep older ones continuously educated and informed. It’s not an easy task but losing potential customers is a much easier way of going out of business.
Luckily, the customer service at TWOFORONE is pretty good and, as a customer, you almost always get a reply from them along with some form of apology or compensation. Sadly the same cannot be said for Beam App which had me very excited until I ran with an issue and had to deal with their support.
Beam is an app where you register with your debit/credit card and then instead of pulling out your credit card to make payments, you do it through your phone. A QR Code is shown on your phone when you are ready to transact and the merchant scans that code to complete the transaction. Obviously the merchant needs to accept Beam as a form of payment. Places like Tim Horton’s and Aldo readily accept it and the team at Beam App is continuously adding new vendors which are conveyed to their consumers through the app.
The reason why you would want to use Beam App is because Beam has tied up with many of their vendors to offer greater value or free credits. For example, at Tim Horton’s, you can pre-pay AED 300 and in turn receive a credit of AED 350. Periodically, you also get free credits for certain places- I got one for The Pantry cafe for AED 25 and used it without any issues. Overall, Beam has done an excellent job of educating their vendors and I was happily recommending it to everyone I came across.
But then I faced an issue and I was left completely unimpressed with their service. I bought a pre-pay Beam credit of AED 150 at Cold Stone Creamery for AED 105 to purchase a birthday cake. Beam happily took the money from my Debit Card and added it to my Beam Wallet. However, Cold Stone could not complete my transaction on Beam because “it was not working.” Thus, I had to shell out cash at Cold Stone as I was in no position to return without a cake.
I contacted Beam about this issue and they got back to me blaming the lack of a working Internet connection at Cold Stone to complete the payment. Unlike Visa/MasterCard, Beam relies on an Internet connection to work .That’s fine- issues happen. But when I asked Beam for a refund on my prepaid voucher as I had already paid for the cake using cash, all I was greeted with was silence. I reached out to them again over twitter and email to refund my money but no word whatsoever from them. I realised that they were in no mood to return my funds. That proved to be a very disappointing and is a sharp contrast to the service level provided by TWOFORONE.
Another area where Beam acts shady is when utilising your credits. In Beam you have Global credits that can be utilised at any vendor that accepts Beam or vendor-specific credits such as the one I mentioned for The Pantry. Beam choses to use your Global credits before vendor specific credits. So if I had 100 Dirhams of Global credit and 100 Dirhams of The Pantry credit, and got a bill for 150 Dirhams from The Pantry, I would expect Beam to use the 100 Dirhams specific for The Pantry first and then take out the balance 50 Dirhams from my Global credit. However, Beam does the exact opposite of that, utilising Global credits before vendor specific credits.
As much as I would love to use Beam or TWOFORONE, neither of these mobile transaction system is quite ready yet. While both have their faults, their shortcomings are not necessarily related to technology. Rather, it’s a case of good business practice that is lacking on both sides.