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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

...so bring your thirst, but leave your Visa card.

At a Tim Horton’s stop yesterday, I tried to pay by Visa. No dice. MasterCard, debit or cash, were the options I was given.

Of course, I had no cash on me. I’m not a MasterCard customer, and my U.S. bank cards don’t work for direct debits. I didn’t get my large double-double. (The same way Starbuck’s has its own language, so does Tim’s. “double-double” refers to servings of cream and sugar, respectively.)

I asked my server why Tim Horton’s doesn’t honor Visa, and didn’t get any real answer.

I had thought that it might be because of the service fees Visa charges retailers for purchases. That would be understandable. Retailers have created a reasonable amount of public outcry against the charges Visa levies, seemingly only because they are the credit market leader.

Yet in researching it, a few unverifiable internet sources stated that the reason is because the Visa verification process is too slow, and that the already-long lines at Tim’s would be made longer with a Visa option. (MasterCard verification is apparently much faster) If operational efficiency were the reason for not accepting Visa, it would make a little more sense than outrage over service charges. The desires of the few (would-be Visa customers) sacrificed for the better service experience for the many.

Regardless of motivation, very few retailers taken the action that Tim Horton’s has, and for a good reason. While denying Visa access to the Canadian coffee market leader is a definite statement, Tim’s breaks a major service (really a business) rule: unless payment experience is a differentiator, (and it SELDOM is) make it as easy as possible for customers to pay you. In turning me away without apology, they may have intended “We’re opposed to the fees Visa charges for transactions” or, “We’re trying to keep this line moving so that no-one has to wait too long”, but the message I received was, “Your business isn’t valuable to me”.

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