Merchants aren't 'skeptical' of Apple Pay, they're just self-serving

Apple Pay, the contactless payment system announced by Apple last September, absolutely faces challenges when it comes to gaining widespread adoption by an industry not always aligned with the best interests of the customer. No, not Hollywood — big retail. The top 100 merchants in the United States of America.

Reuters ran a survey to find out what those challenges were, but framed the results in such a way as to make the merchants seem "skeptical", when the actual data seems to suggest a far better term would be "self serving". When reached for comment, Apple told iMore:

"Customers love Apple Pay and we are very happy with the progress of our rollout since launching just six months ago," an Apple spokesperson reiterated to iMore. "We've spoken to all of the top 100 merchants in the U.S. and about half will accept Apple Pay this year, with many more the following year. There's tremendous momentum from not only large retailers but also Main street merchants, with payment service providers telling us they're seeing unprecedented demand from small and medium businesses nationwide."

That "about half will accept Apple Pay this year" is what the company's CEO, Tim Cook, previously referenced in his year of Apple Pay comments back in January. Reuters seemed eager to suggest Apple wouldn't make it, less eager to report Apple was sticking to it.

Regardless of whether or not Apple makes it to 50 exactly, that's absolutely the attitude and drive I want them to have. For far too long mobile payments have been an afterthought — if the mainstream public gave them any thought at all. Being ambitious is what's gotten Apple Pay into hundreds of thousands of stores in just one country and in under a year, and it's absolutely what's going to get them further.

As for the retailers, some said cost was an issue when it came to accepting Apple Pay. This read as sophistry to me. U.S. retailers already need to upgrade to support what is, in Canada and Europe, the widespread security and convenience offered of pin-and-chip and near-field communications. (NFC).

I'm not sure what Apple-specifc costs retailers want us to believe exist, since Apple's documentation lists none that I can find. Perhaps training staff to explain the privacy and security benefits? Otherwise, faster transactions and no risk from data breaches seems like an enormous cost-savings, at least to me.

Of the more candid retailers, 28 said they weren't accepting Apple Pay because they couldn't get our data from it. That doesn't shock me at all. Data is money. And the various analytics and brokerage there of can be an important revenue stream all on its own. So, it's understandable some merchants want to own it.

But with big data comes big responsibility. Given the breaches that have happened with merchants large and small over the last few years, when it comes to my data — especially my financial data — I'd just as soon the merchants have precisely none of it.

None of it to lose, none of it to exploit without giving me something of value in return, and none of it to compromise my security or privacy on their or anyone else's systems.

In that way, those 28 merchants have done me a service. They've made my decision about where to buy easier. Expressly: not from them. Not unless and until they give me options or incentives that make it better for me. Not just for them.

For right now, merchants are running out of excuses that don't make them seem out of touch or disingenuous, and that's putting it mildly.

I'm looking forward to having Apple Pay, and at shopping at all the fine retailers that have the good sense to support it. Because that's in my best interests.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.