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The Perilous Product Launch (Or, How Your Employees Might Sabotage the Launch)

Fenway Park’s concession stands were sporting a new technological gadget when they opened this year. Every cash register was fitted with a MasterCard PayPass reader. It’s like the Mobil Speedpass. Just wave your credit card (or key chain fob) near the reader, and the transaction is done. For transactions under $25 (like buying a pretzel and a couple beers) there is no signature required. It looked like a great idea to me; I don’t want to wait in line at Fenway, I want to watch the game. A faster transaction should mean a shorter line.

A couple weeks ago I was at a game and I noticed that the readers were hidden behind the cash register, face down. I asked the guy pouring the beers if the system was down.

“No, we just hate the things. We get screwed on tips when people use them.”

MasterCard presumably spent a lot of money studying the market and deciding where to launch it. If you look at the list of participating banks, it’s very focused on ballparks. MasterCard is going to look at the data from Fenway Park, and they’re going to be disappointed. There will be fewer users. They may even decide to kill the product because people didn’t use it.

The unresolved question, though, will be whether the problem is apathetic consumers or poor design. MasterCard has to know that it needs the vendors on its side, or at least not as an active enemy. By failing to make tips easy, MasterCard earned the enmity of the vendors while simultaneously shrinking the average transaction size. But do they even know it? Do they see the sales data, kill the project, and call it a day? Or do they have the savvy to survey vendors anonymously?

As a part of my job I collect and analyze data about what new products are working and which ones aren’t. Things like this make me break out in hives.


Comment from Dave St.Germain
Time: July 22, 2007, 7:40 pm

oh, and by the way, it turns out that the people who have used TPT are printing out pages to use as birdcage liner…