A few nights ago my girlfriend and I took some dear friends out to dinner. The swanky Spanish eatery in downtown Toronto happened to accept payments using an app called Tab; since the app was new to Android I took the opportunity to try it out.
As mobile payments go, this one could have gone better.
After downloading the app I signed up for an account with an email address and entered my credit card details. I’m not usually spooked by such things; my credit card company is supposed to be the last line of defence between fraudulent charges and my hard-earned money.
When we got to the restaurant (a little early) I fired up the app and did as I was told.
And then a funny thing happened: my data connection started timing out.
At this point our dinner guests arrived, so I gave up on the app and put my phone away to enjoy some good company and delicious food.
Three and a half hours later, dessert had been cleared from the table and we were ready for the bill. Only problem was, our server seemed to be going out of his way to avoid us. When we finally managed to flag him down, the sudden drop in service was immediately explained:
“Oh, you guys paid with Tab. You’re good to go.”
I explained that I was having signal issues at the table where we were seated—indeed, we all were. Then this bombshell dropped:
“Oh yeah, this table’s a dead spot for cell phones …”
Having no idea how much my credit card was charged, I asked for a paper copy of the bill. It wasn’t until we were out on the street saying our goodbyes that this popped up on my phone:
Advantage over a traditional credit card payment: negligible.
I don’t often drop almost three hundred bucks on dinner, but when I do I prefer to see the charges beforehand. The Tab app is currently accepted at 25 establishments in Toronto; after this experience I’d be very reluctant to use it again.