I love urban hiking and strolling through the city without target and enjoy the luxury of chaos control. But when you’re active outside it’s best to also eat and drink to give your body some energy back. I prefer getting my goods from vending machines but I dislike cash and especially carrying around heaps of coins for such machines. Across the world I like the vending machines in Tokyo most for their reliability and product selection, while in Frankfurt the machines are so-so. They have pretty generic things and rarely fancy things and often they don’t work perfectly fine.
So that defines the problem I face often but I recently found out that PayPal is running a pilot in cooperation with a local vending machine company to address the coin matter. In the Frankfurt train central station there is one platform (Gleis 6/7) where they upgraded the machines to accept transactions from the PayPal app.
Ok, I say it how it is, the process is a little confusing for first time users and the feature is not greatly advertised either. What you have to do is open the PayPal app and navigate to a function called Shops (or Läden in the German locale). In there a list of possible shops from your area is listed. I’m selecting the train station and platform number now in order to load up the next view. Then it gets a bit tricky. The list shows you a series of alphanumeric code names of the miscellaneous vending machines, so you have to check the machine physically for a matching PayPal ID sticker and check in the app if the description also matches. In my case there were 3 types being cold drinks, hot drinks and snacks being listed. Each type is listed about three times as it’s a long platform and there are several machines.
Paid for coffee in Frankfurt central station via @PayPal #app. My hydration challenges are forever solved. #FinTech pic.twitter.com/LDDj2vNXuh
— Christopher Isak (@ChristopherIsak) November 1, 2015
When you have a match you tap that particular machine in the app and you get options on how much money you want to put into the machine as credit. There are only options matching the products prices in that machine, so you couldn’t add a 2 bucks credit if there are only items for 1.50. If you want to buy several things, you need to start over in the app. So the credit is granted and after about 5 seconds the machine display will also show your available credit and you can select your goods just as if you inserted coins just then.
In Germany it can happen that frustrated users will take a pen and write their comments on the machine and share their experiences with others. For example I saw one such comment being roughly translated into “doesn’t give change”. You could call that social media vandalism, I suppose but it is what it is. If you’re interested in such an aspect, check out our article on offline social media concepts.
I used all these machines now and I didn’t have such problems. Just don’t go for a credit higher than the price of the product you want. Right now, when people see you approach a machine doing something on your phone and suddenly you can get something out of the machine without putting coins in it, they stare at you like you just hacked it Aiden-Pearce-Style. But I accept that risk of appearing like a hacker to them. I don’t think it’s a biggie – don’t let them get you down for being a digital citizen.
And of course I know you want to ask one special question now.. the classic Monday Machine Fail. You paid, selected your desired refreshments, the machine starts and it misses dropping your goods but the money is gone. This can happen if inexperienced handlers are filling the machine and make mistakes or for other technical difficulties. This is not related to the PayPal processing but only to the machine really as it happens just as much with cash transactions.
So it happened to me 1 time out of 10 times. The money is gone and no goods for Chris. I had to repeat to get my snack, ending up paying two times. Regardless of a small amount of money this is obviously nothing to accept in my opinion. Unfortunately I did not find options for a refund on the app itself but later back on a desktop browser I raised a refund claim to the vendor on PayPal.
They didn’t bother having a look and neither rejected nor accepted the refund request. After a while now I was notified by PayPal that they will close the request due to inactivity soon. They suggested me to escalate it to an PayPal support agent if I didn’t hear from that company yet, and that is what I did. So I’m logging in on a desktop browser again and clicked the workflow button to escalate the case, entering my story on what happened and hoping they will believe me that I paid two and received only one item.
This happened only recently so I can’t tell you the end of the story but I will update the article here once that has happened.
Update: A few days later I have now received the refund. The system works and I can again go crazy on cyber purchases. 🙂
Personally I really enjoy this experience and hope the pilot will be successful and the PayPal app will be able to extend their list of cooperative businesses. If you want to find out if there are any stores or vending machines around you supporting payment via PayPal app just have a look at their Store Locator. Make sure you approve the browser request to locate your position and let it load the map – and you’re done. Have fun with it!
Photo: PayPal / Startup Stock Photos