iPhone, Android users unite to boycott anti-Apple Pay retailers

By rejecting NFC for mobile payments, CVS and RiteAid have given iOS and Android users a rare chance to agree on something.

tim cook nfc
Credit: Screenshot

A Redditor really describes this situation better than anyone else could: "an unholy alliance forged in the fires of hate."

An expletive-laden post (on Reddit, I know, I was surprised too) to the r/Apple subreddit invites its rival r/Android subreddit to join in a boycott against retailers that are disabling near-field communication (NFC) payment terminals.

The bipartisan boycott comes days after pharmacies CVS and RiteAid disabled their stores’ NFC terminals after learning that they were compatible with Google Wallet and the recently released Apple Pay. CVS and RiteAid are both members of a retailer consortium called the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX), which reportedly plans to release a competing mobile payment offering, called CurrentC, in early 2015. Since mobile payments systems can only succeed if retail stores support them, MCX companies appear to be attempting to nip the threat of Apple Pay in bud.

Disabling the NFC terminals also means alienating users of NFC-enabled Android smartphones that employ Google Wallet, thus providing the two opposing legions of fanatics a common enemy and a rare cause for which to join forces.

The r/Windows Phone subreddit also appears to be showing support, which is kind of adorable. The r/Windows Phone post had about 3,000 fewer votes at the time this was published.

If the boycott actually reaches enough users, it could impact many more retailers than just CVS and RiteAid. The Reddit post lists all retailers linked to the MCX’s mobile payment system, which includes 7-11, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dunkin' Donuts, ExxonMobil, K-Mart, Lowe's, Southwest Airlines, and Wal-Mart, among many others listed on the MCX website.

The show of support from users explains Apple’s blasé statement in response to the snub from MCX companies, which appears to have been intended only to show how little Apple is worried about them:

The feedback we are getting from customers and retailers about Apple Pay is overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic. We are working to get as many merchants as possible to support this convenient, secure and private payment option for consumers. Many retailers have already seen the benefits and are delighting their customers at over 220,000 locations.

CVS and RiteAid’s stance has been largely lambasted as a pro-business move that will only disadvantage consumers. Mobile payments stand to benefit all retailers, speeding up the checkout process, potentially leading to more sales and improving customer experience. The black eye the MCX has received from the publicity of the CVS and RiteAid rejection of Apple Pay could, theoretically, discourage some of its member companies from standing with the company and dealing with the blow-back.

However, there is a lot of money to be made in the processing of mobile payments, and it’s unlikely that these retailers are going to lie down and let Apple and Google win. This is why it’s taken so long for NFC, which has been ready to be deployed for years now, to really play a role in the smartphone market. Mobile payment requires collaboration between several different kinds of companies, all of which are going to want a bigger cut of the earnings. Unless this boycott becomes more than a Reddit post, Apple and Google should be at least a little worried about the threat of retailers who refuse to cooperate with their plans, and should probably find a way to resolve it less publicly.

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