October 17, 2010

Collegetown Eateries Bring the Bling

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Students in venues throughout Collegetown have stopped swiping credit cards and started “Blinging,” due to a new trend in payment introduced to the Cornell community by engineering student and  entrepreneur Harshvardhan Chamria ’11.

Popular eateries such as Aladdin’s, Miyake, Pita Pit, Plum Tree and, most recently, Collegetown Bagels have adopted the free technology that allows customers to tap their phone instead of pulling out a card to pay for purchases.

Introduced to the U.S. from Japan by the Palo Alto-based company Bling Nation, Bling technology centers on a communication micro-chip, called an NFC chip, that allows consumers to link a PayPal account to any wireless cell phone that receives text messages.

“The consumer can attach the chip to the back of their wireless phone and tap the phone against any Bling receiver to pay for goods and instantaneously receive a receipt via text message,” said Matthew Murphy, the general manager of Bling Nation’s Pacific region.

“After working with Bling in the summer after my junior year, I found that Bling Nation was definitely at the forefront of the innovation in the telecommunication field,” said Chamria, a member of the Kessler Fellows Program, which combines coursework and internships to offer entrepreneurial training to engineers and is offered to only ten juniors a year.

One of the most enthusiastic subscribers to Bling Nation is Mimi Mehaffey, co-owner of Collegetown Bagels. CTB implemented “Bling” on Tuesday, and though Mehaffey admitted that training 65 employees to operate the new technology would be a challenge, she was looking forward to the convenience of Bling once it is implemented.

“When students use City Bucks, they often leave without getting their cards back. With Bling, you never lose possession,” Mehaffey said. CTB has a jar behind its counter filled with lost Cornell ID cards used for City Bucks purchases.

Though the consumer may never intentionally lose possession of the Bling chip, Murphy acknowledged the potential danger of misplacing one’s phone and having another person use your Bling account.

“Countless studies that examine the amount of time it takes for you to realize you lost your phone versus the amount of time it takes for you to notice you lost your credit card have found that you actually realize you lose your phone in an hour or two hours, whereas a credit card can take up to two days,” Murphy said.

Once the consumer realizes the phone is lost, the chip can be instantaneously deactivated. The chips also come equipped with the capability to recognize if spending patterns have changed dramatically and will ask the purchaser for a personal PIN if any suspicious activity is recorded.

According to Chamria, one of the larger incentives to adopt Bling is the bonuses that customers accumulate automatically whenever they “Bling.” In every venue where Bling is accepted, extra rewards for frequent purchases are also given. From perks like a free coffee after the first five purchases to five-dollar coupons for frequent visits, the Bling tag tracks spending and instantaneously rewards. According to Murphy, every business that uses Bling must offer a rewards program.

“The reward program exists because we save the businesses a ton of money on processing fees and it’s a great way for them to actually connect with the consumer,” Murphy said.

After implementing Bling in five venues in Collegetown, Chamria is looking ahead to the future. “We are looking to reach out to Manndibles and Temple of Zeus next,” Chamria said. Bling tags are currently available for free at any venues that accept Bling.

Original Author: Shane Dunau