Apr 1, 2008

Bad Implementation: SM Cash Card

Around 2 months ago, SM Supercenter required its fast food customers to pay through a Cash Card. Here is how the procedure was intended to be:
  1. Pay P200 to a central cashier. This will load P200 worth of cash in your cash card.
  2. Get the Cash Card.
  3. Order in the various restaurants in the fast food center.
The fast food center issued warnings and posters saying that all customers must use the Cash Card instead of paying cash directly to the food shops. Things looked all right from there but it was a perfect recipe for disaster. Here was actually what happened:
  1. The Cash Card electronic system was often offline.
  2. Customers who learned that they could not pay cash were turned off. Shops lost business.
  3. Customers who bought Cash Cards (like my wife and I) had to pay cash anyway, whenever the system broke down. After wating in line for several minutes and then only finding out that our Cash Card was useless, we just decided not to buy from the food shops. Again, this caused loss of customers.
Tonight, my wife and I lined up again at the food shops. Our plan was to do our groceries after supper. We were very hungry, too. So imagine our anger after learning that we could not use our Cash Card again. My wife asked for the manager and the manager tried hard to convince us to pay cash again. We insisted that they refund the P200 loaded in our Cash Card. After several back-and-forths between this manager and her superiors (they kept saying they were offline), they finally just reimbursed the P200.

The problem is that although they refunded our real cash, they caused anger and even probably made the food shops lose business (in fact this is what the cashier in one of the food shops told us -- customers got turned off at the Cash Card requirement).

SM is a very popular mall in the Philippines. In fairness, SM has been able to institute many improvements to its customer experience. However, it still sometimes implements stupid policies like this one.

  • In the first place, requiring a Cash Card is an additional step that adds no value to the customer or the business.
  • Moreover it adds a second step to HUNGRY consumers who sometimes have to line up, since the central Cash Card office has only one employee to process all customers of the fast food center.
  • Also, what happens if I have a few pesos left in it? I would have to reload and I keep feeling that my money is not being maximized.
  • Lastly, it frustrates customers, since it is also unreliable.
SM should rethink this Cash Card project of theirs.