Buy a Coffee with Just Your Name: How Much Privacy are You Willing to Give Up?

August 9, 2012

By Angie Moreschi:

Just think.  You could walk into Starbucks, say your name and the barista would automatically whip up your double mocha skinny latte. No,  not because you’re such a frequent customer that they know who you are and what you want when you step up to the counter. This has to do with them tracking your every move through technology.

In today’s big brother, cyber spy world, computer chips can pretty much let retailers know a whole heck of a lot about you and your buying habits. And now, if you’d rather not waste all that breath to tell the cashier what you want, a new app at Starbucks will do the ordering for you. All you have to do is say your name.

The Java App

Starbucks is teaming up with Square, the San Francisco company that brought us the  mobile payment app.  Starting this fall, 7000 Starbucks cafes will start using Pay With Square, which uses a GPS technology to indicate when a Square user is in the cafe.

All you do is install the Square app on your smart phone, and then link a credit or debit card to the account.  Techno-wizardry takes it from there and identifies your location when you walk into Starbucks. Your name and picture pop up on the store’s computer system, so when you’re ready to order, all you have to do is say your name.  The cashier matches your name and picture to their “point-of-sale” system, and voila!  No need to go through all the trouble of remembering your favorite beverage’s exotic description or getting your wallet out and fumbling with a credit card or cash and all that.  This is just like saying, ‘Hey Sal, it’s me. Put it on my tab.”

Technology Trumps Privacy

To make all this possible for your caffeine inducing pleasure, Starbucks is investing $25 million in the new Square system and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz will join Square’s board of directors.  Pay with Square has been around for awhile, but  it’s mainly used by small businesses.  This venture by Starbucks could really launch the company to another level.

So, starting this fall, if you choose to give another little piece of your privacy away, you can order your cup of  Joe, just by saying your name.  Funny thing is, paying with the Square app might make you feel like a “regular,” but you’ve got to wonder if it’s actually kind of sad that someone you really don’t know at all, is going to treat you like an old pal.