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ElectronicsIn the movie “Stripes,” John Winger, played by Bill Murray, is a slacker who decides on a whim to enlist in the Army. The following exchange with his Drill Sergeant underscores a generational difference of opinion of what is important to people: 

Sergeant Hulka: Soldier, I’ve noticed that you’re always last.
John Winger: I’m pacing myself, Sergeant.

When it comes to buying goods and services, however, the payments process is expected to be instantaneous and perfect every time. The order of the day from consumers is to receive information and pay for items as quickly as possible with a minimum number of mouse clicks. The expectation level is far exceeding the speed of technology.

How did we get to this point? I was very happy typing my college term papers on an electric typewriter which was significantly easier than its manual counterparts. During my days as an auditor, I was able to type my reports on a computer and later was able to automatically send it to our word processing department 400 miles away. When I started with the Credit Union, we instituted e-mail that made simple communication more efficient. Over the last fifteen years, we built online and mobile banking systems as our members wanted to transact business easier and faster without having to visit a branch. We’re pacing ourselves by adding services methodically and only when we are assured that service is reliable.

But here’s the problem. As payments have become easier, so has spending. When spending becomes as natural as eating, then less time is spent analyzing the affordability of the item. When e-tailing, today’s term for online and mobile retail sales, was in its infancy, prices were reduced to get the consumer to buy online. That is no longer the case. Also, impulse buying is much easier. The results are obvious. The speed of online purchases has deeply affected the financial health of our society.

The day after Apple announced their Apple Pay product, a member called and asked when we were going to implement it. As cool as Apple Pay is, and in my opinion will be much more secure than the current plastic cards, there are glitches and issues that have not been addressed. Your Credit Union’s reaction is to continue to watch Apple Pay (as well as the just-introduced Android Pay) and deliver it to our members when the glitches and issues are fixed. We’re just pacing ourselves.

The answer is simple. Online purchasers, as well as financial service firms like banks and credit unions, should slow down and pace themselves. Maybe John Winger was right after all.

David M. Green
(925) 335-3802