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Last week I wrote a blog outlining why I think Google Wallet is on track http://www.abiresearch.com/research_blog/1733 . I did caution at the end of the blog that the most critical factor to Google (or any other aspiring mobile wallet solution), is flawless execution of the consumer experience. If Google (or any other aspiring mobile wallet solution) mess up in the basics – completing transactions – for instance – the early adopters who use the service will not become the all-important evangelists needed to spur further consumer adoption.

I could have been considered one of those potential early adopter evangelists, but due to a fundamental mistake, I will think twice about using Google Wallet again.
I have been testing Google Wallet since November with mixed results. In terms of payment, for more than a dozen transactions, I only ran across one problem. At a Macy’s store, the payment simply would not take, and I had to use a plastic credit card to pay. Google Offers was more of a challenge as the offers can be misleading – when you pull up “Offers Near You” – some might be and some may not. None of these issues dissuaded me from thinking the Google Wallet was neat and would resonate with consumers.
Then I had a real problem. Last week I decided to use Google Wallet at a 7-11 store to purchase gas. I went into the store and told the clerk I wanted $40 worth. She set up the transaction, I opened Google Wallet and touched the phone to the pay pad. No beep. Tried again, no beep. Asked the clerk – did that go through? Nope.
Now at a convenience store, you don’t have a lot of time to dicker. I tried one more time and it didn’t work, so I pulled out a plastic credit card and paid for the gas. After I filled up, I looked at my Google Wallet transaction history and it showed that the payment went through.
A few days later I called Google Wallet. Very quickly I was given to a customer service rep. I explained what happened, and she said she could see the transaction, and explained that when a payment doesn’t go through, it sometimes takes a few days for the merchant and the payment provider to show the correction. She said to give it a couple more days and to call back if it didn’t show.
So I looked at the Google Wallet balance again about four days later. No correction. I called Google Wallet, promptly got a customer service rep, who looked at the transaction and told me that this was an issue between me and the merchant, that Google Wallet could do nothing about it.
That pissed me off.

Someone has $40 of my money that I supposedly spent two weeks ago. I’m expected to go to a merchant that happens to be on the other side of town, explain my issue and get my money back? How can I prove I didn’t get the gas? How much time is this going to take? Is it worth my time and energy?
More importantly, I’ve never had that kind of problem with a plastic payment card. Ever.
Google and any other aspiring mobile wallet providers, listen closely – it only takes ONE bad experience with a mobile payment, and you lose a customer for life. You also lose a potential evangelist. How do you solve this kind of problem? I’m not sure if mobile wallet providers can. They may be in for a rough ride.

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