Those mobile payment idiots at China Mobile
China Mobile, with hundreds of millions of subscribers, political clout in the central government, and with their close connection with China UnionPay, had made several attempts into the mobile payment arena without much success. The two giant state enterprises even formed a joint venture several years to do just that, mobile payment. The joint venture is in a mess, the two allied partners have gone on their own path since then, and have become competitors.
China Mobile had since gone through many iterations of mobile payment schemes, from NFC payment, to mobile wallet to mobile phone payment. All met with different levels of success… or more accurately, may I say, different levels of failure.
With all their seemingly unlimited resources, you have to wonder why China Mobile can’t make it big and dominate this field. I’ve been asking this question many times myself.
About six months ago, China Mobile has plastered advertisement about their new mobile phone payment scheme all over the country. At least, in Shanghai, Beijing, and Nanjing, the cities where I have taken notice. I had even gone to their web site to see how I could activate the service. I went through hoops over hoops, trying to figure out how it works, and how to activate. After an hour or so, I gave up, and forgot about it.
A few days ago, I received a message from China Mobile, telling me that my account has accumulated a certain amount of points, which can be exchanged for purchasing coupons. That amounts to a few hundred RMB, and I thought, that should be enough to buy a good power pack for my mobile devices, something I was planning to buy anyway.
And I could activate the service by just sending two text messages to China Mobile. That seems good enough for me. So I did.
So I went on my “shopping spree”. Well, there are only three online merchants where I can use the coupons. So I started wondering what kind of business development team they had to have achieved such a high level of success in developing their network of business partners. Three partners, in all over the country!
But I didn’t care, one of the merchants carried the goods I wanted. That was good enough. Innocently, I placed the order, and was ready to check out. Since this is supposed to be a mobile phone payment scheme, I did all this on my Android phone. When I chose the payment mode at the check out, I was redirected to China Mobile web site, and it requested me to install a plugin. The plugin is an msi installation package. There’s no other choices. I had my Android phone and my Linux laptop with me.
I called customer service, and complained about it. The lady said: “Sir, the service is called mobile phone payment, but it does not mean you can handle payment on your phone. You need a computer.” I said I had a computer, but your software did not work. She told me I needed a real computer. My jaw dropped through the floor.
Oh well. So, I got a coupon of a few hundred RMBs. I’ll jump through a few more hoops to spend it. China Mobile already made money through my subscription anyway. I got home, installed the stupid plugin on my Windows computer. I had to install it twice, before it became active. Then, you wouldn’t expect it to work with any browser, would you? Yeah, just IE. So, what was this plugin for? It’s there to show an input field so you could enter a password. Whatever. I finally finished the check out, and paid for it.
Another event made the whole experience even more depressing. Before I had a chance to install that stupid plugin and complete the check out, I received a reminder email from the online merchant (360buy.com, if anyone cares), showing the amount of the order to be 338.00RMB. How and where did they get this number is beyond me, as the power pack I was buying was just 199RMB, and when I logged on their web site, it did show the correct amount of 199RMB.
This is the kind of product and service designed and provided by idiots with state monopoly and unlimited resources. It’s not hard to understand why they are not dominating this field. And obviously, the quality of their partners is of equal match. Well, the first impression wasn’t very impressive anyway. I guess that’s how the saying goes, birds of a feather flock together.
This was my first experience with their so called mobile phone payment service, and my first experience buying from that online merchant. It will be the last, for sure. Let’s just hope that when the good is delivered, it will be of acceptable quality.