More JC Penney Meltdowns, (R)IP Commerce And Fun With NFC

Welcome to What’s Trending In Payments – a weekly look at the most popular, irreverent and important stories the payments industry had to offer over the past five days as judged by social media. Which companies grabbed the most headlines – for better or for worse – this week, and which topics have the industry abuzz with intrigue, laughter or disbelief? Featuring breakdowns from the staff and commentary by Karen Webster, here’s our take on what all of you payments peeps thought.

TOPIC ONE: JC Penney In More Hot Water

Why It’s Hot

Temperature-related jokes aside, JC Penney is finding new and innovative ways to alienate their customer base. First it was Ron Johnson pushing out many of the company’s loyal followers. And now, as Myron Ullman has once again taken over to right the ship, the merchant is faced with this PR nightmare: a billboard near Los Angeles featuring a teakettle with a passing resemblance to a certain German dictator by the name of Adolf Hitler. Because sometimes, truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Karen’s Commentary

Oh good God. Only in LaLa land. I was always pretty good with Rorschach tests and those little games in magazines that ask you to compare two pictures and see what is missing, but I swear I didn’t see Hitler until someone literally traced it for me.  Really, people, give JCP a break. But then again, maybe not. The teakettle is completely sold out online. (For those who missed it, I’m sure you can find at least 25 on eBay selling for 10x the original price.) Let’s hope this doesn’t inspire someone to create the Osama bin Laden Panini press.

Best Story

This post from LAWeekly does a nice job of breaking down the entire saga from beginning to end. In some ways, it’s sort of incredible that JC Penney actually felt enough heat from this to remove the billboard, because while you can sort of (I guess?) see the Hitler resemblance … it’s a teakettle. I also enjoy the note in this piece that “the teapot is sold out online.” Apparently there’s some interesting home decorating going on around the country.

And for those of you unfamiliar with previous references to how this is just the latest in a long line of missteps for JC Penney, check out Karen’s commentary from when Johnson was dismissed a month-or-so ago.

Top Tweet

@KneelB4Zodd: @thesulk What’s all the furor about? two-w…

I am absolutely furious that I didn’t come up with this headline. Everything I thought of was either borderline (read: very) offensive or too bland. The best I came up with is “J.C. Penney’s Steep Decline,” but I think the furor reference still wins. Well played, sir. Well played.

TOPIC TWO: IP Commerce’s Processing Takes A Dirt Nap

Why It’s Hot

The spirit of Memorial Day weekend was apparently lost on IP Commerce, which announced last Friday that it would shut down its payments processing tool used by the like of Groupon and formerly used by the likes of Square. “As the commoditization of payment-processing services accelerates, we have determined that it is no longer economically viable for us to provide payment processing services,” Charlie Wilson, an executive at IP Commerce, wrote in an email to customers. I guess that’s settled, then.

Karen’s Commentary

The IPC guys, MPD and the PYMNTS team go waaaaay back, almost as far back as Chip’s ponytail is long (or was the last time I saw him…). I look at it this way: IPC made open platforms sexy before they really were sexy. They awakened the world to the notion that being open was way better than being closed and the value of APIs that did the dirty work of connecting to the icky plumbing that half of the developers never even knew existed in payments, and that the other half didn’t understand. The issue came down to a currency that is as important to platform ignition as anything – time. By the time people realized IPC’s value proposition really was sexy, there were others with newer technologies and platform value propositions that were more alluring. But, IPC paved the way by setting out to solve the hardest problem in payments and showing the way. According to their announcements, they’re still doing other stuff, so I, for one, am hoping that like Justin Timberlake, they can bring sexy back and soon.

Best Story

There’s been plenty of reaction from payments analysts on this story, ranging all the way from “zomg, didn’t see this coming,” to “hate to say I told you so.” With such variance in mind, let’s just highlight the Businessweek piece that breaks down the nuts and bolts of IP Commerce’s kill. It’s interesting that Square and Groupon are cited most frequently in the stories about the shutdown (and that’s who we cited, too) but in reality this impacts plenty of payments players. More on that below …

Top Tweet

@mmdubya: Groupon wasn’t the only company used by IP Commerce. Others will be affected by their shutdown. #payments

This is an excellent point. A lot of the companies who just lost their payments processor won’t make major headlines, but this is likely to be a big headache for them nonetheless. Fortunately there is no shortage of processor options out there.

TOPIC THREE: New Types Of Tapping Paint NFC In A Kinder Light

Why It’s Hot

Yes, the subject header is a stretch, but this Memorial Day we brought you two pretty fun stories about some NFC uses cases that aren’t centered around payments, but could work with payments in a way that actually makes consumers want to use the technology. What a novel concept! The first was this piece on Robokeg, a company that wants to let you tap-and-pay for beverages at major events, and the second piece was on some NFC light posts in Japan embedded with NFC advertising. Two funky ideas, but two that stand out in what’s become a mundane NFC market.

Karen’s Commentary

Will. Not. Scale.  Can you see me yawning??? Okay, I do admit that the notion of NFC in a closed environment like a stadium or Disney (remember the NFC wristbands???) is clever but that will not, cannot and will not (deserves to be said twice) ignite NFC, no matter how much free beer there is. As for the light posts, all I can say is that this is the same country that has grown women buying Hello Kitty wallets, purses and PJs and I don’t get that either but it’s obviously making somebody somewhere a lot of money.

Best Story

It’s got to be was our piece on Robokeg which is probably one of my favorite stories of the year so far. The guys behind the concept seem awesome, the idea has plenty of appeal for my demographic and the puns this enables me to create via “tapping” are nearly endless. It’s a win-win all around for me, and if needs to do an app review here I’d like to volunteer. Special shout-out as well to PYMNTS writer Pete Rizzo, who found the story with his expert journalism skills.

So take that, Karen! Your boomers may have all the disposable income, but my millennials have free-flowing beer!

Top Tweet

@FollowPetuniag: Do you really love lamp or are you just saying you love it? I love lamp

I can’t believe it took me over a month to work an Anchorman reference into this column, but here you have it. In related news, if someone else is penning this a week from now, it’s been fun, y’all.



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