Uber's NYC U-Turn, eBay's Retail Touch And Payments' Exiting Execs

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: Big Apple Takes Bite Out Of Uber

Why It’s Hot

As The Uber Turns? The Young And The Fare-less? If you’re a fan of both soap operas and the payments industry, then the eHailing/ride-sharing saga in New York City is for you! After months of messy regulatory battles, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission agreed to let Uber operate its yellow cab business in the city, but with one small caveat: it couldn’t use its mobile payments system. As if that weren’t bad enough, a judge overturned the decision to allow eHailing of cabs in the city just a day later - literally as I was writing this article - meaning Uber is now restricted to just its black car service in the Big Apple.

UPDATE: The NYC TLC has reached out to us to say that starting without an ePayments option was Uber's choice, and not a mandate from the TLC. We're reaching out to Uber for comment.

UPDATE (5/5/13): We've spoken to Uber, and the company emphasized that this affects their yellow cab service in New York City only, and not their black car service, which they cite as their "main business."

Karen’s Commentary

This so called “return” was sort of like the return of the living dead ... who would ever use Uber NYC Taxi? You can’t do any of the cool things that Uber innovated like mobile payments, and Uber taxis can’t even take you to the airports - one of the most desirable use cases. Maybe the oddest thing of all is that Mayor Bloomberg, who himself innovated information delivery via technology, can actually say that technology is disadvantaging the taxi industry in NYC with a straight face. Yeah.

Best Story

I’m a fan of the original Uber blog post, to be honest, which announces how “thrilled” they are to return to NYC, then subtly lets you know that you can’t use the app’s defining feature: mobile payment. This was written before their cab-hailing capabilities were once again denied, and I’d imagine Uber’s subsequent blog post will have to many expletives to link to on a family-friendly site like

Top Tweet

@BC_PYMNTS: Seriously, Uber? I had JUST finished my piece about your NYC saga. Ugh.

Is including your own tweets in a column “cool”? Perhaps not. But it’s important to me that our readers understand that I am the real victim here. I had just finished writing up a post on Uber’s lack of payments functionality, when this “judge” goes and blows up the whole taxi eHailing angle. Not only did I have to rewrite this entire blurb, but I had to change my headline and intro too! There is truly no rest for the weary in the payments writing game. First-world problems galore.

TOPIC TWO: eBay’s Gets Physical

Why It’s Hot

John Donahoe, eBay’s CEO, revealed on Tuesday that his company is planning to launch a “pop up” shop with a touchscreen window at a retail location in New York this summer. Donahoe spilled the beans at TechCrunch Disrupt in NY, and TechCrunch then reported that Kate Spade is eBay’s retail partner of choice for their foray into physical sales. Donahoe was uncharacteristically vocal this week, also referencing how eBay “bet hard” on mobile and explaining why his company is against the Marketplace Fairness Act.

Karen’s Commentary

Online meets offline on Saturdays via a touchscreen. Kate Spade Saturdays is a pretty clever (and way cheaper) way for e-tailer eBay to break into the physical retail space. No long term lease, no employees to hire and train - and the opportunity for the pop-up to go “poof” and move on to another location without any fuss or muss. Could this be a sneak peek in to the future of physical retail????

Best Story

This piece by the aforementioned TechCrunch does a nice job of breaking down Donahoe’s quotes, as well as eBay’s recent push towards securing in-store payments partners. The piece notes that eBay has already dabbled in physical initiatives like QR codes in shop windows and check-ins at certain retailers, but, quite frankly, a life-sized touchscreen has a bit more sex appeal than either of those options.

Top Tweet

@SquawkStreet: “We see a world where we see multiple screens everywhere ...” @ebay CEO John Donahoe now on @SquakStreet

Donahoe actually said this after his eBay’s earnings were released last week, but I thought it was a pretty interesting quote to revisit after the news Donahoe broke on Tuesday. Many people likely assumed Donahoe was simply referring to the ubiquity of mobile devices, but it’s clear now that eBay’s designs are much bigger than just mobile. Literally.

TOPIC THREE: Payments Execs Play Musical Chairs

Why It’s Hot

The week in payments news started off with a bang, as our top story Monday ended up being our top story of the week. JPMorgan Chase saw its co-COO Frank Bisignano depart for the top job at First Data, where he’ll try to right the ship at the U.S.’ largest merchant acquirer. We saw plenty of movement in the mPayments space as well, as on Wednesday we covered Braintree stealing former Google Wallet co-founder Rob von Behren away from his role at Square. One day later, Square nabbed Alex Petrov from PayPal, naming him their new VP of partnerships. Drama and intrigue abound!

Karen’s Commentary

Hope Mr. Fix-It packed a pretty big tool kit - there’s lots of work to be done. This isn’t the first time that there was an outside Mr. Fix-It brought into FDR to make some changes - remember Michael Cappellas about six-or-so years ago? Anyway, hopefully this Mr. Fix-It’s tenure will last a bit longer.

Best Story

If you’re looking for a breakdown of what Bisignano’s departure means for JPMorgan Chase and what his arrival means for First Data, we have you covered. This analysis we ran on Monday should tell you all you need to know, and catches you up with how this payments giant is struggling to get back on track. As First Data’s earnings showed earlier this week, Bisignano’s “Mr. Fix-It” reputation will be put to the test at his new company.

Top Tweet

@Schnaps: By who?? Slytherin house? “Frank J. Bisignano, regarded within JPMorgan as something of an operational wizard”

Oh Schnap! The New York Times piece on Bisignano’s departure painted the former JPMorgan exec in a pretty positive light, but it appears not everyone is quite as convinced that he’s earned his reputation. I’m afraid I’m not well-versed enough in Harry Potter lore to make a terribly witty joke here, but if people want to shoot me suggestions for who should be considered the Voldemort of payments, maybe I’ll turn it into a column.



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