I’m still not happy about the QR code menu being here to stay. I’ve largely made my peace with it, though I do feel something like relief when handed a physical menu. But for the most part, I figured the QR codes would stay on the ordering side of my interactions. At full-service restaurants and bars, the server still presents you with a check, and you hand them cash or a credit card. Now, some places will even bring the credit card reader to the table to make it even faster. But having to interact with a human to pay is something I thought would never change about dining out.
I’ve had a few meals recently, however, that take the QR code-ification of dining even further by asking that you pay the bill via code. This involves scanning the image on the receipt, which opens an app like DoorDash, prompting you to pay with PayPal, Apple Pay, or a credit card stored on your phone. And it is infuriating. I never thought I’d have to ask this, but will you please just take my money?
Part of the problem is, of course, that limiting payment to digital means, or at least highly encouraging payment via app, is classist and discriminatory (and illegal in some places). But limiting payment not just to credit cards, but to phone-based services, exacerbates those existing problems. It asks not only that you have a smartphone, but that you’ve paired your financial life to that phone, or that you have accounts with other third-party payment services.
The other problem is it’s just annoying. At one restaurant, I realized I didn’t have the information of the credit card I wanted to use stored in my phone, so I had to sit there and upload it before I could double tap to pay. A coworker mentioned he had to hold up a line at a cash register while he waited for his phone to update the preferred app. At another, the Wi-Fi was spotty and it just took too long. And after time spent interacting with a server, a person who is asking about your preferences, dietary restrictions, and checking in on your meal, it feels weirdly impersonal. Don’t I get to say goodbye?
Not everyone feels this way. Payment app companies argue this could all be better for the environment, as paper receipts do have a hefty carbon footprint. It also sometimes allows restaurants to set a default tip, which diners may find helpful and can help guarantee everyone is paid fairly. But I’m a sucker for hospitality, and waiting for my phone to update and to accept new terms of service is just not a pleasant way to end a meal. Surely there’s a way to save the planet and experience the “full” in “full service.” I promise I tip well. Just don’t make me look at my phone any more than I already do.