A Mountain View startup called Pago launched a smart phone app on Aug. 9 that promises to change the way people order food, buy merchandise and pay for services. With dozens of Mountain View businesses being the first to use it, I decided to buy lunch with it to see how it worked. The results were impressive.
Pago was founded by CEO Leo Rocco, a Mountain View resident who has raised $2.1 million in funding. It is being compared to lots of other mobile payment services, such as Google Wallet, which will soon allow people to pay for items with the swipe of their smart phone. But Pago appears to be entirely different, an app that allows you to skip lines and save lots of time.
After downloading the free app onto my Android phone, I found a list of eateries using Pago in Mountain View. My choices on Castro Street included Italian at Don Giovanni's, burgers at Steakout and Mediterranean food at Cafe Neto. I clicked on Taqueria La Bamba, and searched the drop down menus for a burrito. There was a funny glitch when it asked me what sort of meat I wanted on my veggie burrito, but that was resolved when I found that you could write a message to clarify or specify anything special, like "no onions please." I used a pin I selected earlier, and a confirmation page showed up which I was supposed to use to obtain my $8 burrito (I included a gratuity that Pago automatically calculates at 18 percent). So far, so good.
Arriving at La Bamba, there was no line as it was a bit past lunch hour, but Pago has worked out “express lanes" with each retailer to allow Pago users to skip lines.
I simply showed my phone to the cashier with the confirmation page on it. “Ah, the veggie burrito," she said, which was already made and then handed to me. “That's it?" is what I thought to myself.
“Do I pay you?" I asked.
“Nope, it's paid for," she said. It was too easy.
Not having given the application my credit card number, I imagined that my burrito was charged to my cell phone bill. It turns out it was paid for by a $20 credit all new Pago users receive. You are supposed to enter a debit or credit number into the app for regular use.
As I sat down to eat I had to wonder if there some meaning lost in the exercise of waiting in line, looking at the menu on the wall and verbalizing my desired meal. Probably not. If anything I saved some time, and the workers at La Bamba did too.
And when I opened Pago again to look at the La Bamba menu, it asked me if I wanted to immediately check out with my last order, making it my “usual." Could getting lunch really be any easier than that?
Pago was launched Tuesday with the help of the Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, and according to gopago.com, it can be used at 53 Mountain View restaurants and retailers, including Fleur De Lis florist, KFC, Starbucks, Baskin Robbins and Holiday Cleaners. (Perhaps because of a glitch, on Tuesday the app only showed 11 local business options). The app can also be used at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
To entice retailers, the first to join have been given free iPads to help track sales. Eventually retailers will be charged a 5 percent fee to use Pago, which is double the normal credit card transaction fee. But the ability to communicate with users and offer coupon deals and rewards to loyal customers will make it worthwhile, the company says.