Anyone who knows me in real life will know I am a total gadget geek. My parents will be the first to confirm this (and we all know where I get this from, right Dad?! 😉 ) and Neil will be the second. I argue as part of my professional duties as both a teacher and a digital content producer (of both words and photographs), it’s important that I am up on the latest in gadgets and apps. I am all about streamlining things if possible and using tech to make my life easier.
So when PayPal contacted me and asked if I’d like to visit some independent restaurants, cafes and other merchants in Toronto that accept payments through the PayPal app, I jumped at the chance. Over the past few months, the @PayPal global Instagram account has been showcasing cities around the US withPayPal-accepting merchants and Toronto is the first city outside the US to be a part of this! Some of the placed I visited will be featured by the @PayPal Instagram account as part of this “City Guide” series. A project combining technology, food and photography? Sign me up!
But wait, “What’s that?” I hear you ask – “Paying with an app? As in – with your phone. Walletless?” Yup! Intriguing huh? You do need a PayPal account (connected to either your bank chequing account or a credit card) to start with (I’ve had one for many years), then you simply download the app, connect your account (there’s a password sign-in each time you re-open the app) and you’re good to go at any merchant that accepts PayPal payments. The app makes it convenient to grab a coffee, pick up a sandwich or pay a dinner bill without ever pulling out a wallet. Simply “check in” with the app, your photo will appear on the merchant’s version of the app, add your tip (if appropriate) and voilà, you’ve just paid with PayPal!
There are over 100 locations around Toronto, mainly food-related, that accept PayPal, so you can be sure I had a hard time choosing where to go! The app will show you the merchants “near you” that accept PayPal so quite often I would find myself looking to see what was closeby that I might want/ need to check out.
It was a fun project and I chose to integrate PayPal-accepting merchants with my everyday life and places I already visit – cafés, bakeries, restaurants and bars. I managed to invite a few people along for the adventure as well and found there to be a good variety of merchants – as in, I wasn’t going out of my way to find places to use the app. I will say that over the past few weeks, I have eaten out much more often than I normally would but it was a wonderful opportunity to explore Toronto’s food scene (including a lot of places that had been on my “to try” list for a while!) differently – mostly without having to take out my wallet! Neil and I even had a couple of nights where we cabbed it to a bar, walked to a restaurant, then cabbed it home – with no need to ever get out cash or a credit/debit card.
New technology is not without its glitches, however, so there were a few times when the app didn’t work. All the merchants were apologetic and it was good to see them working with PayPal Canada to fix the issues (I went to a couple of the places more than once). If you have an experience where the app doesn’t work for whatever reason (on your end or the merchant’s), the @PayPalCA twitter handle is there to help – feel free to reach out and let them know. I think it’s a matter of making sure all the staff are trained know what to do when the app doesn’t work as expected (some staff were more tech-savvy than others) and that certainly seems to be what most of the places are working on. Sometimes, it was just a matter of re-starting their end of the app to make it all work properly. So as long as you have back-up cash or a card, you’re good to go. But for the most part, it was a pretty seamless experience and kind of “otherworldly” in a Jetsons-like way. I mean – whoah – here I am paying for dinner with my phone? Who would have thought?
This project definitely made me seek out places I’d been wanting to go for ages and for that I was glad. I loved the fact that many of these places are pretty small businesses yet they offer this service – as one of the merchants told me, “When it works, it’s the best thing ever (for both parties)“. It’s true – paying with PayPal could not be easier – often I would be all checked in and waiting for something to happen (you know, waiting for the machine to punch in your code, waiting for the chit to sign etc…) and chatting with someone when the server would interrupt to tell me “You’re good to go” and I’d glance at my phone to notice I’d paid already! I like the fact that you can enter the tip amount on your own device (although the option to add a dollar amount rather than just a % would be great too) so that when the time comes to pay, there’s actually nothing to do. The app will email you a copy of your payment amount and, in a restaurant, you’ll receive the entire, detailed bill too via email which is great if you need it for accounting purposes (and it won’t get lost in your purse!). It was a lot of fun to chat with the merchants and hear about their experiences – for the most part very positive – and I loved the enthusiasm with which many of them are embracing this cool new technology!
Follow me on Instagram too for more photos of how I explored Toronto with PayPal!
Disclosure: I received a stipend for my expenses and compensation for writing this post and providing PayPal with photographs and captions of the places I visited. All opinions are my own and PayPal did not review this post before publication.
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