Is Digital All It’s Cracked Up To Be?

I just sent a payment to a new company. They sent the details and it involved quite a lot of set-up. I then hit the button and bang! There goes $1,000.

Thing is that, when you hit that button, you worry whether it will get there. Are you paying the person you think you are paying to? What if you got a digit wrong? How will you get the money back?

I don’t know about you but if, like me, you think about these things, you do wonder how the world works. It is so easy to lose money in today’s world. I had this the other day, after booking flights and being refused boarding due to forms and COVID rules. Could I get the money back for the refused flight? No. I sent cash to a colleague, and they didn’t get it. I call the bank to get it back, and the bank says they have no involvement. It’s my issue. Tough. Lovely.

There’s an old phrase caveat emptor. The old Latin phrase: buyer beware. Thing is that in this world of online, real-time, immediate payments, how aware is the buyer? And if the buyer is not aware, how helpful are the firms, institutions and providers involved?

My feeling is that the companies have divested their responsibilities. This is because it is very hard to get hold of them ­– we know you’re on the line, but have a large volume of calls at the moment and you may have to wait for a month or two until we get to your call – and then, even if you do, the company says you did what? Tough.

Therefore, whenever I’m making a payment, ordering something or dealing with money online, I’m nervous. Is it just me? Is it purely a thing related to age? Gender? Ethnicity?

I don’t think so.

And yet I see very little research into this area. What area? The area of people making payments online incorrectly, and how they can then get their money back. Equally, the area of people making payments online and whether there is diversity in attitude between age, gender and background. Can anyone enlighten me?

The nearest I’ve got is this report from the UK’s Office of Communications. It looks at online usage in 2021 and is interesting. This line jumped out at me:

While the internet was a vital lifeline in 2020, over half of children had a negative experience online (page 4)

It made me think about my own nerves online and the nervousness of children growing up online. They’ve been born digital, and they grow up with digital all around them. The thing is that you wonder where the parameters of digital lie, and who sets them. In the case of my own kids, I limit their time online; I set access limits; and I try to encourage them to do as much as possible offline to entertain them.

Nevertheless, when you encourage digital usage as your job, you do wonder what that means. How does it change our lives, and what happens when things go wrong digitally? Bringing it back to my favourite space: what happens if things go wrong financially online?

To be honest, from experience, tough. Caveat emptor. Buyer beware. Buyer be aware even more when buying online. Buyer, be aware that when you hit that send button, it’s gone. End of conversation.

Related: FinTech: Separating the Wheat From the Chaff