TTB: Oxxo's Barcode card for cell phone credit

I don’t know if this service is new-to-the-world, new-to-the-market or just new-to-me, but I was very happy about someone coming up with it.

This is how it worked before: You went to the retail store Oxxo (one of the most common stores found almost in every corner, like a Mexican Seven Eleven, owned by FEMSA) wanting to buy credit for your cell phone for pre-paid services. The clerk asked you for your cell phone number, which you had to pronounce out loud while everybody waiting in line heard it. Then the clerk had to confirm the number, writing the 10 digits again on the screen, for what you had to pronounce it out loud once more. Mistakes were common so you had to repeat it again. I sometimes used my presentation card where the phone is written to avoid this, but I’ve had to wait in line for others that go through the same process. Besides the service being slow, there were security concerns since it’s not a good idea to go around shouting your cell phone number.

This is how it works now: Oxxo stores your cell phone information in a data base and assigns a bar code to it. Next time you want to buy credit you only need your bar code and the clerk will pass it by the bar code reader once. Less time consumed for everyone and no mistakes in depositing to others.

How the company wins? Consumer’s preference and loyalty. You know the process will be less time consuming and safer so you’ll buy your credit at Oxxo, while of course buying some other things. The system could also allow further loyalty reward points, why not negotiating with the cell phone service company and add credit for achieving a certain number of points? It can also be linked to the purchase of other products. Then, of course, there is also the information you can gather about the consumer.

The bad side of it: First you have to carry around the little barcode card, but leaving that behind, in Mexico we have learned the rough way about having personal information stored in data bases, which can be sold or stolen for other uses. To give some examples: the RENAVE (vehicle registration information initiative that was going to be in hands of Miguel Angel Carvallo, an Argentinean criminal in 2001), or the fact that personal information of voter IDs are sold in Tepito, a local informal market at Mexico City, as discovered this year. Since I bought the cell phone credit through a drive-in giving my presentation card I don’t know exactly what information they captured (THEY DIDN’T ASK ME IF I WANTED IT EITHER! They brought it to my car). I’ll have to check on that.

The bar code for cell phone credit is a good idea in a country where a large population uses pre-paid credits (ask Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men alive, about it). Also consider these same consumers do not own smart phones or advanced tech that could allow some other easier ways of buying credit. Nice job FEMSA and Oxxo!


  1. BEnavides has the same service,i used it couple of times, about 2 years ago, but is not so popular!

  2. Really? Wow and they are promoting it as if only Oxxo manages it. Maybe is one of those examples where the first-in is not the one with the greatest success and profit, probably as you say, due to the reach of each store.