Skagway unhappy with digital payment system for cruise line passengers
July 7, 2022
Princess Cruises will not add any additional Southeast businesses to its MedallionPay program this summer, taking time after the season ends to better explain to merchants the digital payment system that can be used by passengers to buy goods and services while in port — with a substantial commission retained by the cruise line.
The program takes as much as an 18% commission on local purchases.
Objections from merchants and the Mayor in Skagway were part of the company’s decision to pause adding new Southeast businesses to the system, which Princess offers across its operations.
“We will not be expanding MedallionPay beyond existing participants during the current cruise season. This will provide adequate time in the off-season for us to work individually with local businesses to more thoroughly demonstrate the significant advantages of the program and its associated benefits,” Vicki Johnson, head of communications at Princess Cruises, said Wednesday.
Several merchants in Skagway and Ketchikan are enrolled in MedallionPay, but no one yet in Haines, Johnson said.
The acting director of the Haines Chamber of Commerce doesn’t think the program would be very welcome in Haines.
It’s the cut it takes out of merchant revenues that concerns Andrew Letchworth, of the Haines Chamber. “I feel like it wouldn’t be a good thing,” he said last Friday.
A lot of businesses operate on narrow profit margins, and an 18% commission “is pretty high,” he said.
Of the service fee, 7% is directed back to the passenger as a credit for goods and services purchased onboard, much like a cash-back or points program on an airline or other credit card.
The fee retained by Princess also covers the credit card and bank fees normally paid directly by the merchant, Johnson said.
The program, which includes a quarter-sized digital medallion worn or carried by the cruise passenger, allows travelers to access their rooms, pay for onboard purchases, check in when returning to the ship after visiting a town, track traveling companions on the ship, get directions on the ship and access WiFi and activity schedules. It also keeps track of a customer’s onboard purchases.
A couple of different Princess ships are scheduled for four port calls in Haines this summer, with the cruise line’s fleet scheduled for 100 visits to Skagway.
Skagway business owners had sent a letter, signed by 67 people, to Mayor Andrew Cremata, urging him to tell the cruise industry that they are opposed to any system such as MedallionPay coming to town.
Carol Bourcy, of Richter's Jewelry and Gifts, helped write the letter. She shared concerns of other business owners that those who do not sign up with the program will be at a disadvantage, especially if passengers decide to only use the Princess system to make purchases while in port.
Alaska Fairytales owner Billi Clem testified at the June 16 Skagway Borough Assembly meeting that she had conversations with a Princess passenger that set off alarms. Clem said the tourist planned on using MedallionPay in town.
Clem informed the tourist that MedallionPay wasn’t used in most Skagway stores.
“She said to me, ‘Well, all the shops in this town are owned by Princess.’ And I said, ‘No, they’re not. We are a local town. And we are not owned by the cruise ships.’”
Tina Cyr, of Inspired Arts, nearly lost an $80 sale when a passenger expected to use MedallionPay. When Cyr let her know she wasn’t set up for the program, Cyr said the passenger told her, “Oh, I’m so used to using it for everything on the ship. I didn’t even bring my wallet.” The woman’s husband used his Apple Watch to pay for the purchase.
Cyr downloaded the MedallionPay app to see what it showed for Skagway. She saw three businesses displayed, two of which were jewelry stores. Cyr said she saw Ketchikan had 12 businesses marked as participating merchants.
Deb Potter, a member of the Skagway assembly, said she and the Mayor met with representatives from Holland America and Princess Cruises regarding the program.
“It’s at a minimum, coming off of two years of a devastated economy, tone deaf – and it’s just not compatible with the independent spirit and nature and character of Skagway. And we made that very, very clear. And I feel like they heard us,” Potter said.
Cremata reported he is in continued talks with Princess officials.