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AT&T Gives Employees A Quicker Lunch

The telecom company is extending its RFID card-payment system from FreedomPay to additional facilities to help keep cafeteria lines moving at lunch time.

AT&T is giving more employees an option to go cashless at lunch. A radio-frequency identification card and payment system from FreedomPay Inc. is being rolled out during the next three months at facilities in Bridgewater, N.J., Middletown, N.J., and Oakton, Va. The system, first implemented last June at AT&T's headquarters in Bedminster, N.J., has alleviated long cafeteria serving queues and cash-register lines during lunch.

An RFID chip on a card linked to a FreedomPay account opened and maintained by the AT&T employee contains an identification name and number. As the employee reaches the register in the cafeteria, the cashier keys and totals the purchase, and presses the FreedomPay button on the cash register. The employee waves the card over the reader to complete the sale. It automatically debits the account, which employees can monitor via the Web.

A significant problem surfaced when AT&T increased the employee count at its Bedminster facility by 60% after closing a nearby facility in late 2002. The cafeteria at its corporate headquarters wasn't capable of serving 3,000 employees at midday. To alleviate the backup at the serving lines, menu items changed and the serving lines were rearranged. AT&T also installed a system that lets employees place lunch orders from their desk via the Web in February 2003. But that didn't fix long waits at cash registers--six cash registers had 10 or more people per line. FreedomPay changed that, enabling AT&T to reduce its cash registers to two.

Transactions are approved in less than a second, and the purchaser is rewarded automatically with any discounts that apply to the product. Now, transaction times through the checkout line are 35% faster. About 25% of the employees participate in the FreedomPay program, and of those, 55% use their tag at least four times per week. Employees in facilities at Piscataway N.J. and Morristown, N.J., will have access to the system by year's end.

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