QR Codes – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly!

Do you scan the QR Code for every business you enter? Have you been turned away from entering a venue because you haven’t signed in with a QR Code? Have you vented at business staff who request to see your sign-in? It’s a frustrating ‘new normal’ for many people, not just seniors, who are required to ‘sign-in’ to any venue before they enter, irrespective of how long they are there, or the purpose of their visit.

As you may be aware, in NSW (and many other Australian States and Territories) it is currently a Governement requirement for businesses of all shapes and sizes to capture certain visitor data that may be used by NSW Health to enable contact tracing in the event of a potential COVID-19 exposure. That is, the ability to contact people who visited a venue on a certain day and maybe even a certain time and talk to them about their movements, and any actions that they may be required to take as a result.

QR Codes (or Quick Response Codes) have been introduced to supposedly streamline the contact details collection process from a number of perspectives – the visitor, the business and the Government. Visitors, by law, must provide this data before they can enter a venue. Businesses, by law, must request this visitor data and be able to provide the means to collect the data – either electronically or manually, and make it available to NSW Health should it be requested. Contact tracing is currently considered a vital activity, for which we all have a role to play, in keeping ourselves and the community safe. The use of QR Codes also keeps things ‘contactless’ – so no need to pickup a pen, or touch any questionable surfaces!

Whilst QR Codes have become common place since the early days of the pandemic, they have been around for many years. The QR Code is the little (usually square) picture that looks like a series of different shapes and lines, not much bigger than a postage stamp. Similar to scanning barcodes in warehouses, when you scan a QR Code you gain access to information which could be about the business or product or upcoming event, for example.

An example QR Code

In the case of scanning a COVID-19 QR Code (which you do by using the camera app on your phone), you’re automatically taken to the Service NSW ‘app’ on your phone for you to sign-in and register your visit to the business. In the event you don’t have the Service NSW app installed, you’re taken to an online form to complete to register your vist. And most importantly, in the event that you don’t have a phone, or one that has the capabillity to read QR Codes, or you’re just having issues using your device to sign in, the onus is on the business to provide an alternate means for you to register your visit. This could be by providing you with electronic access to a business owned device for you to register your details, or a manual form for you to complete. Either way, you must provide your contact details before entering the business, irrespective of the purpose of your visit, or the intended duration. The business cannot refuse you entry based on you NOT having/using your own device to scan their QR Code, but they can refuse you entry if you refuse to register your visit.

So it would seem that QR Codes are a legitimate attempt to streamline the data collection process, fast-track entry to a venue and provide accurate and comprehensive visitor data should it be required for contact tracking – all of which is a good thing. The downside however is they can be incredibly frustrating to scan in and out every time on every visit to every store, even if its a quick trip to the cafe to grab a coffee (especially remembering to scan out). And the potentially incredibly ugly side of QR Codes is the venting of that frustration toward business staff who are being required to ‘police’ entry for the benefit of their own staff, other customers and the broader community.

Let’s all remember we’re in this together, and QR Codes were introduced to streamline processes all round. And remember, life is always better for everyone when you ‘Smile, Scan and Say Thank You’…you’re doing your bit!