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The price to pay for VIP status

Settling the bill the high-tech way

By CNN's Robyn Curnow

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CNN reporter Robyn Curnow gets "micro chipped" at a Barcelona club
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BARCELONA, Spain (CNN) -- The much-hyped radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has found its way into the clubbing scene. CNN reporter Robyn Curnow had her arm micro chipped -- and then unchipped -- in the name of research.

Sitting in front of a wall, painted with images of bikini-clad girls and bare-chested surfers, a young Spanish nurse is preparing a syringe filled with a local anesthetic. I am cowering next to her.

My shirt sleeve is rolled up. I am participating in a trendy new VIP scheme at a Barcelona nightspot: I am being micro chipped at the Baja Beach Club

The process of gaining membership is like taking part in a bizarre social experiment or a bad Bond movie.

Surrounded by the dank bar smells of fresh cigarette smoke and beer, the nurse gives me four numbing injections in my upper left arm.

Five minutes later, my skin is tingling, which means I do not feel the hard pressure of insertion, the sharp jab, or the deep push to insert the microchip, deep in the upper recesses of my fatty tissue -- but I do bleed. The wound is covered with a Band Aid and I am handed a beer.

No ID required

Hola! Welcome to the Baja VIP club.

My microchip has a barcode and it emits small radio frequency identification (RFID) signals.

The Baja Beach Club can identify me by scanning my upper left arm -- exactly the same way as you would scan a bag of frozen peas at a supermarket.

Any information loaded on to my chip then pops up on a computer screen in the club. I can even use my arm to pay for drinks at the bar.

"We are using the chip as a method of payment similar to a credit card, or a debit card," Baja Beach Club director Conrad Chase tells me.

As the night goes on, I am left thinking there are simpler ways to pay for a night's drinking in Barcelona.

Lifetime membership?

The club's nurse tells me she has not yet removed any of the 30 odd microchips she has inserted in VIPs since the club started the scheme. Full story

Once back home in London, I begin to feel uncomfortable and unsure about my VIP status.

The Baja Web site assures that getting rid of the microchip is a simple and harmless procedure, something like removing a splinter.

But the two doctors I consult in London's Harley Street disagree. Getting the microchip became serious business.

Hard to find

General practitioner Dr. Stuart Sanders referred me to consultant plastic surgeon Lena Andersson as soon as he realized he could not feel the microchip.

It was buried so deep inside my upper arm that Andersson sent me off for an X-ray, and even that did not help the doctors.

Although the microchip was visible on the X-ray, it was impossible to pinpoint the exact location in my arm as it was nowhere near the point of insertion.

Finding it involved surgery at the clinic and a severe dose of post-Baja regret. One night out in Barcelona has permanently seared into my upper left arm.

While splayed out on an operating table -- once again anaesthetized -- Andersson removed the chip using a high-tech sensor X-ray and two monitors to guide her to it.

The missing microchip was finally located -- more than a centimeter away from where it was inserted.

Andersson later explained that it was so difficult to remove because it was so small and soft.

"It is very soft. I understand why we had a problem finding it. You couldn't feel it and I couldn't feel it. The smaller they are, the more difficult they are to get out."

So, now I have a small microchip the size of a large piece of Basmati rice in a specimen jar as a souvenir -- I also have eight-millimeter scar on my upper left arm.

Andersson assures me the scar will fade, but when I feel the damaged skin on my arm, I think, for me, it was probably too high a price to pay for becoming a member of the Baja Beach Club.


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