Thursday, November 22, 2007

Introducing...the iReceipt?

My recent experience at the checkout counter of the Apple Store has made it Boonacky-worthy material. There are two things which struck me about the experience. First off, when I paid by credit card, they asked for a 2nd piece of ID. This is a fantastic idea! I've lost count of the number of times that I paid by credit card, and my card was returned to me as soon as it was swiped through. No signature check. No proof of ID check. I'm glad that Apple is doing this, and I wish that other retailers would follow suit. In my opinion, it's totally worth the extra hassle, for some peace of mind.

My second noteworthy item is that my entire transaction was completed by a hand-held wireless gizmo which was used to scan the barcode on my purchases, and which was also used to swipe my credit card. I'd seen similar devices used in restaurants. Alice Fazooli's for example, has a similar gadget which issues you a receipt as soon as the transaction is completed. What was interesting about this device is that no receipt was printed. Instead, the cashier clerk asked for my e-mail address, saying that my receipt would be sent to that address as a PDF. Lo and behold, when I got back to my desk, there it was - the PDF receipt from my Apple Store purchase, in all its glory.

Overall, I do think this is a good idea. The only problems I see with this is the following:

  • This is an open invitation to spam from Apple.

  • Most people aren't tech-savvy enough to set up a secondary e-mail address for these sorts of things - online purchases, signing up for things online, etc. Again, just an invitation for more spam.

  • What happens with gift receipts? I'm assuming that these are e-mailed to the buyer as well. At gift-giving time, the buyer must print out the receipt for the recipient, most likely in standard letter paper (since that's what most of us have at home), thereby using up a heck of a lot more paper than a teensy little gift receipt.

As I said though, it's a good idea. It's nice to see Apple taking the lead on paperless transactions. Goodness knows we go through tons of paper each day ourselves at the office, not to mention all the paper we receive in the form of long receipts for one teensy little item purchased, or all those bills and junk mail we receive. I still receive junk mail in my mailbox in spite of having a big giant sign saying "No junk mail please". At any rate, this is a step in the right direction, and I sincerely hope that other retailers follow suit.

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