Sunday, January 18, 2009

Receipts: The Latest Victory of the Digital Age

Great news from a new company, Transaction Tree, who claim they've developed a POS-based solution that allows any retailer's POS system to allow the customer to choose to receive their receipt via email instead of printed paper. While the Apple Store has been doing this for quite some time, they have the advantage of having a relatively modern POS (albeit one that runs on Windows CE, ironically). Most retailers have legacy POS systems, which are not known for their flexibility in this regard.

In this age of identity theft, these paper scraps of data are more like tempting morsels for identity thieves. Worse, standards are completely absent: some retailers print the last 4 digits of a credit card on your receipt; others print all but the last 4. A thief only has to take a gander at a mall trash can, and they have the equivalent of an all-expenses paid trip around the world. Emailing these receipts ends this risk, and focuses on what we really need: unlimited storage, indexable, at any time. Gmail offers almost just that with this approach.

The road is littered with false promises here, however, and this seems to have some suspicious earmarks of a less-than ready for primetime approach. For instance, head over to transactiontree.com, and note the lack of many specific details. Worse, there's a link for "consumers" to a promising "NoMoPaper.com," which links only to a link farm. Could be careless coding, could be poor design...or it could be worse. I'll say this: I've had occasion to work with hundreds of retailers and their POS systems. The one thing I can tell you is that almost none are standards-based, and each require massive customization. So, when I hear about a company that promises a solution that works with all POS systems, to interrupt the most basic function of receipt printing, I am hopeful...but skeptical.

I hope I am wrong...most sincerely.



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