Ideas I’d Like to See Implemented: “PrivaShip”

This is the first in a new category, Ideas, to which I will sporadically add things that I wish service providers/manufacturers would create.

Have you ever stopped to consider what a pain-in-the-ass e-commerce is? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a proud member of Generation FedEx(?) and therefore a massive fan of sitting in my chair and having my clicks result in products on my doorstep.

But why must I fill out so many damn forms? And, further, why does every little random vendor I’ve never heard of need to know all this information?

“Why John,” you’re thinking, “how else do you expect them to deliver your purchases?”

No problem. Consider this: all the major carriers (UPS, FedEx, DHL, the Postal Service) assign tracking numbers for their systems. You may not be aware of this, but packages such as UPS WorldShip actually create “placeholder” tracking numbers before the package is even scanned.

So why not make a plug-in for my browser that lets me generate these? Here’s the scenario I envision:

  1. Visit a site and add item(s) to the cart.
  2. Click “checkout.”
  3. Embedded code in checkout page causes browser helper (i.e., a local program) to ask “Generate Tracking Number for:” with a choice of carriers used by that vendor, service type(s), and the addresses I use.
  4. With a maximum of 4 clicks (FedEx, Express, Home, Save), a “Destination ID:” box is then pre-filled on the order page.
  5. Click “Complete order” and we’re done.

Now, you may have noticed I’ve called this “PrivaShip”, an admittedly horrible name meant to emphasize another part of this idea: in addition to saving data entry, there’s no reason the vendor need know my address at all. FedEx (or whomever) could sort it to the distribution center nearest the delivery point, then auto-print an actual address label right on top.

Similarly, there’s really no reason why any vendor need have my credit card number. Before I gave MBNA the boot, I was a big fan of their “disposable credit card numbers” service (Citibank and AmEx also have it.) When I wanted to make a purchase with an online store I didn’t expect to use again, I would load up the small Flash app, sign in, and enter the amount. The app would create a custom number/expiration and CVC2, which would only be honored once for my pre-set limit (or just above to allow for shipping.)

I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t integrate a similar browser plug-in to generate credit card numbers on the spot. And if I enter a password and thus verify my identity, why should it even display my (real) name?

In short, I want online purchases to be as quick and quasi-anonymous as cash. Because how cool would it be to have my packages delivered to:
1Z 932 332 39 9983 182 4

* A little something I coined awhile ago to refer to those who came after GenX, and who demand instant gratification. – Return

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