Monthly Archives: October 2012

Online shopping coming of age

I’ve just taken delivery of a new phone, to replace the one that drowned.  A similar model, but I won’t dwell on that in this post.  What impressed me today was the delivery.

It wasn’t cheap.  The retailer (Handtec) didn’t offer a free delivery option, and I decided to pay a couple of quid extra for next day delivery rather than spend several days potentially in limbo.

What happened next was rather good, and suggests that online shopping may be finally taking the problems of delivery seriously.  On placing the order I got the customary acknowledgement email, followed by the email telling me my order has been cleared and is being dispatched.  Another hour and a message from the delivery company (GPSK) telling me it would be delivered on Tuesday, but giving me options to select another day.  Better still, this morning another message giving me a one-hour delivery time window (12:43-13:43), again with the option to request a different day.  So on hearing a diesel van pull up at 12:53, I looked out of the window, saw the logo, and went down to take delivery.  All very smooth!

Both the messages from GPSK came both as text and email to maximise the chance of reaching me in good time, if I had wished to make a change.  And both contained embedded reply mechanisms to request a change.  This attention to detail is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been asking for, and suggests that the business of online ordering and delivery is finally reaching a decent level of maturity!

Dealing with text and phone spammers.

The good news: two text spammers to be fined.  Probably wholly inadequate, but better than nothing, especially in terms of sending a message.

The bad news: this is such a rare event as to be newsworthy!

I’ve long wanted to propose a better system.  Give me a single button I can press on my phone to flag an incoming call or message as spam.  If I hit the button then the caller is charged for it: say, £1 per call.  To be operated by the telcos, in much the same way as their regular call charges.  A truly effective way for spam victims to convey our response to the spammers, as the £1s mount up.  Or if the spammers are right and most people don’t mind, then they’ve nothing to worry about.

Of course we need some basic safeguards against malicious (or accidental) use of the £1 button.  A threshold to pass before any charges are incurred.  And there should be no perverse incentives: I don’t get the money, neither do the telcos (though they might take a small administrative charge, to be determined by the regulator).  Any proceeds go to charity (not that there’ll be any: it’s a deterrent)!

It’ll also need some minor barriers to technological workaround: a cost to getting millions of phone numbers and keeping the number of spam messages per number below the threshold, including setting up a telco specifically to create such numbers.

Given that it’s the party conference season, who will offer us an effective protection against these spammers?