A while back I left a GPS unit in a rental car and when I returned it. I don't want to be offensive to any particular company so I will refer to the GPS company supplying my device as PomPom. When I realized I wasn't going to get it back I called the company because I remembered it was M2M-enabled and as such I paid a $10/month fee for Google search access and other online goodies.
The first thing I did was cancel my account but the second was ask that it not be enabled again if someone who takes the unit calls PomPom to start the service.
The call center agent for PomPom informed me that they couldn't honor my request as the situation would be the same as a GPS unit being stolen from an electronics store. It's been many months and I am still not sure what that comment means and to be honest it still bothers me that I paid for something which I lost and someone else can find the unit, call the GPS company and they both benefit.
But a much bigger concern is the new and growing channel for stolen goods, the Internet and I have thought for a long time that there are ways we can reduce the immeasurable amount of theft in the world with simple technology.
It isn't just the theft which costs us though, consider the precautions people take by purchasing insurance and alarm systems for additional billions of dollars a year. Moreover when leaving items of value in a parked car or home, many people spend time hiding them or taking them out of the car/home and dragging them along to avoid theft.
We have to admit, there is a tremendous inconvenience and annoyance factor associated with protecting valuable items even if they are never stolen.
Since many valuable items have unique serial numbers on them, why do we not have a universal online registry of stolen products which would be checked before purchasing? For items which don't have these numbers such as jewelry, they can be etched in via laser.
If such a system were implemented then the value of a stolen GPS unit would be low and we may even see a person who finds a lost device returning it to collect a reward. Interestingly, I lost a wallet and a checkbook in the past decades and both times they were returned to me via the mail. I think the wallet had its cash removed but still, at least I got it back with all the cards and other important information in it.
So here is where I give an emotional thanks to all of you - one of you in fact may have been the person who returned the wallet lost in Boston or the checkbook lost in Norwalk, CT.
But really, if we want to improve global productivity and reduce the amount of police reports filed why would we not implement such a simple system? eBay in fact should be championing the idea as it is a publicly traded company and at some point you have to assume the bad press from them being the world's largest pawn shop will catch up with them.
I should also mention the rental car company - we'll call them Pertz located in a popular Miami hotel was as far from helpful as they could be in giving me back my GPS unit. Having said that the company's Miami Airport location has been helpful in the past returning a Nokia phone charger to me - a Nokia charger? You can imagine how long ago that was. Probably around 1998.
What are your thoughts on the matter? Do you think we can drastically reduce theft with the intelligent utilization of identification numbers, databases and technology?