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Web Shopping Idea

From: Jeremy Carroll <jjc@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
Date: Mon, 10 Oct 2005 11:49:06 +0100
Message-ID: <434A4722.9040400@hplb.hpl.hp.com>
To: "www-archive@w3.org" <www-archive@w3.org>, "Deborah Cawkwell" <deborah.cawkwell@bbc.co.uk>

Dear Deborah

as agreed, this is a public record of the idea concerning Web shopping
that you told me about yesterday.

Problem addressed
When buying presents for someone, particularly for some occassion such
as a birthday or a wedding, sometimes the most appropriate presents cost
more than any one person wishes to pay. Also, someone who doesn't wish
to spend very much, may buy an item that because it is relatively cheap,
is not really what the recipient wanted. This idea is to use Web
technology to allow people to club together to buy a gift, even people
who do not know one another, or do not speak often.

State of Art
As far as we know, the current state of the art, is that some Web
shopping sites support the concept of a wish-list. A wish-list, like a
traditional wedding list, allows a potential recipient of gifts to
identify things that they would like. A gift giver, can then select one
of the items on the wish-list and buy it, and have it sent to the
recipient (or possibly sent to the buyer, to give in person to the
recipient). In the buying process, the buyer gives payment details, such
as credit card or PayPal details, that allows the vendor to receive payment.

New idea
With this idea, the giver does not have to pay the full price of the
selected item. Instead, the wish-list shows both the price of the gift,
and the amount already promised towards paying for the gift. The giver
can then promise an additional amount towards the selected gift. This is
added to the promised amount. If this amount is sufficient to take the
total promised by all givers, then the item is purchased, using a method
similar to those described below. The purchased item is then sent to the
recipient. In addition to the purchased item, there may be a card or
letter identifying the givers. This list of givers may or may not be
ordered by some criteria, e.g. the person who paid most towards the gift
may (or may not) be listed first.

Payment method
The method of payment may (or may not) be different from the current
methods used for payment at internet sites.
Here are four methods, others may be possible:
Payment Method 1:
    This is the most similar to current methods.
    The vendor receives payment from the giver immediately, using credit
card payment or PayPal or similar. At a later date, if the gift item has
not been sent, the giver may have the opportunity to cancel their
financial gift and receive a refund, or move the financial gift to be a
payment towards another gift item, or receive credit in some other way.

Payment Method 2:
    This is like payment method 1, in that payement details are taken at
the time the giver decides to contribute towards the gift item, but
payment is not taken immediately, but only after sufficient financial
gifts have been promised, either before or after the gift item is sent.

Payment Method 3:
    This is like payment method 2, except that the necessary funds are
reseverd with the credit card companies, similar to the way that hotels
can reserve payment on a booking, but the payment is actually deducted

Payment Method 4:
    No payment, or payment details, are taken when gifts are promised,
but instead some contact details of the giver are remembered by the Web
Site. When sufficient funds have been promised, the Web site software
sends e-mail to the various gives, or contacts them using some other
means, in order to collect payment information as under method 1.

The first three methods can be combined with a timeout, that if
sufficient funds have not been promised within a certain time frame,
such as three months, or before the event or occassion for which the
wish-list was produced, then all funds paid are refunded, either
directly to the accounts from which they were received or as credit in
some other form.

Alternative choices
In addition, these methods can be combined with the possibility of a
giver selecting more than one gift, but giving or promising to give a
sum to be used towards one or more of these gifts. In this case, when a
gift item is sent out, and some or all of the money promised by a
particular giver has been used towards it, then the amount promised
towards the other gifts that they selected is reduced accordingly.

This idea can be enhanced by allowing the recipient to prioritise the
wish-list. This would allow a giver to either be informed by the
priorities of the recipient, or simply to give an amount to be used on
the most appropriate gift as selected by the system on the basis of the
priorities. This could be done, for instance, at some predetermined
date, e.g. three days before a wedding, when the amounts promised for
indeterminate gifts, are added together and the highest priority gift(s)
that can be afforded are selected, and payments are sorted out as
before. When there is some left over amount, this could be refunded (as
above) to one or more of the givers, for instance, divided in proportion
to their finanical gifts, or all to the person who gave the most.

Part Sets
When making a wedding list, a common behaviour is to divide some complex
item, such as a dinner set, into its constituent parts, e.g. 6 dinner
plates, 6 soup bowls, 6 side plates, a serving dish. This allows the
givers to select some part of the dinner set that corresponds to their
finanical means, e.g. one person may give the dinner plates, another
the bowls, and a third the side plates along with the serving dish.
This may sometimes go wrong, when only an incomplete part of the dinner
set is purchased, leaving the recipient to have to to fill in the gaps.
When combined with this idea the dinner set can be seen as set 4 places
settings plus zero or more additional place settings plus zero or more
accessory items. As finanical givers choose to contribute, the system
can determine what can be afforded and the recipient then can receive a
complete dinner service which meets some minimum threshold (e.g. 4 place
settings and no accessories, up to some maximum, e.g. 8 place settings,
two serving dishes and a gravy boat).

Mutually Exclusive Alternatives
A similar aspect may be when the recipient wants a gift of some type,
and would ideally like an expensive version, but would be satisfied with
a cheaper version. For example, a child may want a toy train set.
Ideally they would like a train set design A, which is quite expensive,
but would be satisified with set C which is not so good, and there is
also set B that is 'better' than C and 'not as good' as A (where the
comparisons are being made by the recipient), and C is cheaper than B,
which is cheaper than A. This too could be expressed on their wish list,
a giver can then give towards the train set item, and when the timeout
is reached, the gift C, B or A can be selected depending on how much
funds have been given. In particular, this allows a giver to know that
they have given enough for the recipient to recieve a train set, without
exluding the possibility of the final gift being a better train set than
the one that they can afford.

I hope this adequately summarises the idea, and provides enough
information to allow a full implementation.

Received on Monday, 10 October 2005 10:50:32 UTC

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