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Guest post – Signed for Mail: Is there a better alternative?

By Glenn August 15, 2013 - 4:03 pm

Glenn is one of Tamebay’s regular commenters and has been contributing to the site for many years. Here he considers whether signing for parcels is secure enough.

I have just received a catalogue item on behalf of my wife and used a tiny plastic stick to make an electronic but eligible signature on a tiny scratched screen. When I looked at my signature I didn’t recognise my own handwriting.

When writing manuscript I prefer a fountain pen and when note taking I use a pencil, both of which fit comfortably in my fingers. The tiny stylus pen attached by a thin springy wire to the digit handset does not fit comfortable in my fingers and my signature becomes unrecognisable.

Having received this catalogue item for my wife I will physically hand it to her and the purchase to customer delivery chain will be complete. But what would happen if I was signing for products regularly within a warehouse and a consignment went missing necessitating enqiuires with the courier. A PDF attachment of my last signature would not be recognised by me and the problems start.

A signature used to be a visible identification of an individual and a means of establishing ownership or responsibility of property or action taken. The digital scrawl bore no resemblance to my manuscript signature and therefore fails to be an identifying mark.

Is now the time to start taking digital photographs of individuals receiving goods?

  • Mick
    4 years ago

    I suppose it would help the UK and US intelligence services in their work.

    • Glenn
      4 years ago

      If MI5 or the FBI want a picture of me signing for ladies knickers then they are welcome to it, but somehow I don’t think so.

  • Maciej Wiankowski
    4 years ago

    Imagine some kind of ID which post man could scan instead of signature? Privacy issues – possibly, but 100% correct recipient :)

  • 4 years ago

    Sounds a good idea. Couriers already take picture of the door when they cannot deliver at the moment so this could be a good solution.

  • TheShopkeeper
    4 years ago

    Amazon are already doing this with their Locker services.

    When you put your code in and before the locker with your package opens, a photograph is taken of you/whoever is standing in front of the locker entering the code.

    I think it’s a great idea and for starters would stop postal and courier staff signing for packages themselves and then stuffing them in bins or bushes or through letterboxes.

  • 4 years ago

    Years ago I had a job where I was signing hundreds if not thousands of times a day. I noticed a very significant change in my signature between the start of a day and the end of the day after signing perhaps 1000 or more times. Again many of my signatures are unrecognisable. Indeed many would probably not be accepted by my Bank on a cheque.

  • james
    4 years ago

    as far as i know, i could be wrong, but the signature is not for you. in the case of a dispute they thin scrawls on the electronic pad provide plenty enough information for a handwriting expert to compare it to your real signature, whether it actually resembles the real thing or not. (remember these people can still identify it if you sign left handed and try to make it look different, its all in the stroke.)

    • Glenn
      4 years ago

      Sorry James, but its actually not that easy. Handwriting needs to be compared to an existing record and without a specimen signature to compare against no match can be made.

  • Elian T
    4 years ago

    With all the data losses/breaches these days, I wouldn’t personally like photos of my family being taken.

    What about a thumb/fingerprint?

  • Glenn
    4 years ago

    If a photograph is sent to a warehouse then the person who received the order can quickly be identified. Sending a photograph of a thumb print is not going to be recognised by anybody. I don’t want or think data bases matching thumb prints to individuals is necessary or appropriate, but a simple photograph is easy and for goodness sake there are photographs of people all over Facebook.

  • Mark
    4 years ago

    Taking a photo would resolve a lot of issues (possible still use the signature box as well).

    A customer could give a different name (pretending to be a flatmate etc.) and give a false signature. The courier would then be accused of delivering to the wrong address.

    Another use of the camera would be to make the courier take a photo of the front door when they are not able to deliver an item, this would prove they had gone to the correct address.

  • John Henry
    4 years ago

    Is a photo of a person enough? Surely you would need a location photo as well?

    A misdelivered parcel would have a photo to prove they delivered it to someone, but not that they delivered to the correct address. I don’t want to find the courier denying responsibility for a non delivered parcel because they have a snap of some strange bod signing.

    • Mark
      4 years ago

      If the terminal had GPS it could give an approximate location.

      All these methods will reduce parcels going missing, it will be impossible to completely avoid any losses.

  • fusion
    4 years ago

    half the time it seems as though the electronic signature pads never work anyway. I just put a line through it. The delivery person never cares.

  • Bunchy
    4 years ago

    I use a “short” version of my regular signature and a small symbol when signing for parcels. Then if there is a problem I definately know whether it’s my moniker or not.

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