Graeme the inventor

While sitting in line at the Tim Horton’s drive-thru a couple of weeks ago,
getting ready to order the exact same thing that I always order when I don’t have
breakfast at home (“Sesame seed bagel toasted with butter, large steeped tea,
one milk, one sugar, double cup please”
), I thought of an idea. It’s unlikely
to ever happen, but it’s cool anyway. The idea is for Tim Horton’s to create a
small device, something that could hang on a key chain, that functions as a remote
control. I’ll call it the TimFob. The TimFob could have several buttons
on it,
and each button could be programmed to a different order — when you get to
the drive-thru, you point your TimFob at the ordering window and press one of the
buttons. The order is transmitted and placed, and the total immediately appears on
the screen. Then you can drive up to the window and pay.

Each TimFob would have a unique ID number, and when a button is pressed,
it simply transmits its ID number and which button was pressed, and the computer
inside the store checks its database for the order corresponding to that TimFob
and button. Customers could set and change their favourite orders on a web
site. If they want, customers could also tie their credit card number to the
TimFob so that their purchase is automatically paid for. You’d have to make the
TimFob easily removable so that people could hang it on their key chains and then
use it while their keys are still in the ignition, and then replace it once
they’ve ordered.


  • Obviously, this would speed up ordering, and
    cut down on errors in data entry (i.e. 1 milk 2 sugars, or was that 2 milk 1
    sugar?). One of the Timmy’s near us almost always screws up some part
    of our order. Either Gail’s tea isn’t decaf (in which case she’ll have a headache
    all day), or my tea has too much / not enough sugar, or the sesame seed bagel has
    cream cheese and the whole wheat bagel has butter instead of the other way
    around, or…
  • If the TimFob handled multiple buttons on the same order (and
    why wouldn’t it?), the whole family could place their standard order with a
    couple of button pushes.
  • You could also grab someone else’s TimFob when running to Timmy’s for a
    group and make sure you get what they want.
  • If you wanted something other than one of the preprogrammed orders, the
    standard drive-thru procedure still works.
  • Tim Horton’s could implement some kind of reward program (i.e. buy 10 coffees
    and get a free donut) without having to have stamp cards or things like that
  • Handy for people who have strong foreign

There are some drawbacks too:

  • Timmy’s could then track people’s purchases, as well as locations and purchasing habits, and some people may not like this idea (but in that case, don’t use the TimFob)
  • If the payment thing is implemented, they’d have to make sure the system is
    fast — Timmy’s currently does not accept credit or debit cards since they
    frequently have long lines, and credit/debit transactions take longer. I cannot
    think of any other company that could get away with only accepting cash
    in this day and age.
  • There are the obvious security issues with having your credit card tied
    to something that could easily be stolen and then used with absolutely no
    authentication, but Esso already has that issue with their Speedpass.

Of course, creation of the TimFob would cost Tim Horton’s money, and it’s not
likely that people would pay to use it (though maybe they would if Timmy’s offered
a discount, or perhaps the aforementioned reward program — people pay for
the 407 transponder after all). Their
biggest expense might be to pay me for the idea and use of the term “TimFob” which
I invented today. (This
blog posting and all contents are copyright © 2006, Graeme Perrow. All
rights reserved.)
Since this idea doesn’t really help the company much,
just the customer, it’s unlikely that they’ll do it (call me a cynic). But if
they ever do, remember, you read it here first.

Note: No, I am not so arrogant as to believe that I am the first person ever to think of this idea. I’m sure many other people have thought about the same thing — this is my own original idea inasmuch as I’ve never heard or read anyone else talking about such an idea.


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