They Should Make It: Buy Stuff With a Tollbooth Transponder

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The tollbooth transponder that I have on my car’s windshield is slick city, my main man. So slick, in fact, that it makes taking my wallet out of my back pocket to pay for gas, curbside pickup, and fast food seem like the most un-American waste of my very important time in recent memory.

I propose that the interconnected network of compatible tollbooth RFID systems be opened up to any merchant. Consumers would save time and enjoy the convenience of being able to lose our wallets without fear of starvation, while merchants could finally seal up the hole in the bullet-proof glass window completely. “Your cigarettes and beef jerky will jettison out of a tube on top of the building and land in the parking lot. The transponder in front of pump four will be charged $28.93 for those items and the gas.”

For those of you who don’t have to deal with toll roads (I used to be one of you), the system is pretty simple. You open an account with your local department of transportation—in my case, MASSDOT’s FAST LANE system—and you either dump a pre-determined amount of money into your account or set it up so that when your balance reaches a certain level, more money is added. Instead of stopping at every tollbooth, you just whiz right on through a special RFID-enabled lane that docks your account.

So with this mythical new system, you could dump $500 per month in there and use it for gas, fast food, and Applebee’s Curbside to Go or whatever it’s called. Hey, bonus for Applebee’s! People might actually eat there now!

Best Buy curbside pickup? Yes. You wouldn’t even have to get out of your car. Just pull up into the in-store pickup spot, wait for them to find the item you ordered online, tell them that they brought the wrong item out, wait for them to find the correct item, wait again for them to tell you that they can now actually see the item but the only manager with keys to the locked-up area is on break, wait for him to come back from break and unlock the cage, wait for them to finally bring the GPS unit you ordered out to your car and just like magic, you’re on your way. In and out in under four hours.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t everyone just break windshields left and right to steal these little money machines? No! It’s all RFID. As soon as you reported your transponder stolen, it wouldn’t work. There would ultimately have to be some sort of chargeback safety mechanism involved like there exists with credit cards so you don’t have to pay for the first few things the thief buys with your transponder. But considering that most of the places you’d use the transponder are under video surveillance anyway (tollbooths, Best Buy, restaurants’ curbside pickup zones, etc.) it’d be hard to get away with using someone else’s transponder covertly.

So they should make it: the ability to buy stuff with your tollbooth transponder.