by Ann Carrns
As shopping swings into gear for the holidays, a new service called Slice aims to help consumers organize and track their purchases electronically. Slice’s service first appeared earlier this year as a tool on Yahoo, and last month it introduced its own Web site. Now, it’s unveiling a mobile app that lets you track your items on your iPhone. (An Android version is also in the works).
I tried out Slice’s Web site this weekend while shopping online for some clothes to wear to an upcoming holiday party. I found the service to be potentially helpful but with some snags it needed to work out first.
Here’s how it works. First, you register your e-mail address at Goslice.com. Then, you shop — and use that e-mail address when placing your online order, or by providing it for an electronic receipt when you shop in a brick-and-mortar store. Slice searches your e-mails for items containing order and receipt information and files them in your account. (It works retroactively too.) When you go to the Slice Web site, your orders are there waiting for your review.
Scott Brady, Slice’s chief executive, says the service uses a secure authentication service (called Oauth.net), which lets Slice gain permission to search for receipt information without accessing your e-mail account password. “We never see your password,” he said. Also, he said, Slice bypasses any credit card information that might be in your e-mails (and electronic receipts generally don’t contain detailed card information anyway).
Slice doesn’t provide an option for dealing with paper receipts, preferring to focus on electronic ones as the eventual standard, said Mr. Brady; large retailers are increasingly offering them at checkout. (Lemon, another receipt-organizing service, has you take pictures of paper receipts with your smartphone and file them electronically; it provides a dedicated Lemon.com e-mail address for electronic receipts).
Unlike a credit card statement, which typically lists the merchant and the price but not the specific items purchased, Slice can provide a detailed description of your goods: “We show you what’s in the box,” he said.
A couple of caveats: First, while Slice works with roughly 500 merchants — including Amazon.com and major chains like Gap — it doesn’t work with all stores. So, if you buy from retailer that isn’t on Slice’s list, you must forward your order e-mail to Slice’s customer service to have it added to your account. (I did this with a purchase I made from British fashion retailer Boden; it took a couple of hours for the order to show up in my Slice profile, and the information wasn’t as complete as with other purchases.)
Second, for now Slice only works with e-mail accounts at Google or Yahoo. This was a drawback for me, because while I use a Gmail account for work purposes, I maintain an AOL account for personal communications and, yes, online shopping, so would have preferred to use that e-mail. Slice says it’s working on bringing AOL and Hotmail accounts into its system.
A purchase I made at Banana Republic’s online store showed up on Slice not long after I got my order confirmation in my e-mail account. It helpfully told me how long it would be until the items were delivered and listed the items I had bought.
I was taken aback by one feature, though. Along with a description of my purchases, the profile showed a small photograph of the items. To my dismay, three of the five items displayed an incorrect picture. (A pair of dressy black slingbacks, for instance, showed up as tan suede platform sandals. Not the footwear I had intended.) This sent me scrambling back to my original e-mail confirmation, to make sure I hadn’t somehow bought the wrong shoes. (I hadn’t.)
When the Boden purchase showed up, Slice pictured the correct dress—but the wrong color.
Mr. Brady says some retailers provide truncated descriptions of their wares, so sometimes Slice comes up with the wrong item when it searches for photos. For now, the service lets you change the image to the correct one. (I did, and it worked smoothly — but left me wondering why I was bothering to do it.)
Mr. Brady said he thought customers would find the service useful in many ways — whether it’s easily accessing receipts for a return, or checking to see what you bought your nephew for Christmas last year. Slice can also alert you if something you have purchased has dropped in price, so you can check to see if you’re due for a partial reimbursement.
The service is free to users; eventually, Slice aims to make money by selling anonymous sales information to help retailers market their wares. The company’s investors include Eric E. Schmidt of Google.
If you use Slice, let us know what you think in the comments section.