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Toshiba self checkout

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Walmart self-checkouts are the checkouts of choice for coupon scammers, who like to trick the system into accepting their questionable counterfeits, or coupons for products they didn’t buy. And actions like that have largely ruined things for the rest of us, as many supermarkets insist on having an attendant handle your coupons – which pretty much defeats the purpose of checking yourself out.

But now, a new self-checkout system aims to make things better for coupon users – and stop coupon abusers in their tracks.

Self-checkout manufacturer Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, a U.S.-based subsidiary of the Japanese technology company, has been granted a U.S. patent for what it describes simply as a “coupon device.” That “device” could help change the way coupons are handled at self-checkout stations.

Instead of swiping your coupons over the scanner and inserting them into a slot (or handing them to an attendant if your store doesn’t trust you to scan your own coupons), Toshiba’s system would have you feed your coupons into the machine one by one, so you can’t get them back after they’re scanned.

Self-checkout coupon users are “supposed to place the coupons in a secure storage container,” the patent application reads. “However, the customer may not, and instead keep the coupons to improperly use again.” Some particularly sneaky coupon users have been known to scan one coupon, and slide a different one (or even a scrap piece of paper) into the slot, so they can keep their original coupon to use over and over again.

Toshiba’s system would avoid this scenario, by having shoppers place each coupon into a small retractable drawer. The drawer then closes, and a scanner inside the machine reads the coupon. If the coupon is accepted, it will drop into a storage container, and the now-empty drawer will be ready to accept another coupon.

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If the coupon is rejected for any reason, the drawer will open and you can take the coupon back. After two failed attempts, an attendant will be notified to help.

Either way, the system ensures that the coupon that’s scanned, is the one that’s dropped into the storage bin – and the one that the store sends away for reimbursement. Stores can’t get reimbursed for pieces of coupon-sized scrap paper, after all.

While the system solves that particular problem, it does not quite “maintain a fraud-free environment,” as the patent applicants promise. Coupon-abusing self-scanning aficionados also like to trick the system into accepting coupons on incorrect items. The infamous “glitch groups” on Facebook, for example, share information about coupons that they’ve figured out will “work” on products other than those for which they’re intended.

And most “glitch group” members advocate using self-checkouts to practice their craft. Why have a cashier questioning their invalid coupons, if they can trick a machine into accepting them instead? Even a retractable drawer won’t solve that problem. If a coupon is accepted when it’s swiped over a scanner, it will be deemed just as valid if it’s placed into Toshiba’s drawer.

Aside from that, the process of inserting a coupon into a little drawer, then waiting for the machine to scan the coupon and reopen the drawer so you can insert another coupon, could prove to be pretty cumbersome if you have a lot of coupons. So there are drawbacks for honest couponers, too.

The self-checkout systems that Toshiba currently lists for sale, do not yet appear to include the “coupon device”. And the company did not respond to a query about when such systems might become available to retailers.

Ultimately, if and when such a system is put into widespread use, it won’t stop self-checkout coupon fraud entirely. But it will stop one particular form of fraud. And in the endless battle against coupon abusers – that, at least, is a start.

Image source: Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: New Self-Checkout is Good for Couponers, Bad for Scammers - Simple Frugal Mom | Simple Frugal Mom

  2. Pingback: Walmart is Improving Their Self-Checkout to Stop Coupon Scammers! | Grocery Shop For FREE at The Mart!!

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