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Coupons scissors

Have a coupon that’s past its expiration date? Don’t toss it – “revive” it!

That’s the idea behind a new system as envisioned by a retail technology company, which could give expired coupons a new lease on life.

The concept is described simply as “Coupon Revival” in a newly-published patent application from Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions, the North Carolina-based retail subsidiary of the Japanese tech giant.

“Expired coupons can be a problem to the customer, who spent time clipping the coupons and bringing them to the store,” the application reads. They can also be a problem for the retailer and the manufacturer, “who may lose a sale when the customer declines to purchase an item if the coupon is expired.”

So wouldn’t an easy solution be coupons with no expiration date at all? Possibly, but Toshiba wants to make it a little more interesting than that.

“Your $1 coupon for 1 box of ACME widgets expired on 12/1/2013,” reads an example message, described in the application as being displayed on a checkout screen. “Would you like to revive the coupon?”

And then it turns into something of a game of “Let’s Make a Deal”.

You can “revive the coupon for the low price of 15 cents,” the example continues. Or you can “revive the coupon for free if you agree to buy two boxes of ACME widgets,” or one box of widgets and a bottle of lotion. Or, “revive the coupon for free if you agree to buy one box of ACME widgets between 2-4PM on one of the next four Wednesdays.”

Or you can trade in your entire grocery order for what’s behind Door Number 3!

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Once you make a decision to have your coupon revived, the system “may print a new expiration date on the expired coupon, may cross out an existing expiration date on the coupon, or print a watermark on the coupon indicating the expired coupon is valid,” the patent application reads. And then your once-worthless coupon is resurrected, and ready to go.

The idea, ultimately, is to turn trash into something of value – an expired coupon can’t save you money, after all, and it doesn’t help retailers or manufacturers make a sale. So “un-expiring” your coupon by asking you to pay a small penalty in the form of a fee, an additional purchase, or a promise to return during a slow sales period, could be a win-win for both buyer and seller.

Or it could be a win for you, and kind of a nightmare for everyone else involved.

Have you ever held onto a good coupon, waiting for a matching sale that never comes, and then a great deal pops up just as soon as the coupon expires? In many cases, that’s no accident – coupons expire for a reason. The ability to revive expired coupons would make expiration dates effectively meaningless, and you could hold onto your high-value coupons and wait for a sale indefinitely.

That would be good news for you, though if you have trouble keeping your coupons organized now, just picture what it would be like getting new coupons every week and NEVER being able to toss out the old ones. It’s the couponing equivalent of cryogenically freezing your coupons, just in case they can be brought back to life someday. You may well end up needing a new room in the house just to hold your expired coupon collection.

Meantime, manufacturers could find themselves on the hook for many more coupon redemptions than they bargained – or budgeted – for. That’s if they even opt in to the coupon-revival system at all, since presumably they would have the final say over whether they would be willing to accept expired coupons. But how would you know which manufacturers will allow their coupons to be revived? By bringing binders full of expired coupons to the store for the cashier to scan, just to see what happens?

Some shoppers already don’t like waiting in line behind an extreme couponer with a stack of coupons. Just imagine how they’d feel waiting behind an extreme expired couponer, scanning every coupon they’ve ever clipped in the hopes that a few of them can be revived.

Toshiba hasn’t said whether the concept is one that’s ready to roll out, or if it’s just something they want to patent now, and worry about working out the kinks later. For now, the idea is one that appears to have great promise – and considerable kinks.

But if you have some high-value coupons you hope to redeem, that are nearing their expiration dates, you might want to hold onto them, just in case. Because if “Coupon Revival” becomes a reality – then everything old really can be new again.

Photo by rose3694

One Comment

  1. Am I understanding this right? You don’t find out until checkout what the ‘deal’ offered will be? If you agree to buy 2 of a product instead of the 1 you planned wouldn’t that mean holding up the whole line to go back & get another. Or do you take all your stuff back off the belt to fetch the related item? Is the deal unique each time you scan? Meaning, next time you work your way to the front of the line, will the same ‘offer’ be made? Umm…no tks.

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