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How’s this for an idea? A company or retailer offers you a coupon that’s so good, you’ll want to share it with others. So you’re encouraged to send a copy to friends, or even sell it to strangers, who can then share it with their own friends or other strangers and make it go viral in an instant.

What could possibly go wrong??

It might sound like a terrible idea to some, but to one inventor, it sounded pretty good. So good, that he’s filed a patent application for it – with the ungainly name “Method for Directly Issuing and Using Discount Coupon for Product Bought by Consumer Himself/Herself”. In essence, if “consumer himself/herself” uses a coupon to buy a product, they’ll be given the chance to share that coupon with others, who can share the coupons with others. And so on, and so on, and so on.

The idea is to solve what the application identifies as “problems of the conventional discount coupon”, one of which is that “only a seller can issue a discount coupon.” Instead, the inventor believes a shopper should be able to issue a coupon.

Here’s how it would work. If you go shopping and use a coupon, a terminal at the checkout would allow you to share the coupon you just used, with your friends. If you email or text it to them, they can use it – and then share it with their own friends. And if you’re not feeling generous enough to give it away, you can always “sell the discount coupon” to others.

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So what would be the point of this, other than to allow many more people to use the coupon than the coupon issuer likely intended? “So that the satisfaction of the consumer can be improved,” the application reads. The system would make it “possible to lessen the consumer’s financial burden” and also increase sales.

All right then. But there’s more. Another problem the invention aims to solve is that “a discount coupon has a term of validity, and the discount coupon cannot be used after the term of validity expires.” So if you buy a particular product frequently, then just ignore the expiration date – your loyalty will be rewarded with an endless supply of coupons that never expire.

Finally, there’s the matter of loyalty points and rewards. You might earn some kind of benefit from purchasing a product with a coupon, but if you share it with someone else, why should they get the benefit? With this invention, if you share a coupon with someone else and they use it, you get the loyalty benefits or points you would have received had you used the coupon yourself.

So, in short, the invention would solve “problems” with coupons as they currently exist, by arguably exacerbating some of the very problems with coupons as they currently exist. One coupon per customer? Not anymore! Expired coupons? No such thing! Want to run off copies of your coupon and give them to friends? No problem! Or sell them to strangers? Sure! And then reap the loyalty benefits from dozens, hundreds or thousands of people using your coupon? Go for it!

All of that might indeed “lessen the consumer’s financial burden” and improve shoppers’ “satisfaction”. But it would come at a pretty steep cost for coupon issuers. For an inventor looking to revolutionize coupons as we know them, if his idea becomes a reality – he certainly will have.

Photo by ePublicist

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