US 3824544 A
The invention concerns a merchandising arrangement in which a coded check is used. Upon the issuance of the check the code of the check is stored in a storage means. For obtaining purchased articles of merchandise the check is presented to a decoding means which sends a signal corresponding to the code to the storage means. If the storage means contains the code, the check is validated and the code is erased from the storage means. Random number generators and other features are disclosed to make the code unpredictable or not available to unauthorized personnel.
Description (OCR text may contain errors)
k Ma ta United St;
Simjian 1 MERCHANDISING ARRANGEMENT UTILIZING A CODED CHECK Weir 340/147 A Searle et al. 340/l49 A  lnventor: Luther G. Simiian 7 Laurel Ln.,
Greenwich, cOnn 06830 Primary ExammerDonald J; Yusko  Filed: Apr. 13, 1973 ABS A T  Appl. No.: 350,902  TR C The invention concerns a merchandising arrangement in which a coded check is used; Upon the issuance of 2% $5 "wg gf g the check the code of the check is stored in a storage d A l47/A. means. For obtaining purchased articles of merchan. care 1 7 186 i B l dise the check is presented to adecoding means which sends a signal corresponding to the code to the storage means. If the storage means contains the code, the  Ref rences Cit d e e check is validated and the code is erased from the UNITED STATES PATENTS storage means. Random number generators and other 3,560,715 2/1971 vAkamatsu 235/61.8 R features are disclosed to make the code unpredictable 3,590,333 6/1971 Blum 340/149 A or not available to unauthorized personnel. 3,634,656 1/1972 Krechmer ..'.235/6I.7 B 3,691,527 9/1972 Yamamoto 340/149 A 4 Claims, Drawing Figures i"""'i i 'rl" I STATION Viz 22 l 5 ENCODING 5 $3 333 32 7 CFO B A N l MEANS l fig 5 5 :22: 1" INDICIA Mi 3 5 11-322. 5 ETRANSMITTAL 1 INPUT c A 1 l CONTRO CHECK l 'fli'filfi gi-o RAE 3' (RANDOM 1 '4 NUMBER REiRD i GENERATOR) 11 i DISPENSING i ERfsE l 'STATION 5 44 3'6 sis 44 42 g L E l i INDICIA 46 1 ARTICLE RELEASE ING INTERROGATION 1 STORAGE MEANS a 50 VALIDATION :VENDING i SIGNAL i o I I E CHECK 1 i 1 '1\ PAIENTEU I 61974 3.824.544
' sum 1 F 2 i""' "BY*MN-" FIG. 1 5 STATION i 22 I6 v N INDICIA 32 1 I E CODING 1 CODE BANK i I MEANS 1 REQUEST 0000 '"1 I I 0000 H 1 INDICIA- 1 i 212; E i 'gTRANSMlTTAL i I n C INPUT 2o I V o INDICIA SIGNAL i CONTROL CHECK J: 40,. E I; SUPPLY STORAGE (RANDOM |4 '3 NUMBER RFZE-O-RD f LGENERATOMSEARCH "i ERASE DISPENSING STATION 1 I i 44 g 34 36 38 4,4 42 l L DE'COD.. INDICIA ARTlCLE RELEASE |NG .INTERROGATION; STORAGE MEANS 1 a 50 VALIDATION VENDING E CHECK 1 Ld FIG. 2
ARTICLE IDENTIFICATION 26 (QUANTITY, PRICE, TYPE) 28-- RANDOM lNolclA CODE ,NABC STORE 24 ANYTOWN 46 F 3 VALIDATION SIGNAL 0 o N QEIE F DECODING T- L I42 VENDING MEANS PATENTEDJUL 1 61974 SHEET 2 OF 2 F IG.
. PAYMENT STATIONS CODE BANK MEANS DISPENSING STATIONS w E G E M G 05 mmv TN A SA W E s L l A S v F o CONTROL s V V 6 4 m 5 L A T G mw I m M N D F NM m N B l R M L w L T TA 0 N A N o G D 8 RI. l R S L S E A a G o T V N 2 W. GS llluLwlll DNN WW2--- K .1 IA w? a MN S H 9 O C N l T 4 DIA .l S a 000m D 000D r l I l I I l l l 1 l MERCHANDISING ARRANGEMENT UTILIZING A CODED CHECK BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to a merchandising arrangement and more specifically to one in which valuable articles of merchandise are sold and dispensed. More specifically, the instant arrangement involves a unique combination of elements to lessen the pilferage of goods by inside sales personnel and customers.
It is well known that pilferageof articles of merchandise, particularly shoplifting, amounts to staggering sums of money and has been stated to be in excess of billion dollars per year in the U.S., see US. Pat. No. 3,713,133 dated Jan. 23, 1973. Such losses are not only to the store, but also to the ultimate customer who in the end must pay for pilfered merchandise by increased prices.
An incredible amount of effort is being spent to reduce the losses arising from shoplifting by various means which include, inter alia, the provision of uniformed guards, store detectives, closedcircuit television, mirrors, etc. In addition, various tags are known which are attached to articles and, unless the particular tag is removed by the cashier, an alarm is set off to indicate the theft of a respective article as the person carrying such article passes through the exit door. However,
a the losses continue to mount depsite these valiant efforts. The losses are particularly increasing with articles of merchandise that can readily be carried out of a store by being concealed in pockets and bags, and which are in great demand. Typical of these items are, for instance, the popular'tape casettes which are relatively small, yet represent a retail value of several dollars. It will be apparent that there are many other items of merchandise which fall into this category.
SUMMARY OF INVENTION In accordance with the broad principle of the present invention, a customer desiring to purchase an article will make his selection from secured specimens or showcases and then proceed to, a payment station where a check in the form of a sales ticket is inserted into encoding means. The check will contain such information as the article, a code number, price and other identifying data. The encoding means, in one embodiment, is connected to a code bank means which is interrogated and supplies a respective code in the form of indicia to the encoding means for encoding the check. Simultaneously, the indicia supplied are stored also in the code bank means. The customer receives the check and carries the checkto a dispensing station which contains a decoding means. The dispensing station may be located at the exit from the store. The customer inserts the encoded check in the decoding means which becomes actuated and interrogates the code bank means to ascertain whether the code or indicia supplied previously is valid and still stored in the storage means. If the code is valid and stored, a validation signal is supplied to the decoding means which, in turn, supplies a release signal to the article vending means for permitting the customer to receive the selected and previously paid for article. Concurrently, the previously stored code indicia are erased from the code bank means so that the particular code is no longer available. Preferably, in the present embodiment the code bank means contains a random number generator or a table of random numbers so that a large quantity of numbers is available for the many transactions which occur in a store and to provide that the particular numbers used are not predictable or available in advance to unauthorized personnel.
Further and other embodiments of the present invention and its use in the field of commerce will be more clearly apparent from the following description.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram showing the several components forming one of the embodiments of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is a schematic view of a check used in connection with the arrangement per FIG. 1;
FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram showing a variation of the arrangement shown in FIG. 1;
FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram showing a plurality of payment and dispensing stations coupled to a code bank means, and
FIG. 5 is a schematic block diagram of another modification';
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION Referring now to the figures and FIGS. 1 and 2 in particular, numeral 12 identifies a payment station, which operates in combination with a dispensing station 14. Both stations are coupled to a code bank means 16. The payment station 12 may be located within the store at a convenient place in proximity to the merchandise to be sold, whereas the dispensing station 14 preferably is disposed at the exit door from the store, or just outside the store or in the parking lot.
When a customer has selected one or more articles of merchandise which he wishes to purchase, he will not obtain possession of the particular article or articles at that time. Instead, he proceeds to the payment station where a check 20 is inserted in the encoding means 22. The check, in a typical example see FIG. 2, is provided with a store identification and a store data 24, an article identification block 26 for denoting therein quantity, price, type, stockv number and any other data a store may desire. In addition, an area 28 is reserved for encodingthe check with code indicia which render this check specific to this specific purchase.
The check 20 is placed in the encoding means 22 and by means of an input control 30 a sales clerk or other person affixes the necessary merchandise identification data to the check 20 and when this has been done and before the check is released, the encoding means sends via conductor 32 an indicia request to the code bank means 16. The code bank means contains as its principal components a control means 34, an indicia supply means 36 and a signal storage means 38 which includes signal recording, searching and erasing means. The storage means can comprise magnetic disk storage or magnetic tape storage means. The indicia supply means 36, in the preferred arrangement, comprises a table of ramdom numbers or a random number signal generator in order to provide a sequence of random numbers for each transaction, the numbers having a preselected number of digits but being not predictable and not available to unauthorized personnel. In response to the indicia request transmitted by conductor 32, the code bank means is operated and the control means 34 causes the indicia supply means to generate or to select from storage a particular code, typically a five or six digit number. This code number is transmitted via conductor 40 to the encoding means 22 and is encoded on the check 20 at the location 28 of the check. Simultaneously, the same code number is supplied to the signal storage means 38 and stored therein, denoting the fact that this code number has been issued. The portion 28 on the check 20 may be a magnetizable portion and the code in such a case is affixed by magnetic coding. It should be clearly understood, however, that other known techniques may be used, such as affixing printed indicia, imprinting bar codes, a pattern of dots and such other coding arrangements, visible or invisible, as are known in the art.
When the code indicia supplied by the code bank means have been provided upon the check 20, the check 20 is released and issued to the customer.
The customer brings the encoded check 20 to the dispensing station 14 which comprises a decoding means 42 and an article storage and vending means44. Upon insertion of the check 20 into the decoding means 42, the decoding means transmitsan indicia interrogation signal via conductor 44 to the code bank means 16 to ascertain whether or not the coded indicia in block 28 is authentic, that is, whether the code signal is of the proper kind and whether the code is stored in the signal storage means 38. If the validity of this code is established and if the code, for instance the specific six digit number, is in storage, a validation signal is supplied via conductor 46 to the decoding means 42. Simultaneously, the particular digit or code is erased from the signal storage means 38 of the code bank means 16. Upon receipt of the validation signal along conductor 46 the decoding means 42 provides a release signal along conductor 50 to the article storage and vending means 44 for causing the vending of the selected article as indicated in the block 26 of the check means 20, such article being made available at a chute 45 of the article storage and vending means 44.
A modification of the above described arrangement is shown in FIG. 3 which discloses an article storage and vending means 144 containing a plurality of different articles in respective storage compartments 60, 61, 62 and 63. The decoding means 142 supplies an article select signal to a control unit 70 which becomes conditioned to release one or more of the respective articles as encoded on the check 20 in the block 26. However, no article is released until the validation signal, conductor 46, is supplied by the code bank means 16 to the control unit 70. In this manner, the validation signal from the code bank means acts as the final article release signal. It will be apparent that reset means are required, not shown, in the event that the validation signal does not arrive after interrogation in order to cancel the conditioning of the control unit 70 which may have occurred responsive to the article select signal from the decoding means.
FIG. 4 discloses an arrangement suitable for larger stores which require a plurality of payment stations 12A, 12B, 12C, 12D, etc. and which may contain also a plurality of dispensing stations, such as stations 14A, 14B and 14C. These payment stations and dispensing stations, whose respective quantity may differ, are connected to a central code bank means 16 which can be located at a central location. The conductors interconwith the code bank means comprise ordinary communication lines, for instance, telephone lines as is well known in the art.
FIG. 5 depicts another arrangement wherein the code issuing means 80 is embodied in the payment station, being directly coupled to the encoding means 22. As before, the code issuing means, preferably, includes a random number generator, a table of random numbers, etc. Upon the issuance of a random number which is applied to the check 20, a signal commensurate with the issued code number is transmitted via conductor 82 to the control means 134 which is coupled to a signal storage means 116. The article dispensing station operates as described previously. In the present embodiment each encoding means, if there is a plurality thereof, includes its own code issuing means.
Another embodiment comprises the use of precoded checks 20. Each check when inserted in the encoding means for affixing article indentifying data thereupon is in position for having its code indicia sensed and transmitted to the control means 134 and signal storage means 116, FIG. 5. When the check is presented to the dispensing station an interrogation signal is transmitted, conductor 44, and responsive to the presence of the code indicia in the signal storage means 116 a validation signal, conductor 46, is returned. Simultaneously, the code indicia is erased in the signal storage means.
It will be apparent that the above method associates each check with a particular code which is stored in a storage means during the time that the check has been issued and the article has been paid for, but the article has not been dispensed. Responsive to the dispensing of the article, the specific code is erased from the code bank means and in a desirable manner also from the check. When using random coding of the checks, it is most difficult to fraudulently pre-code checks and use such checks for obtaining merchandise since it is not readily ascertainable to unauthorized personnel what code numbers or codes are contained in the storage portion of the code bank means. Furthermore, the decoding means 42 may be equipped with provisions to retain checks whose authenticity can not be established after two or three attempts, that is, either that the check in itself fails to be of a proper authenticity and/or the validation signal is not issued by the code bank means subsequent to sending the interrogation signal.
In a further embodiment of the present invention, the dispensing of articles of merchandise may be combined with inventory recording means. The interrogation signal transmitted along conductor 44, aside from the code indicia, may be used also to transmit article data, such as quantity andtype, available from the check 20, block 26. The signal storage means 38 includes inventory information storage means and. responsive to the generation of the validation signal the released quantity of articles is subtracted from the stored inventory count. 7
It will be apparent that the heretofore described arrangement is one which is characterized by extreme simplicity, yet provides important safeguards to forestall the theft of valuable merchandise.
What is claimed is:
l. A merchandising arrangement comprising:
A a payment station which includes:
A-l. encoding means for receiving a check adapted to be encoded with an identifying code at a first location on the check and with a code denoting an article of merchandise at a second location on the check, and A-2. input control means coupled to said encoding means for encoding the check at said second location; B. a code bank means which includes:
B-l. code indicia generating means; B-2 code storage means, and B-3 control means coupled to said indicia generating means and said storage means;
C a dispensing station which includes:
C-l. decoding means for receiving a check encoded at said payment station, and C-2. article storage and vending means;
D. means coupling said code bank means to said payment station for causing responsive to the receipt of a check by said encoding means said control means to actuate said encoding means for encoding said check at said first location with code indicia generated by said indicia generating means, and to cause said code indicia to be stored in said code storage means; i
E. means coupling said dispensing station to said code bank means for transmitting responsive to the receipt by said decoding means of a check encoded at said encoding means an interrogation signal commensurate with the identifying code at said first location to said code bank means and, responsive to the storage of such identifying code in said storage means, said control means causing the transmittal of a validation signal to said dispensing station for causing said dispensing station to provide a release signal to said article storage and vending means for effecting the vending of an article commensurate with the code at said second location, and
F. erasing means coupled to said code storage means and operative responsive to the transmittal of said validation signal for causing said identifying code to be erased from said storage means.
2. A merchandising arrangement as set forth in claim 1, said article storage and vending means including a plurality of compartments for storing different kinds of articles.
3. A merchandising arrangement as set forth in claim 1, said check being in the form of a card and including means for being encoded magneticall 4. A merchandising arrangement as set forth in claim 1, said input control means comprising manually operable means.