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(12) United States Patent
(io) Patent No.: US 6,896,188 Bl (45) Date of Patent: May 24, 2005
(54) METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR PROVIDING A CHECK PREMIUM
(76) Inventor: Stuart Graham, 12444 Whispering Tree La., Poway, CA (US) 92604
( * ) Notice: Subject to any disclaimer, the term of this patent is extended or adjusted under 35 U.S.C. 154(b) by 0 days.
(21) Appl. No.: 10/794,359
(22) Filed: Mar. 5, 2004
(51) Int. CI.7 G06K 19/00
(52) U.S. CI 235/487; 283/58; 283/31
(58) Field of Search 235/487, 375,
235/378-379, 485; 705/33, 45, 53, 62,
(56) References Cited
U.S. PATENT DOCUMENTS
3,790,193 A * 2/1974 McBride 283/57
5,184,910 A * 2/1993 Betsill 402/8
5,491,325 A * 2/1996 Huang et al 705/45
5,781,654 A * 7/1998 Carney 382/137
An issuer distributes to its customers a premium to attract and retain consumers. The premium comprises a checkbook having a number of partially pre-printed checks from a number of merchants. The checks are redeemable at the merchants for a predetermined amount of money towards a purchase. The consumer fills out certain information when presenting the check so that the transaction appears to be performed using a check as the method of payment while the consumer is still able to receive the financial benefit often accompanying the use of coupons. The remaining transaction amount is made using conventional payment methods.
36 Claims, 2 Drawing Sheets
U.S. Patent May 24,2005 Sheet 2 of 2 US 6,896,188 Bl
METHOD AND SYSTEM FOR PROVIDING A
FIELD OF THE INVENTION 5
The present invention relates generally to a marketing plan and more particularly to a customer acquisition and retention plan.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 10
One of the most common concerns for many businesses is the need to develop fresh ways to acquire new customers and to retain current customers. There are currently a number of rewards programs in place across many different merchants that attempt to build customer loyalty and attract new consumers. These types of programs tend to reward consumers for shopping frequently at the sponsoring merchant and are usually tied to the amount, not just the number, of purchases as well.
Another approach to attracting customers is the use of coupons. As is well known, coupons are distributed through many different channels and, when presented at the time of purchase, provide an instant discount off an item or items. Coupons can be related to a particular product or a particular 2J merchant. Thus, coupons may be sponsored by a manufacturer or by a merchant. Coupons have a number of drawbacks from the perspective of the merchant. One drawback is that in the view of some consumers, the use of coupons carries some stigma for both the consumer and the merchant. 3Q Accordingly, consumers who are embarrassed to use coupons are not attracted to a merchant by coupons regardless of their savings. Additionally, tracking coupons to determine which distribution channels were effective and to identify useful consumer trends or information has proven difficult. 3J Other drawbacks to coupons include that consumers often forget them when shopping and that coupons typically do not require a large purchase at the merchant; but, instead, can be used if the consumer is spending $100 or only $10. Also, consideration must be given to the costs of printing 4Q and distributing coupons. The coupon approach, therefore, for attracting and retaining customers clearly has a number of problems.
Thus, an unmet need exists for a customer acquisition and retention program that overcomes the problems of tradi- 45 tional coupons and rewards programs.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Accordingly, embodiments of the present invention relate to a customer acquisition and retention program that pro- 50 vides consumers with a check-like payment option that effectively reduces the cost of items being purchased. This payment option is easy to use in that it relies on the consumer's familiarity with checks and it avoids the embarrassment and other drawbacks of coupons. 55
According to this embodiment, an issuer distributes to its customers a premium to attract and retain consumers. The premium comprises a checkbook having a number of partially pre-printed checks from a number of merchants. The checks are redeemable at the merchants for a predetermined 60 amount of money towards a purchase. The consumer fills out certain information when presenting the check so that the transaction appears to be performed using a check as the method of payment while the consumer is still able to receive the redemption benefit often accompanying the use 65 of coupons. The remaining transaction amount is made using conventional payment methods.
One aspect of the present invention relates to a premium for attracting customers. According to this aspect, the premium includes a plurality of checks, each check related to a respective merchant and including a predetermined redemption amount. The premium also includes a checkbook comprising the plurality of checks wherein each check includes an identification of an issuer of the checkbook.
Another aspect of the present invention relates to a method of creating a premium to attract customers. In accordance with this aspect, a publisher of the premium agrees with a plurality of merchants to print a respective check, for each merchant, in a plurality of checkbooks, each respective check in a particular checkbook related to a respective merchant and including a predetermined dollar amount. The publisher also agrees with a plurality of issuers to provide to each issuer a respective subset of the plurality of the checkbooks, wherein each check in the respective subset of checkbooks includes an identification of a respective issue of the checkbook. Once the participants agree with the program, the publisher distributes the plurality of checkbooks to the plurality of issuers.
Additional advantages of the present invention will become readily apparent to those skilled in this art from the following detailed description, wherein only the preferred embodiment of the invention is shown and described, simply by way of illustration of the best mode contemplated of carrying out the invention. As will be realized, the invention is capable of other and different embodiments, and its several details are capable of modifications in various obvious respects, all without departing from the invention. Accordingly, the drawings and description are to be regarded as illustrative in nature, and not as restrictive.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary blank check according to an embodiment of the present invention.
FIG. 2 illustrates the check of FIG. 1 after it has been filled-in by a consumer.
FIG. 3 illustrates a method of retaining and attracting customers in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
Turning to FIG. 1, this figure illustrates an exemplary blank check 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. While only a single check is depicted in FIG. 1, embodiments of the present invention contemplate a book of such checks being distributed to a consumer. For example, a book of thirty different checks may be-distributed to a consumer; however, one of ordinary skill will appreciate that the book of checks may include any number of checks. Many consumers currently carry a checkbook and are familiar with using checks to pay for merchandise at a restaurant or other retail establishment. Thus, many consumers are more likely to feel comfortable using the check 100 than a coupon. The check 100 is advantageously bundled in a checkbook that resembles a regular checkbook with each check printed on high-quality paper to closely resemble a regular check.
The check 100 includes a number of fields that are familiar to most consumers. The fields illustrated in FIG. 1 are exemplary in nature and are not intended to limit embodiments of the present invention to inclusion of only these fields on a check. The date field 101 may be left blank or may be filled in with a pre-printed date. Also, the date