The History of Coupons
Coupons have been around for nearly 120 years. Created in 1894 by Asa Candler, an ingenious businessman from Atlanta, the first coupons were handwritten pieces of paper. These coupons were redeemable for a glass of a refreshing new beverage, the formula for which Candler had recently purchased for $2300.00. The coupons and the new beverage (Coca-Cola) turned out to be a huge hit, as we well know.
Fast forward to the 1930s, when hardworking American families were being crushed by the weight of the Great Depression. During these dire times, coupons were routinely clipped to help keep the children fed. Corner markets and neighborhood grocers used coupons to encourage customer loyalty and increase sales. The popularity of the coupon continued to rise as supermarket chains and the coupons they offered began to pop up across the United States.
In 1957 The Nielsen Coupon Clearing House became the first clearing house devoted solely to coupon redemption, and by the mid-sixties half of all American families were snipping to save. In the 1990s printable coupons, accessible on the Internet, began to show up. Printable coupons (which are printed on demand, but the user) are an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional paper coupons, which clutter up mailboxes around the country on a daily basis.
Put down those scissors. Mobile coupons, which download directly to your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, or Android, are an alternative to paper coupons. Happily, there are many free applications that provide thousands of coupons for the tech savvy shopper. With mobile coupons you can save while shopping and find discount tickets for food and entertainment while on the go.
QR codes (Quick Response codes) for coupons, while just coming in to the American public's awareness, have been used extensively in Japan since 1994, where they were invented by a subsidiary of Toyota. QR codes are used for marketing purposes, such as linking to free offers or discount coupons. Today QR codes are one of the most popular two-dimensional barcodes, holding much more information than a UPC code, which most of us are familiar with.
Here's how a QR code coupon works: you take out your mobile phone and use an application to scan the QR code on a box of cereal in the grocery store. The code is interpreted and the screen displays information, such as a coupon for another box of cereal or a complimentary product. In the same example, the code could link to the URL of the manufacturer of the cereal or give information about a contest or give-away. What an amazing marketing tool! Look for these strange, somewhat magical black-and-white boxes around town.
Get in on the coupon craze and start saving money. See the dollars add up; maybe you can even save enough money to purchase a mobile phone with a QR code scanner.
Believed to be the first coupon ever, this ticket for a free glass of Coca-Cola was first distributed in 1888 to help promote the drink. (Geuss, Megan, "First Coupon Ever".)