Ever wonder about the origins of modern conveniences and services we take for granted? Of course you do! Otherwise you would have not wandered over to a historical-esqe blog. Since, finances have been on my mind as of late, I began to ponder whence did the “coupon” come about?
Lo and behold, it was a 19th century concept! I do love my Victorians more and more every day. It started with none other than the Coca-Cola Company way back in 1894. Eighteen Ninety Four, people! That means the idea of a coupon is about 120 years old! The gentleman credited for this advertising scheme was Asa Candler. According to Wikipedia:
Coupons were mailed to potential customers and placed in magazines. The company gave soda fountains free syrup to cover the costs of the free drinks.
Thus, every curious person could try/taste it before selecting to purchase more. Genius! Whether he was aware of it or not, Mr. Candler tapped into a key component of consumer psychology: everyone wants a deal. They wish to believe they are making a money saving and ultimately wise choice. Let us say the seller wants to sell an item for $5. Instead of advertising it as such he might just place a sign stating a $10 item is now 50% off. Wow! What steal! In fact, it is such a good deal, a customer might purchase more than one! The coupon was the perfect “monopoly money.” It also was a win-win situation for the magazines offering coupons, as people had to purchase the magazine to get the free Coke. Granted, human nature never really alters and I would not be surprised if some miscreant stood by magazine stands ripping out the inserts without buying the serial, just for the coupon. (This now manifest itself in Sunday newspapers/ads phenomenon). Furthering the ‘stealing’ of coupons, is forging or counterfeiting desired items. Imitation, while indeed the sincerest form of flattery, becomes problematic. On the other hand, a company has hit a gold mine, if people are resorting to forgery. Coupons, causing riots, who would have thought? Any way to “cut cost”, cheers to that!