CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is a continuation in part of published U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/430,824 (Attorney Docket No. BLD920030021US1), entitled “Point-of-Sale Receipt Electronic Generation” to Joan L. Mitchell et al., filed May 6, 2003 and published Nov. 11, 2004, publication No. 2004/0225567 A1; and related to U.S. Pat. No. 6,883,706 B2 (Attorney Docket No. BLD920030020US1), entitled “Point-of-Sale Bill Authentication” to Scott D. Mastie et al., issued Apr. 26, 2005; to published U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/446,204 (Attorney Docket No. BLD920030019US1), entitled “Expense Accounting Data Management Based on Electronic Expense Document” to Joan L. Mitchell et al., filed May 27, 2003 and published Dec. 2, 2004, publication No. 2004/0243489 A1; and to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/______ (Attorney Docket No. BLD920050044US1), entitled “System And Method of Handling Product Returns” to Joan L. Mitchell et al., filed coincident herewith; all assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incorporated herein by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention generally relates to business transactions and more particularly to in-store business transactions and payment of such in-store business transactions and self service transactions at electronic Point of Sale kiosks, such as at automated gas pumps and the like.
2. Background Description
Currently, retail stores typically produce a paper receipt reflecting a purchase or purchases by each customer. Normally, a point-of-sale terminal generates the paper receipt, which lists each item purchased. Traditionally, the merchant passes the paper receipt to the customer, which the customer must retain for any allowed returns. These paper receipts provide documentation of the purchases for example, for registering product rebates, for product returns, for ownership transfers, and for warranty registration. Anyone that has ever been involved in an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audit was required to produce paper receipts as proof of legitimate expenditures. Employers typically require employees to submit paper receipts to document expenses for re-imbursement or as proof of chargeable expenses against an expense account. It is important for employers to track expenditures in real time, including expenditures incurred by individual employees.
Frequently, new businesses fail because of cash-flow problems and under capitalization, often because a new business person finds it difficult and time consuming to track business expenses from paper receipts. A typical small business may maintain expense information in some well known accounting/expense tracking program. There are a number of commercially available accounting software packages to assist small businesses in expense tracking. Unfortunately, entering receipt information in any of these off-the-shelf packages requires converting paper receipt information to a suitable electronic format. Conversion may entail, for example, either re-keying the physical receipt (if it is legible and has not been lost), making a photocopy of the original receipt and passing the photocopy to optical character recognition (OCR), or in some those cases where it is available, downloading the information from merchant websites. With larger business, as each employee submit paper receipts, the employer may forward them to an accounting department and/or to a tax accountant.
While this conversion may be a complicated, labor intensive and time consuming for a business, it may be unreasonably burdensome for an individual. It is hard to keep track of and organize all of those paper receipts. Moreover, this is very time consuming, and thus difficult to make it a priority. Further, paper-based processes like this depend upon human collation and so, are vulnerable to tracking, timelines, and audit-readiness problems. At best keeping organized takes time away from other things; and at worst, either from lost paper receipts and/or failure to organize, can cost someone, e.g., from available tax credits that are lost or from failing to be audit-ready when the need arises.
Additionally, merchants normally require the original paper receipt for refunds to discourage fraud. If a customer fails to produce the receipt, at best, the customer may be allowed to exchange the item for comparable merchandise or merchandise of the same value. However, at Christmas time, especially, thieves target cars with bags in sight. If the receipt is in the bag with the merchandise, after breaking into the car and stealing the packages, the thief has the merchandise and the receipt. The thief can make the return and the customer is left with the bill and auto damage. Consequently, retail clerks have begun asking if the purchaser wants the receipt placed in the bag with the purchases or kept separately. But if the receipt is separated from the merchandise, it may not be easy to match the receipt with the merchandise, especially if the receipt includes inadequate or skimpy purchase documentation, or is partially or completely illegible due to poor printing quality, sun exposure, or other forms of wear and tear.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Thus, there is a need to improve purchase documentation while reducing purchase tracking effort and discouraging theft; and, more particularly, there is a need to improve expense and purchase tracking for businesses and individuals while reducing the effort required for accurately recording expenses and purchases without encouraging fraudulent returns or theft.
It is therefore a purpose of the invention to eliminate the need for paper receipts;
It is another purpose of this invention to reduce the incidence of fraudulent returns in retail sales;
It is yet another purpose of the invention to eliminate the need for paper receipts, while allowing returns for goods that were purchased without providing paper receipts, while reducing the incidence of fraudulent returns in retail sales.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention is related to a method and program product for providing paperless receipts for conducting business transactions. Biometric data and product specific identification information is collected with each purchase and included with an electronic receipt generated for each purchase. The collected product specific information may include product serial numbers for some products, all products or product valued above a minimum threshold cost. The biometric data may include a digital image of each purchaser. The electronic receipt may be passed directly to the customer.
The foregoing and other objects, aspects and advantages will be better understood from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment of the invention with reference to the drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 shows an example of a preferred point-of-sale (POS) terminal electronic receipt generation/electronic return environment, for transacting business at POS terminals.
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 2 shows an example of generating electronic receipts for use in electronic returns according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention.
Turning now to the drawings, and more particularly, FIG. 1 shows an example of a preferred point-of-sale (POS) terminal electronic personal receipt generation environment 10, customer location (i.e., identified with a client business) 12 and point-of-sale terminal 14 (hereinafter “POS terminal 14”), such as described in published U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/430,824 (Attorney Docket No. BLD920030021US1), entitled “Point-of-Sale Electronic Receipt Generation” to Joan L. Mitchell et al., filed May 6, 2003, published Nov. 11, 2004, publication No. 2004/0225567 A1, assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incorporated herein by reference. Customer locations 12 (e.g., a wallet carried by a customer) include, for example, cash 16, a check 18, a credit card 20 and/or a smart card 22, or any other suitable well known payment mechanism(s) for paying for merchandise, e.g., gift certificates or store credits. Further, each customer location 12 includes some from of personal storage, such as a thumb drive, a personal digital assistant (PDA) 24, an Apple iPod or the like. Each customer location 12 may also communicate with POS terminal 14 using PDA 24 or any other suitable handheld computer or communication system, with an appropriate communication port (not shown), e.g., infrared (IR) or radio frequency identification (RFID). POS terminal 14 conducts each sales transaction and generates an electronic receipt 26 for each and, optionally, a conventional paper receipt 28. POS terminal 14 can also be a self-service electronic Point of Sale kiosk. According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, instead of paper receipts purchasers receive detailed personal electronic receipts as original receipts.
As used herein for example only, a customer, shopper or purchaser (used interchangeably) at a customer location 12 may be identified with a private or public concern and is conducting a transaction with a merchant or other business concern. The private concern may be, for example an individual, a business or other organization. Thus, a customer/purchaser may be a member of the household, a business employee or a member of a private organization or a government employee. Similarly, although typically, the merchant may be located, for example, at a retail place of business, the business concern 30 may be any business or non-profit private or public organization that issues receipts for money collected, e.g., in exchange for purchases. The POS 14 is located with the business concern 30, e.g., on the premises of a department or grocery store or, any place of business that normally requires proof of purchase for returns.
Further, each POS terminal 14 may include an imager 40, a check/currency inserter 42, a camera (e.g., a digital camera, web cam or IR cam) 44, a thumb reader 45, a receipt instruction receiver 46 with a receipt destination retriever 62, an electronic receipt generator (ERG) 48 with an authenticating data generator (ADG) 50, a transmitter 52 and any other components (OC) 54. Imager 40 converts cash (paper currency or bills) 16, and/or checks 18 into images 58 that may be inserted by check/currency inserter 42 into a paper receipt, 28 an electronic receipt 26 or both for recordation. Electronic receipt generation and storage is also described, for example, in published U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/446,204 (Attorney Docket No. BLD920030019US1) entitled “Expense Accounting Data Management Based on Electronic Expense Document” to Joan L. Mitchell et al., filed May 27, 2003, published Dec. 2, 2004, publication No. 2004/0243489 A1, assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incorporated herein by reference. Also, the POS terminal 14 may include a typical PDA cradle, a wireless connection capability (e.g., infrared or WiFi), for connecting to a PDA 24, a cell phone, a handheld computer, a handheld game unit, a pager, or any suitable unit with personal storage. Further, the POS terminal 14 may include appropriate encryption or compression capability.
According to a preferred embodiment of the present invention, however, personal electronic receipts are delivered to the purchaser coincident with each purchase. These personal electronic receipts may be accompanied by purchaser biometric data, e.g., a digital photo, thumbprint, or an IR signature. Optionally, paper receipts may be presented with each personal electronic receipts reflecting the information (e.g., purchaser biometric data) contained in the personal electronic receipt. Once delivered, the electronic receipts may be retrieved from personal storage (e.g., in PDA 24, another handheld device), or recalled merely based on accompanying biometric/other data. Since the electronic receipt captures all of this unique information, paper receipts are unnecessary for most ordinary uses. Further, this unique information may be compared with security/authentication and similar biometric data collected with returns, for electronic returns based solely on electronic receipts. Electronic returns are described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/______ (Attorney Docket No. BLD920050044US1), entitled “System and Method of Handling Product Returns” to Joan L. Mitchell et al., filed coincident herewith, assigned to the assignee of the present invention and incorporated herein by reference. Security/authentication and similar biometric data may include, for example, a digital picture or thumbprint may be taken of each purchaser and of each person returning merchandise, e.g., by camera 44, such as a surveillance camera or a thumb reader 45.
Receipt instruction receiver (RIR) 46 may include a destination retriever (DR) 62 and receive receipt instructions (RI) 60. Each receipt instruction 60 includes a Receipt Destination Identifier (RDI) 64 and a content instruction (CI) 66. A receipt instruction 60 reflects communicated customer preferences, e.g., provided verbally and manually entered to POS terminal 14 or electronically generated. Electronically generated customer preferences may be gathered, for example, from an electronic payment from, e.g., a credit card 20, a smart card 22, a PDA 24 or any other suitable electronic payment mechanism. Each RDI 64 expressly or implicitly indicates where to send a corresponding electronic receipt. An RDI 64 may expressly state a receipt destination 65 as, for example, a personalized web page, a mailing address, an e-mail address, e.g., for a non-volatile storage. Customer identification may imply a receipt destination 65 stored in a receipt destination database 68, e.g., by business name, by credit card number, by smart card identification, or by PDA based IR communications.
So, with each purchase the destination retriever 62 retrieves implied destinations from receipt destination database 68. The electronic receipt generator 48 generates an electronic receipt 26 for each transaction, e.g., including date and time; merchant; issuing agent; and merchant address. Electronic receipts may be in a standard format, e.g., electronic data interchange (EDI) format or a personalized electronic receipts 26 based on content instruction 66, e.g., indicated in a content database 70. Authentication data generator 50 can provide transaction authentication data 72 for confirming that an electronic receipt 26 has not been altered. For example, authentication data 72 may include receipt contents, date, time, a merchant identification or, biometric data collected from the purchaser. The authentication data 72 may be stored at a merchant system 74 for access by receipt destination 65 with each receipt 26 or transmitted separately to receipt destination 65. The transmitter 52 communicates electronic receipts 26 and authentication data 72 to receipt destinations 65 and/or merchant system 74.
The POS terminal 14 may include other components 54, such as for example, a keyboard, a central processing unit (CPU), a monitor, a bar code scanner, a telecommunications system, a credit card authentication system, a smart card authentication system, a PDA communications system, RFID detection modules and/or a cash drawer. The receipt destination 65 may include an expense accounting system 80 such as a customer/employer expense reporting system, a customer personal expense tracking system (e.g., Quicken®, Microsoft Money®, TurboTax® or a spreadsheet application) and/or a customer accountant expense tracking system. Also, the expense account system 80 may include an expense categorizer (EC) 82 categorizing each electronic receipt 26 into an expense category, e.g., clothing, food, or entertainment. A tax data collector (TDC) 84 gathers tax related data in electronic receipts 26, e.g., sales tax, deductible expenses, deductible donations, and medical expenses. A tax authority (TA) 86 (e.g., the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), a state tax department, or foreign equivalent thereof) may provide tax related information or, tax related information may be otherwise provided. Also, the receipt destination 65 may include appropriate receipt storage 88 for long term archiving.
Preferably, along with transmitting electronic receipts to a designated receipt destination 65, each customer 12 receives an electronic version of a retail receipt simultaneously with completing a transaction, i.e., by default the RDI 64 includes the customer in destination and the system 10 transmits a personal electronic receipt to the customer 12 upon completing a transaction. Each personal electronic receipt includes, preferably, line-item level details and may include additional information such as a third-party authentication identifier. Also, customer biometric information may be collected with each purchase and included in the receipt details that are communicated as a personal electronic receipt to the customer. A camera image, e.g., from a surveillance camera 44 may be included with the receipt data and provided with the personal electronic receipt. The personal electronic receipts may be provided indirectly from receipt storage, or directly, over a real-time data feed. If provided directly, the POS terminal 14 transmits personal electronic receipts (including details of the transaction and other collected data, e.g., an image of a check used for payment) to the customers 12, where personal electronic receipts are loaded into the customer's personal storage, e.g., in a PDA, cell phone, or other handheld device. This transmission may be over an IR port, a physical cradle connection, a wireless communication connection, or other suitable connection port.
As noted hereinabove, these personal electronic receipts can be used in electronic returns. Further, each personal electronic receipt may include image verification data from the transaction, such as a simplified or scanned version of a check that was presented. Also, tax information may be included automatically in the personal electronic receipt. Sub-total items, such as sales tax paid, or items in deductible expense categories, may be tallied automatically, e.g., by the PDA 24 or the TDC 84. Then, the entire transaction may be automatically filed in an appropriate category in personal storage for later recall and distribution.
Alternately, since not everyone is expected to have personal storage, in-store hard copy receipts may be generated and personal electronic receipts are indirectly passed to the customer 12. The merchant may have a shared kiosk located near an exit, for example, that is primarily for downloading personal electronic receipts in real-time to the customer's personal storage, including downloading images and detailed electronic receipt data. This kiosk may include a bar code reader, for example, that reads a unique barcode from printed receipts. Customers can present paper receipts and quickly receive a personal electronic receipt from the kiosk. This kiosk allows elimination of older point-of-sale terminal modifications/upgrades and may be compatible with all handheld devices.
FIG. 2 shows an example of steps 100 in generating personal electronic receipts that begins in step 102 by a customer presenting goods for purchase. As noted hereinabove, biometric data may be collected in step 104 to accompany each personal electronic receipt, including for example, the purchaser's digital photo, thumbprint, or IR signature. Also, in step 106 information is collected on the goods being purchased. Thus, each personal electronic receipt may include itemized serial numbers (S/Ns), if known, listed with each item. So, if the merchandise is tagged with RFIDs or a unique barcode scannable with a typical barcode scanner, for example, the scan may include respective S/N for listing on the personal electronic receipt. When, for example, the merchandise is not tagged, such detail may be optional, e.g., included/required only for merchandise value above a threshold price or for tracking high quantity purchases of items such as over the counter medications. So, in step 108 in this variation, after scanning for a basic purchase, a secondary scan may be required for any item that exceeded the threshold, e.g., items above $100. In this second scan in step 110 the POS terminal 14 collects the unique S/N of the device or the clerk enters the S/N with the purchase price, to capture the unique S/N in the personal electronic receipt generated in step 112. This personal electronic receipt may aid any future warranty claim and may be required for an electronic return. In step 114 the personal electronic receipt is passed to the purchaser, e.g., transmitted by IR, Bluetooth or WiFi to the customer's personal storage, e.g., PDA 24. These personal electronic receipts may be used to return goods, based solely on the personal electronic receipt. Also, since the personal electronic receipt is an itemized list of purchased items, the purchaser may electronically transfer ownership with the right to return to someone else. For example, an errand-running agency may simply and conveniently relinquish personal electronic receipts to their principals with transfer of the purchased goods.
Tax information may be automatically collected from the personal electronic receipts. Further, sub-items such as sales tax paid, or deductible expense categories, may be tallied automatically within the PDA. Each entire transaction may be automatically filed in personal storage grouped in an appropriate category to facilitate later recall and distribution. Also, the personal electronic receipts may include appropriate image data from the transaction, e.g., a simplified version of a check as presented for the purchase.
Preferably, information is bidirectionally exchanged with customer gear (such as PDA 24) indicate a preferred personal storage format (e.g., ASCII flatfile, Spanish-Language ASCII, bitmap, Excel® from Mircrosoft®), and the POS terminal deliver the personal electronic receipt data in that format. Further, merchants may advertise available formats with customers selecting from amongst the available formats and downloading the information in the desired format. Further, preferably detailed personal electronic receipts are available for all handheld devices with available storage including cell phones, PDAs, and handheld computer games. Once downloaded the personal electronic receipts may be transferred, subsequently to other computers, e.g., a laptop. Moreover, although a handheld device is the most convenient delivery point, immediate delivery need not be solely to such handheld devices. For example, state of the art automobiles have on-board computing power and personal electronic receipts may be broadcast (in a secure and encrypted manner) to such an automobile. Moreover, the automobile may analyze received personal electronic receipts in otherwise idle computer cycles (e.g., while the engine is not running) and make the analysis results instantly available. Also, with a company car, the communication system may send the analysis results and collected personal electronic receipts to the company's accountant.
Advantageously, a preferred system immediately delivers a personal electronic retail receipt to each purchaser. So, purchasers are no longer forced to sign-on later, possibly to multiple sites, to obtain a current electronic record of purchases. The line-item level details are loaded directly into the customer's PDA, cell phone, or other handheld device from the point-of-sale terminal, providing an excellent level of customer support, and providing an excellent level of customer support via point-of-sale devices. Since customers have personal electronic receipts, it is no longer for the customers to sign-on at, e.g., to a web site or, possibly, to multiple sites, to obtain a current electronic record of purchases made. In addition, the immediately available electronic record can be used to give real-time analysis of cash flow or budgets and to handle returns.
Personal electronic receipts and returns based on those receipts are convenient for both the merchant and the customer, facilitating fraud detection, making it relatively easy to identify suspicious activity, e.g., where the original purchaser has reported a theft. Also, often enough, customers may mistakenly return the wrong item to the wrong store, e.g., due to a memory lapse or confusion. This is avoided by the robust receipt information in personal electronic receipts, e.g., the merchant and the serial number of purchased items. Thus, merchants may allow (line-item) returns of merchandise based on the personal electronic receipt rather than insisting on a paper receipt, while reducing lost income to the merchant from fraudulent returns, while customers have better experiences with the improved return and exchange process.
While the invention has been described in terms of preferred embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be practiced with modification within the spirit and scope of the appended claims. It is intended that all such variations and modifications fall within the scope of the appended claims. Examples and drawings are, accordingly, to be regarded as illustrative rather than restrictive.