Title:
Customer-operated ordering system and method that issues admission tickets but does not dispense products
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A customer-operated ordering system and method that issues admission tickets but does not dispense products. The system may include an input device, an output device, an admission ticket dispenser, product information storage media, admission ticket information storage media, customer profile storage media and a processing system.



Inventors:
Sidlo, Paul (Santa Monica, CA, US)
Dunn, Walter H. (Atlanta, GA, US)
Application Number:
10/461131
Publication Date:
02/12/2004
Filing Date:
06/12/2003
Assignee:
EMN8, Inc.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
G06F21/00; G06Q30/00; G07F7/00; (IPC1-7): G06F17/60
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
CUFF, MICHAEL A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GREENBERG TRAURIG LLP (GT) (CHICAGO, IL, US)
Claims:

We claim:



1. A customer-operated ordering system that allows a customer to select and consummate a sale himself comprising: an input device configured to be operated by the customer during the selection and consummation process; an output device configured to communicate with the customer during the selection and consummation process; an admission ticket dispenser configured to dispense admission tickets for the customer to take; admission ticket information storage media configured to store admission ticket information about admission tickets that may be dispensed by the admission ticket dispenser; product information storage media configured to store product information about products that the customer may purchase that are not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system; and a processing system configured to: communicate with the input device, the output device, the admission ticket dispenser, the admission tickets storage media and the product information storage media; obtain product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system from the product information storage media; provide the obtained product information to the customer thorough the output device; consummate a sale of the product to the customer using the input device; obtain admission ticket information about an admission ticket; and cause the admission ticket dispenser to dispense an admission ticket to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

2. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the admission ticket is dispensed as part of a customer reward program.

3. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the system charges the customer for the admission ticket.

4. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 3 wherein the admission ticket information specifies the charge that should be made to the customer for the admission ticket.

5. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 3 wherein the charge specified by the admission ticket information is a function of a profile of the customer.

6. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 5 wherein the charge for at least one customer profile is zero.

7. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 5 further including customer profile storage media configured to store customer profiles about a plurality of customers and wherein the processing system is configured to: obtain the identity of the customer from the input device; and query the customer profile storage media for a customer profile of the customer based on the obtained identify.

8. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the input device includes a touch screen.

9. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the input device includes a keyboard.

10. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the output device includes a display.

11. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the output device includes a loudspeaker.

12. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the admission ticket dispenser prints an admission ticket.

13. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 12 wherein the admission ticket includes a code.

14. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 1 wherein the admission ticket dispenser dispenses the admission ticket as an electronic signal to the customer.

15. The customer-operated ordering system of claim 14 wherein the electronic signal includes a code.

16. A customer-operated ordering process that allows a customer to select and consummate a sale himself comprising: obtaining product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system from product information storage media; providing the obtained product information to the customer thorough an output device; consummating a sale of the product to the customer using an input device; obtaining admission ticket information about an admission ticket from admission tickets storage media; and causing an admission ticket dispenser to dispense an admission ticket to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

17. A customer-operated ordering system that allows a customer to select and consummate a sale himself that includes a processing system configured to: communicate with an input device, an output device, an admission ticket dispenser, admission ticket information storage media and product information storage media; obtain product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system from the product information storage media; provide the obtained product information to the customer thorough the output device; consummate a sale of the product to the customer using the input device; obtain admission ticket information about an admission ticket from the admission tickets storage media; and cause the admission ticket dispenser to dispense an admission ticket to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

18. A customer-operated ordering system that allows a customer to select and consummate a sale himself that includes a processing system configured to: obtain product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system; provide the obtained product information to the customer; obtain admission ticket information about an admission ticket; and cause an admission ticket to dispense to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

19. A customer-operated ordering system that includes a processing system configured to: provide product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system to the customer; and cause an admission ticket to dispense to the customer.

20. A customer-operated ordering process implemented by a customer-operated ordering system comprising: providing product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system to the customer; and causing an admission ticket dispenser to dispense an admission ticket to the customer.

21. A customer-operated ordering system comprising: a display; an admission ticket dispenser; and a processor configured to cause the display to provide information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system and for causing the admission ticket dispenser to dispense an admission ticket.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is a continuation of and claims priority to U.S. application Ser. No. 10/______, attorney docket number 63859/24, entitled “Point of Sale Computer System Delivering Composited Two- and Three-Dimensional Images,” filed on Jun. 3, 2003. This application is also based upon and claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/392,758, filed Jul. 1, 2002, entitled “Real Time Engine with 2D/3D Detail,” and U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/388,220, filed Jun. 12, 2002, and entitled “Customer-Operated Ordering System and Method.” This application is also related to: U.S. application Ser. No. 10/______, attorney docket number 63859-026, entitled “Customer-Operated Ordering System That Sets Prices Based on Customer Profile,” filed Jun. 12, 2003; and U.S. application Ser. No. 10/______, attorney docket number 63859-028, entitled “Customer-Operated Ordering System and Method That Accepts Coupons With Interactive Multimedia Content,” filed on Jun. 12, 2003. The content of all five of these applications is hereby incorporated by reference as though fully set forth herein.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] This application relates to ordering systems and, more particularly, to ordering systems that are operated by a customer.

[0004] 2. Description of Related Art

[0005] The traditional selection and ordering process often presents challenges to both the merchant and the customer.

[0006] The merchant must often incur significant costs to train personnel and to have them present to communicate with the customer during the selection and ordering process. It is also often challenging for the merchant to control the presentation that his personnel make to the customer, a challenge sometimes compounded by the skill level of the personnel and a high turnover rate.

[0007] The customer, on the other hand, is often hesitant to speak with a salesperson. The customer may be apprehensive of difficulties in accurately communicating his preferences and purchase decisions. He may also be concerned over having his personal choices evaluated by someone else.

[0008] The traditional ordering process also sometimes makes it difficult to encourage customer loyalty. The traditional process is often impersonal, sometimes making it difficult to recognize a loyal customer. The need to keep the process simple also sometimes makes it difficult to reward the loyal customer, even when she is recognized.

[0009] Traditional sales systems also often fail to take advantage of the opportunity to promote or sell products or services of a different merchant, thereby overlooking other potential avenues of revenue.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

[0010] A customer-operated ordering system may allow a customer to select and consummate a sale himself.

[0011] The system may include an input device configured to be operated by the customer during the selection and consummation process; an output device configured to communicate with the customer during the selection and consummation process; an admission ticket dispenser configured to dispense admission tickets for the customer to take; admission ticket information storage media configured to store admission ticket information about admission tickets that may be dispensed by the admission ticket dispenser; product information storage media configured to store product information about products that the customer may purchase that are not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system; and a processing system.

[0012] The processing system may be configured to communicate with the input device, the output device, the admission ticket dispenser, the admission tickets storage media and the product information storage media; obtain product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system from the product information storage media; provide the obtained product information to the customer thorough the output device; consummate a sale of the product to the customer using the input device; obtain admission ticket information about an admission ticket; and cause the admission ticket dispenser to print and dispense an admission ticket to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

[0013] The admission ticket may be dispensed as part of a customer reward or loyalty program.

[0014] The system may or may not charge the customer for the admission ticket.

[0015] The admission ticket information may specify the charge that should be made to the customer for the admission ticket. The charge specified by the admission ticket information may be a function of a profile of the customer.

[0016] The system may include a customer profile storage media configured to store customer profiles about a plurality of customers. The charge for at least one customer profile may be zero.

[0017] The processing system may be configured to obtain the identity of the customer from the input device and query the customer profile storage media for a customer profile of the customer based on the obtained identify.

[0018] The input device may include a touch screen.

[0019] The input device may include a keyboard.

[0020] The output device may include a display.

[0021] The output device may include a loudspeaker.

[0022] The admission ticket dispenser may print the admission ticket.

[0023] The admission ticket may include a code.

[0024] The admission ticket dispenser may dispense the admission ticket as an electronic signal to the customer. The electronic signal may include a code.

[0025] A customer-operated ordering process may allow a customer to select and consummate a sale himself.

[0026] The process may include obtaining product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system from product information storage media; providing the obtained product information to the customer thorough an output device; consummating a sale of the product to the customer using an input device; obtaining admission ticket information about an admission ticket from admission tickets storage media; and causing an admission ticket dispenser to print and dispense an admission ticket to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

[0027] A customer-operated ordering system may allow a customer to select and consummate a sale himself.

[0028] The system may include a processing system configured to communicate with an input device, an output device, an admission ticket dispenser, admission ticket information storage media and product information storage media; obtain product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system from the product information storage media; provide the obtained product information to the customer thorough the output device; consummate a sale of the product to the customer using the input device; obtain admission ticket information about an admission ticket from the admission tickets storage media; and cause the admission ticket dispenser to print and dispense an admission ticket to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

[0029] A customer-operated ordering system may allow a customer to select and consummate a sale himself.

[0030] The system may include a processing system configured to obtain product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system; provide the obtained product information to the customer; obtain admission ticket information about an admission ticket; and cause an admission ticket to print and dispense to the customer based on the obtained admission ticket information.

[0031] A customer-operated ordering system may include a processing system configured to provide product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system to the customer; and cause an admission ticket to print and dispense to the customer.

[0032] A customer-operated ordering process implemented by a customer-operated ordering system may include providing product information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system to the customer; and causing an admission ticket to print and dispense to the customer.

[0033] A customer-operated ordering system may include a display; an admission ticket dispenser; and a processor configured to cause the display to provide information about a product not dispensed by the customer-operated ordering system and for causing the admission ticket dispenser to dispense an admission ticket.

[0034] These as well as still further features, benefits and objects will now become clear upon an examination of the following detailed description of illustrative embodiments and the attached drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0035] FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a customer-operated ordering system including an admission ticket dispenser.

[0036] FIG. 2 is a schema for admission ticket information data that may be stored in the admission ticket information storage media shown in FIG. 1.

[0037] FIG. 3 is a schema for customer profile data that may be stored in the customer profile storage media shown in FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE ILLUSTRATIVE EMBODIMENTS

[0038] FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a customer-operated ordering system including an admission ticket dispenser.

[0039] As shown in FIG. 1, the customer-operated ordering system may include an input device 101, an output device 103, an admission ticket dispenser 105, product information storage media 107, admission ticket information storage media 109 and customer profile storage media 111. All of these subsystems may be in communication with a processing system 113.

[0040] The input device 101 may include a touch screen, keyboard, mouse, panel buttons, joystick, card reader, proximity detector, TV-type remote control, RFID tag reader, microphone, or any other type of known or hereinafter invented input device, as well as any combination of such devices. The input device 101 may also include a wired or wireless connection to a remote input device, such as a laptop, mobile phone or PDA. The input device 101 may be configured to be operated by the customer as the customer selects and consummates a sale.

[0041] The output device 103 may include a display and/or a sound transducer. The output device may be configured such that the customer may directly view the display and/or hear the sound.

[0042] The display may operate in the graphics mode and may include an electroluminous display, such as a CRT, plasma display, LCD or even LEDs. The display may also include a front or rear projector.

[0043] The sound transducer may include a loudspeaker or headphones.

[0044] The output device 103 may also include a remote connection to a remote output device, such as a wired or wireless connection to a laptop or cellular device. The output device 103 may also include any other type of known or later invented output device, as well as any combination of such devices.

[0045] The admission ticket dispenser 105 may include a mechanism that dispenses admission tickets. It may be configured to print one or more admission tickets and to be positioned in such a manner that the customer can readily receive and take these tickets.

[0046] The admission ticket dispenser 105 could include more than one dispensing mechanism.

[0047] The admission ticket dispenser 105 could be a generic device, such as a generic printer. It could also be a remote printer connected wirelessly or at least remotely from the processing system 113.

[0048] The admission ticket that is dispensed by the admission ticket dispenser may include a code. This code may later be inputted by the customer into another device to gain admission.

[0049] The admission ticket dispenser may dispense the admission ticket as an electronic signal to the customer. For example, the admission ticket dispenser could send the admission ticket over an infrared beam to an infrared beam reader that is carried by the customer. Low frequency electromagnetic radiation may also or instead be used. The electronic signal may include a code.

[0050] The product information storage media 107 may contain various kinds of product information. It may contain product information of potential interest to the customer. It may contain product information about products that are available for purchase by the customer through the customer-operated ordering system. Although these products may be ordered through the customer-operated ordering system, they may not be delivered by the system. Instead, they may be delivered through another mechanism, such as by a clerk in the business at which the customer-operated ordering system is located, or by a carrier, such as the United States Postal Service. The product information may include graphics files that depict the products, pricing information and other presentation materials. Collectively, these materials may be presented to the customer in an attention-getting and keeping manner so as to maintain the customer's attention and interest throughout the selection and consummation process. To accomplish this, the presentation may also be amusing and entertaining.

[0051] The admission ticket information storage media 109 may contain information about admission tickets that may be dispensed to the customer by the admission ticket dispenser 105.

[0052] FIG. 2 is a schema for admission ticket information data that may be stored in the admission ticket information storage media 109 shown in FIG. 1. As shown in FIG. 2, the admission ticket information data may include a description of Event field 201, a Date of event field 203, a Time of event field 205, a Venue of event field 207 and one or more Price of event fields 209.

[0053] If desired, several different types of prices may be provided, including a Regular Price field 211, a Class 1 Price field 213 and a Class 2 Price field 215. The “Class” price fields are arbitrarily named to reflect groupings that can have any defined meaning or purpose. Other field names, or additional or fewer fields, could also be used.

[0054] The use of different price fields can allow the customer-operated ordering system to offer the same ticket at different prices to different customers for different reasons.

[0055] For example, the price of the ticket that is offered to the customer may be a function of the profile of the customer.

[0056] FIG. 3 is a schema for customer profile data that may be stored in the customer profile storage media 111 shown in FIG. 1. As shown in FIG. 3, the customer profile data may include a Customer ID field 301 and one or more profiles fields 303. In the example shown in FIG. 3, the Profiles fields 303 include a Prior Purchases field 305, a Prior Contact with Merchant field 307, a Prior Contacts with Third Party field 309, a field 313 for additional information, and one or more Demographics fields 311.

[0057] The Customer ID field 301 may be any of the well-known types, as well as any new types that are later invented. In FIG. 3, the Customer ID field 301 is shown as simply the name of the customer, such as John Doe in a record 315. Of course, it is to be understood that other forms of ID could be used, such as a customer code.

[0058] The Prior Purchases field 305 may signify the number of purchases that the customer previously made, such as the “7” indicated in record 315. The Prior Purchases field 305 may also or instead specify information concerning the identity, types and/or sales prices of products or services that were previously purchased, as well as the total number of prior purchases and/or the total dollar volume of prior purchases.

[0059] The Prior Contacts With Merchant field 307 may indicate the number of contacts that the customer previously had with the merchant, such as the “10” indicated in record 315. These could be a tally of personal visits, phone calls, etc.

[0060] The Prior Contacts With Third Party field 309 may be used to track contacts that the customer may have had with a third party merchant, such as the “8” indicated in record 315, or the status held by the customer within a loyalty or rewards program operated by a person other than the merchant This information can later be used as part of a cross-selling or cross-promotional campaign.

[0061] The Customer Profile field 303 may also include one or more Demographics fields 311 about the customer, such as the “72 years old” entry in record 315. Of course, other demographics, such as residence location, sex or marital status could also be used.

[0062] Other customer profile information could also be stored in record 315 in connection with remaining field 313.

[0063] The customer profiles that are stored in the customer profile storage media 111 can contain as many or as few fields of information as are desired. Although often discussed in the singular above, each of the fields discussed above could, in fact, be representative of several fields. A lesser or greater number of fields could also be used.

[0064] Referring back to FIG. 2, illustrative ticket information records 221 and 223 are shown. As can be seen from record 221, one of the prices 209, in this case the Class 2 Price field 215, may be $0, indicating that the admission ticket should be provided to the customer without charge.

[0065] Although not shown, it is also possible that the customer profile or other information may control not only the price of the admission tickets, but the selection of the admission tickets that are offered to the customer. Indeed, the customer profile or other information could dictate that only a single admission ticket be offered to the customer or, in certain circumstances, that no admission ticket be offered.

[0066] The processing system 113 may consist of a single microprocessor or several microprocessors. It may include associated interface, memory and communication devices. It may include one or more partial or complete computer and/or network systems. It may include both hardware and software, all in accordance with well-known design techniques.

[0067] In one mode of operation, the processing system 113 may obtain product information from the product information storage media 107 and deliver this over the output device 103 for the customer to consider. Using the input device 101, the customer may then select one or more products to be purchased. The processing system 113 may communicate this information to a delivery department so that the purchased products or services can be delivered to the customer.

[0068] As part of a customer rewards and/or loyalty program, or as a cross-marketing effort, the processing system 113 may be configured to communicate over the output device 103 the availability of one or more admission tickets that the customer may also obtain and receive immediate delivery of from the admission ticket dispenser 105. The processing system 113 may access the admission ticket information from the admission ticket information storage media 109 in order to accomplish this task. In turn, the processing system 113 may present the admission ticket information to the customer over the output device 103. The customer may then select the desired admission tickets using the input device 101. In turn, the processing system 113 may then cause the selected tickets to be printed by the admission ticket dispenser 105. The customer would then take these admission tickets for use.

[0069] It is to be understood that all of the admission ticket information may not be stored locally. In some situations, for example, the customer-operated ordering system will need to send a query to a remote system to obtain some or all portions of the admission ticket information. In some situations, these remote locations may include computer systems that independently dispense or provide admission ticket information about one or more particular venues.

[0070] In this configuration, the admission ticket information that is stored locally may include communication contact information to enable the customer-operated ordering system to know where to look and to send its queries for the remote admission ticket information.

[0071] By way of clarification, the admission ticket information storage media 109 is intended to embrace admission ticket information that is stored locally and remotely, as well as the communication information that may be needed to point the customer-operated ordering system to remote locations for information that is stored remotely.

[0072] In some situations, the processing system 113 may obtain the identity of the customer that is using the input device 101 and the output device 103. It may do this through information that is supplied by the input device 101.

[0073] For example, a customer might type in his name or customer number on a keyboard that is part of the input device 101. The customer may also or instead insert a card into a card reader that is part of the input device 101 that contains customer-identifying information. The customer may also or instead carry some other type of identifying information that the input device 101 can detect, such as an RFID tag. If needed in the particular application, the processing system 113 may first deliver a message to the customer through the output device 103, alerting the customer of the need to enter identifying information in the input device 101.

[0074] The processing system 113 in this configuration may next query the customer profile storage media 111 to locate a customer profile that matches the customer that has been identified.

[0075] If no matching profile is located, the processing system 113 may direct that the customer be given the “Regular” prices from the admission ticket information storage media 109. It may instead or in addition send a message to customer over the output device 103 asking the customer to enter desired profile information into the input device 101.

[0076] If the processing system 113 does locate a matching profile in the customer profile storage media 111, it may extract that profile and, based on one or more rules and/or information in the customer profiles data and/or the admission ticket information data, calculate the price of the ticket(s) that is/are offered to the customer and/or select the price from one of the class fields in the admission ticket information.

[0077] The processing system 113 may then offer the tickets to the customer over the output device 103 and, upon receiving acceptance over the input device 101, cause the admission ticket dispenser 105 to print and deliver the ticket(s) to the customer. Of course, the processing system 113 may also automatically cause the admission ticket dispenser 105 to dispense one or more tickets to the customer at any time during the transaction with the customer. It may charge the customer or not charge the customer for these dispensed tickets in accordance with pre-programmed criteria.

[0078] The customer-operated ordering system may allow the customer to select and consummate a sale of one or more products and/or services. The products may include retail products, such as fast food items.

[0079] The products or services may be ones that are provided by the merchant at whose location the customer-operated ordering system is located. It may also be products or services from a third-party merchant, i.e., not the merchant at whose location the customer-operated ordering system is present.

[0080] All or some of the components of the customer-operated ordering system may be in a stand-alone kiosk or may be part of another structure, such as an order desk. The kiosk and/or other components may, as indicated, be located on the premises of the merchant that is selling the products or services. It may be at a public location, as part of a drive-through, at a concession stand, at a public transportation stop, at a ticketed venue or at any other location.

[0081] The product information storage media 107, admission ticket information storage media 109 and customer profile storage media 111 may include magnetic media, such as hard disk and floppies, optical media, such as CDs or DVDs, or electronic media, such as a ROM or memory stick. Each media could be a single device or multiple devices. All of the various storage media could be a single storage media, large enough to hold all of the various information that is needed. Each media could also be any other type of storage device now known or later developed, or any combination of these.

[0082] Each storage media may be configured to be loaded and updated locally and/or remotely.

[0083] The customer-operated ordering system may also be part of a larger enterprise that may contain several customer-operated ordering systems. These systems may be dispersed at different locations of the enterprise and managed locally, regionally and/or from a home office. The information that is placed in the product information, admission ticket information and customer profile storage media 107, 109 and 111, respectively, may originate locally at the merchant or other organization on whose premises the customer-operated ordering system is present, or may originate remotely from a regional or main office, or may originate at one location and be modified or updated by a system at a different location.

[0084] The customer-operated ordering system may also be integrated as an add-on to a business's existing point-of-sale computer system. Through appropriate and known database communication techniques, existing databases can be used as a source of at least some of the data in the product information, admission ticket information and/or customer profile storage media 107, 109 and 111, respectively. All or some of the components of the customer-operated ordering system may be shared with the existing system into which the customer-operated ordering system is integrated. All that might need to be added is appropriate software, data and, perhaps, the input device 101, the output device 103 and the admission ticket dispenser 105.

[0085] Although having referred to admission tickets, it is to be understood that the admission ticket dispenser 105 could dispense other forms of tickets. It could also, or in conjunction with other devices, print and deliver promotional messages.

[0086] The customer-operated ordering system may have a broad variety of other components and/or functions. For example, the system may include a payment acceptance device that would accept payment and/or a cash dispenser that would dispense cash (including change), all as needed in connection with the transaction. The ordering system could also be multilingual and function with different currencies, the particular one of which might be selected by the customer. The ordering system might also operate in real-time, meaning that the output the customer receives at the output device 103 would follow very quickly the input that the customer might deliver to the input device 101.

[0087] Other embodiments and further details about customer-operated ordering systems are set forth in the patent applications that are identified in the “Cross-Reference to Related Applications” section of this application. Each of these represents further variations of the customer-operated ordering system of this application and all are incorporated herein by reference as though fully set forth.

[0088] The descriptions that have now been provided are of illustrative embodiments and should enable a person of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the technology that is set forth in the claims below without undue experimentation. Numerous modifications to these embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the principles set forth in this discussion may be applied to other embodiments, all without departing from the spirit or scope of the technology that is set forth and covered by the claims below.