Start-up to replace all those customer appreciation punchcards gets start on Capitol Hill

I know I’m not the only one with a stack of punchcards

Let’s say you have a job where you don’t have an office, but you need to spend a lot of time on a computer with Internet access. Like, maybe you write a blog or something. Well, then you may very well be drowning in customer appreciation punchcards.

Punchkeeper intends to change that. The brainchild of developer Jon Ohrt and designer Matty Mitchell, Seattle U MBA student Val Trask is forming the concept into a business that has recently launched in beta on the Hill. Po Dog Hot Dogs at 10th and Union is the first — and only –business signed up, but hundreds others have expressed interest, said Trask.

“We wanted to keep it really local with some place funky and fun,” said Trask of the choice to start with Po Dogs. “I’m in love with Capitol Hill, so it’s exciting to start off on the Hill.”

Po Dog, by the way, is a CHS advertiser.

Here’s how Punchkeeper works. Android and iPhone users can download the free Punchkeeper app (WIndows Mobile coming soon, they say). When you make a purchase, the employee at the register will show you a barcode instead of punching your card. Open the Punchkeeper app and scan the barcode with your phone’s camera. Here’s the Android download and here’s the app for iPhone. ( CHS also has an iPhone app — download it herePurple Robot *swears* our Android version is coming soon.)

Barcode censored

The app will give you a digital punch, like this:

That’s it. It takes about as long as punching a card, but the service provides far more information to the participating business. Instead of simply punching a bunch of cards and sending them out into the wind, Punchkeeper can track customer age, gender and whether people are returning after their first punch.

“Our app offers demographic information,” said Trask. Businesses that sign up for the service would pay $25 per month for a basic service or $45 for a premium service that offers more information. The first couple months will be free to try once Punchkeeper expands beyond the initial beta test phase. It will be another week or so until more businesses are added, said Trask. You can recommend a Hill business for the service on the front page of their website.

Punchkeeper is in the final round of a UW business plan competition, and the finalists will be announced at the end of May and receive cash prizes. Whether or not they get a cash prize, Trask is dedicated to moving the project forward and expanding.

“I’m graduating in a month, and I’m not even applying for any other jobs,” she said. “So I’m banking on it.”

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16 thoughts on “Start-up to replace all those customer appreciation punchcards gets start on Capitol Hill

  1. That sounds clunky, and will involve fussing and pointing and things not working right in low light and glare and whatever, all of which will slow everyone down.

    Is this not a perfect application for Bluetooth?

  2. About as long as a punchcard, but yet another business gets to aggregate my demographic data and purchasing history? Sign me up,

  3. +1

    It continues to astound me how readily consumers will surrender scads of personal information for the most trivial of rewards. This behavior while we (myself included) rail against phone books being anonymously delivered is perplexing.

  4. Who wants out of phone book delivery for security reasons? Strange comparison, as both phone books and punch cards are a waste of paper resources, hence the desire to do away with them.

  5. I use my phone to deposit checks up to $10k via the camera, so I assume it can handle getting your 11th latte for free.

  6. I love it – I can never keep my punch-cards in order, and typically have several for each place I go. It’d be great to see this on various platforms – glad to see they’re not just developing for the iPhone.

    If you are worried about your personal data and security then perhaps you just should not download the app? I know, it’s a revolutionary idea. :)

  7. We totally understand your hesitation. Punchkeeper requests age, sex, and zip code from all users – that information is used by your favorite businesses to make important decisions that keep them open and make you happy. For example, based on zip codes they can expand to locations closer to customers who already love them. They stay in business and you don’t have to travel as far for your favorite coffee. That kind of information is largely unavailable for small business owners. While Punchkeeper is available for all companies big or small, it is our intention to level the playing field for the little guy with some inexpensive technology. It’s also meant to make your life easier.

    If you have any other questions or concerns we’d love to hear them:

  8. This is a bright idea, and I will definitely download the iPhone app if this service is affiliated with any of the stores / restaurants that I frequently use. I’m tired of keeping a block of punchcards in my wallet, and this clearly seems like a win.

    The trick will be execution – can the company get a critical mass of stores to participate? I wish their website listed real stores, rather than stating, “Stores to be announced.”

  9. So, if that pattern gets out and emailed around, I could be giving hundreds of free meals away? As a business owner that concerns me. Are there any safeguards against that?

  10. Punchkeeper has several security measures in place to prevent fraudulent punches. For the sake of maintaining that security we cannot share them all. However one of those features is tracking that allows businesses to search for unusually high use among unique users and void surplus punches.

  11. Agree – can’t wait for the Windows phone app! As a frequent visitor to Po Dog, I would use it multiple times per week! Plus, I can’t wait for other businesses to come on board (provided there is WP7 support)