When I tell my friends that I am doing a .com startup, they give me funny looks. Then, when I tell them what it is designed to do, they sit up and take notice.
Well, it wasn’t always that way. When I first came up with the idea behind UseMyBenefits.com, back, believe it or not, prior to 1994 (right- 18 years ago!), I got looks of incomprehension when I told people what I was trying to do. Even though AAA, for example, was well known, people didn’t think the benefits were there. Or, if they were there, they weren’t worth anything. Or, if they were there and they were worth something, no system existed that would put them in one place and make them easy to use. And, if such a system could be developed (far from certain) it would cost millions to develop and operate, and who would pay for it? Crazy, right?
Many people in the industry, either didn’t get it or didn’t want to. They said the whole loyalty program business was built on breakage, anyway , the idea that only a small fraction of people would actually use an offered benefit. Those little discount coupons you got with your Amex bill were only designed to get the name of the vendor in your face. Nobody wanted you to use Ð¡em.
Call me crazy, but I never believed the naysayers. I always believed there should be a place where all of your loyalty program benefits could be aggregated, and organized with a search engine to allow you to actually use your benefits, based on what you wanted to buy, when and where you wanted to buy it, not on what somebody wanted to sell you.
So, how’d I come up with this? Well, during the 1980s and 1990s I was traveling a lot on business. I belonged to various frequent flyer programs. One day I got a book of coupons from an airline. It had offers for upgrades, free or discounted companion travel, lots of others. I looked at the book and said I can use these. I’m going to put this book of coupons in the middle drawer of my desk, so I’ll see it when I open the drawer, and I’m going to use these coupons! I’m not going to forget. I’m going to use these!
Well, many months later, I opened the drawer and there it was: the book of coupons. I hadn’t looked at it even once. When I did look at it, I realized that there were valuable benefits in it that I actually could have used, but were now expired. I said to myself Why isn’t this stuff all on a computer, so that when I get ready to go somewhere, I can put in where I want to go or what I want to do, and the computer will tell me what benefits are available that fit what I want?
That’s exactly how it got started, those many years ago. It’s been quite a journey, but now, it looks as though the system will become a reality, and soon!
Since I am not in the loyalty business, the fear that someone would steal the idea or beat me to it was real. I’ll talk about that in a later blog post.
Thanks for reading. If you’d like to receive updates on our progress toward making it possible for you to actually use the thousands of discounts and other benefits you are entitled to, please enter your email address at www.UseMyBenefits.com.
Please leave us comments or feedback below. We appreciate your input. , Robin Baker, Founder of UseMyBenefits.com.