Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Free Idea: Card Printer

Over 10 years ago, I remember going to a Hallmark store and having a birthday card custom-made on a computer kiosk. That is, I selected the design and then typed what I wanted to appear on the card. The colored design on the card was already printed on a piece of folded paper inside the machine, but it ran the paper through a printer and five short minutes I had in hand, a card with what I chose to write printed in black ink on that shell.

With the advances in technology and laser printing, I have a suggestion. Local Hallmark stores may not like it, but I think the added convenience would mean a lot of money for whoever implemented it first.

Basically, take the technology of the photo printing kiosks that you find in drugstores and marry that with the content of a card company. A compact machine holding varying colors of folded -- but blank -- cardstock. You walk up, select a card design and out it comes. For an extra charge, you can even personalize it like that Hallmark machine from years ago.

An internet connection allows it to constantly be offering new seasonal designs and allows it to "phone home" when it's running low on paper or toner. And it would take debit/credit cards. Maybe all it would take would be debit/credit cards - no cash stored inside the machine that anyone would have to empty.

But if I could sort-of do this years ago at a Hallmark store, how is this really a new and distinct idea? If I can find a vast variety at a Hallmark store or drugstore, what good is a little machine filled with even more designs?

Location, location, location. One, the machines would be installed in places where you can't display racks and racks of cards or don't have the staffing to sell the cards. Namely, every post office in the country for one. Also places like airport florists, regular florists, convenience stores, Home Depot, etc.

It would be simple. For people like me who are overwhelmed trying to buy cards, I could touch "Mother's Day" on the screen and then be able to go through sub-categories like "Top Sellers," "Mother-in-law," "Religious," "Child to Mother," etc., and drill down to where my choices aren't so overwhelming.

I know it would make cards cost more, but I'm at the post office four days a week checking my post office box and I'm at Home Depot at least 3-4 times a month, but I'm rarely at a convenience store or grocery store and certainly not when I'm by myself to buy a card.
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