Coupons can be a great way to save money, but the hassle of clipping and transporting coupons is sometimes useless when a coupon is lost or forgotten at home.
Fresno State alumnus Adrian Rodriguez and his two business partners decided to eliminate that problem by creating their business, PayShrink LLC. The business provides consumers with free cell phone access to coupons by text message or through the PayShrink website for phones with Internet access.
But, for customers who prefer the traditional way of using coupons, the company provides coupon books and allows the coupons to be printed from the PayShrink website.
“The printed coupons are just like any coupon you’ve seen before, where you clip it and bring it in,” Rodriguez said. “But because we also have virtual coupons, shoppers don’t have to clip coupons at all. They can just register at PayShrink for free, activate their phone and start getting discounts.”
Rodriguez graduated from Fresno State in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication and journalism. He said Fresno State is a great school with many smart and talented instructors.
While at Fresno State, Rodriguez was an editor for The Collegian. Later, he worked on The Business Journal, a weekly publication in downtown Fresno. Rodriguez said he covered stories about technology, manufacturing and entrepreneurship, which have influenced the way he is shaping his business.
“All of the stories that I covered as a business reporter at Fresno State contributed a lot to what I think about my own business and how it should develop,” he said.
Rodriguez said the company has been in development since June 2009, and is just launching this month. He said the name PayShrink was chosen because it reduces the cost of what consumers purchase.
“You use PayShrink to shrink what you pay for local products and services,” Rodriguez said.
The three business partners have another company, Particle Media Group, which they started in January 2009. The company designs websites and makes coupon books for other businesses.
Rodriguez said the idea for the PayShrink business sprung from a combination of the three partners’ skills, and from their experience with producing and designing for other companies.
“It was a natural progression to see how we could merge the power of technology with their design and print experience,” Rodriguez said.
Frank Sanchez, a founding partner and the graphic designer for the company, creates the coupons and coupon books.
“I pretty much handle any of the design aspects of the company,” Sanchez said.
He said his experience with designing other companies’ websites and coupons helped him decide what would work best for PayShrink. He noticed where other companies’ designs fell short, and worked to correct them.
“We want to go the extra mile to try to make it user friendly,” Sanchez said. “We want to make it possible for customers to get coupons in all forms.”
PayShrink customers can access and use the coupons in four ways, Rodriguez said. They can clip coupons from complimentary coupon books that the company distributes to homes in the Fresno area and puts in participating businesses. The coupons can also be accessed online and printed from home.
If customers would rather not carry their coupons around, they can access them with their cell phone in two ways. People with smartphones can use the coupons directly from the website. Customers can also receive the coupons by sending SMS text messages to the company’s designated phone number. Rodriguez said standard text messaging rates apply.
Rodriguez said the ability to access coupons from the website or to have them sent as a text message eliminates the problem of forgetting a coupon at home, because they are always available as long as customers don’t forget their phones.
He said businesses have the ability to decide how often a coupon can be used, and what deal they want to offer. Businesses can set discounts to be available daily, weekly or monthly, and can change the offered discount at any time.
Each merchant can display up to five discounts, and the coupons work at every store if a business has multiple locations.
Each customer has a special code, so merchants will know when a customer has used their coupon and if the coupon is valid to prevent customers from abusing the system, Rodriguez said. The coupons expire the day they are printed or received as a text message on a cell phone.
“This is all done through a time-stamped discount code that is unique for every single coupon retrieved by every user,” Rodriguez said. “Merchants have a way to know that it’s not going to be overused.”
Rodriguez said the company is able to provide consumers with free coupons, because store owners and businesses pay to offer coupons through PayShrink. He said the company does not give merchants any of the coupon users’ personal information, and does not send out text messages for random coupons.
“We don’t send you anything you don’t specifically request,” he said.
Rodriguez said the company is focusing on providing coupons in the Fresno State area, because college students are more likely to want to save money, and to be able to effectively use the technological services.
“Because we know the technological twist my be jarring for anyone not accustomed to web services, we are figuring that students of all ages at Fresno State would like to use this great service,” he said.
Civil engineering major Jeff Johnson said he uses coupons any chance he gets, but he does not think the cell phone access to coupons would benefit him.
“It could be useful for somebody else, but for me, not really,” he said. “I don’t really use my cell phone except for emergency purposes.”
But, he said the idea to access coupons from a cell phone is beneficial, because print coupons are not as readily available.
“Sometimes they can get lost in a wallet or could be somewhere else,” Johnson said.
He said he liked that the coupons were mostly from businesses around Fresno State.
“It would be very useful considering that the rise of tuition has been going crazy lately,” Johnson said.
Liberal studies major Shelby Batrich also uses coupons often. She said they are a great way to lessen her financial burdens, but she does not always remember to take her coupons when she goes shopping.
“Everything’s tight right now with the economy, so anywhere you can save helps,” she said. “A lot of times if I have a coupon, I usually put in on my desk so I remember to take it, and then I always forget it. So, it’s kind of useless.”
Batrich said the PayShrink idea to send coupons directly to cell phones is a great, new way to save money.
“I think that would be really helpful,” Batrich said. “Almost everyone has cell phones now, and a lot of people use text messaging or access the Internet on their phones.”
She said she liked that many of the businesses currently offering coupons are around Fresno State, because it can provide students with a cheaper meal.
“That would be helpful if you are on campus and run off to get something to eat,” she said.
She said the main set back is that customers do not always use coupons when they are available.
“A lot of people don’t use coupons even if they have them,” she said.
Stephen Gamboa, the third founding partner of PayShrink, said he handles the customer service for the company.
He said businesses that provide coupons through PayShrink can choose different levels of designs for their coupons and business page on the website. They can have just the business’ logo or create a custom design that appears on the coupons and the website. Businesses can also have photographs of their products online.
Gamboa said the company worked to make the PayShrink website user friendly and encouraged businesses to provide enticing deals to customers, so people would use the coupons.
“People are still looking for deals at the places that they want to go,” Gamboa said. “It’s just a matter of having an easy-to-use system and giving people coupons that they want.”
He said other companies provide similar services, but only focus on one aspect, either the print coupons or the online coupons. Gamboa said the combination of online, print and cell phone coupons makes PayShrink unique.
“There are companies that are similar to what we do, but they don’t encompass all that we offer,” Gamboa said.
Some businesses that are offering coupons through PayShrink include Tacos Marquitos, Deli Delicious and The Geeks Computer Service.