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Valpak coupons: When Passbook finally clicked for me

Like any new tech, Passbook took a few stumbles when it was born unto the world. I thought the only card I'd be using was the Starbucks pass, but I soon found frustration that it didn't work yet. Target's generic coupon offering wasn't very enticing, and Walgreen's Balance rewards card, while nice, wasn't exactly a compelling offering or a "gee whiz" moment. Delta has yet to integrate Passbook into its app. Then, after three years as a single dad trying to get into the coupon habit, I started using coupons again thanks to Passbook.

Valpak's app was recently updated to use Passbook. Instead of adding hundreds of coupons to your Passbook (sort of the virtual replication of what happens when you get Valpak's mailers), you are instead taken through a list of coupons that might be relevant to you. Signup was easy, by the way. Once I found the coupons I wanted, it was easy to add them to Passbook.

I should note that Valpak has had a lot of lead time in creating deals for its customers. They are famous for the blue envelopes with coupons bursting out of them. They have spent years building relationships with merchants to bring you deals. I was astounded at how many were available around me, and I live in a small city.

One night last week I took my son out for pizza and across the four-lane highway sat a Firestone. I happened to need an oil change and had added a coupon for this from the Valpak app to Passbook. As we sat waiting for service I noticed the notification: my coupon was valid for the shop across the road.

I might never have gone to that place for an oil change. I'd never been there before, although I'd shopped nearby. Not only that, but the coupon for the oil change is a great deal and I'll be using the Valpak app regularly.

With Passbook, Apple has created a sort of commercial hub of simplicity. I am getting offers I want, delivered where I want. In the case above, I didn't go immediately to get my oil changed, but my coupon doesn't expire for a few weeks yet, and I certainly plan to. That's significant. Getting consumers to change behaviors is incredibly hard.

Thus far, Passbook is shaping up to be far better than the mere payment system NFC proponents suggested it could be. This is a strength of Apple people discount time and again. Its ability to "predict the future by inventing it" (paraphrasing Alan Kay) is its core competency. As a customer, it means I'm able to do things I wasn't easily able to do before.

Passbook and Valpak's app saved me a ton of time clipping coupons, and real money by providing my addled brain with location-aware reminders. Even if you've never used a coupon in your life, try the Valpak app on iOS 6 and see if it doesn't save you money.