Think along with me. Think about the similarities between coupon clearing, scan-downs and frequent-shopper instant discounts. Question: How will they all function in the near future? Let's start with coupons, and electronic coupon clearing. Coupons ae scanned and validated at store level, and the scan systems keep track of each coupon. Information used for payment (scan data on the number of coupons redeemed) is electronically transmitted to manufacturers (sometimes via a third party), and manufacturers pay via electronic funds transfer. Now let's think about scan-downs. They are being used instead of off-invoice allowances. Rather than the old $2 per case if retailers buy between July 1 and Aug. 15, manufacturers pay based on sales of products at a reduced price within a shorter time frame. Scan-downs are similar to the old "count and recount" methods of determining how much of specific products were sold in a given period of time. Allowances are paid based on the number of units sold, rather than the number of units purchased. Information used for payment (scan data on how many discounts were given) is electronically transmitted to manufacturers (sometimes via a third party) and manufacturers pay via electronic funds transfer. Now let's look at instant electronic discounts associated with frequent-shopper programs. These are discounts automatically subtracted from the orders of consumers who show their frequent-shopper cards in supermarkets offering these programs. Information used for payment (scan data on the number of discounts given) is electronically transmitted to manufacturers (sometimes via a third party), manufacturers pay via electronic funds transfer. Are these three things as closely related as they appear to be? I think they are. Are they all just different versions of coupons. Or are they all versions of trade allowances? Or are they all versions of frequent-shopper instant discounts? Maybe it's logical that the third parties involved in each one should be involved in all. Maybe the vendors that provide scan-downs should start doing electronic coupon clearing and passing along frequent shopper data. Maybe companies that are doing electronic coupon clearing should include scan-downs and frequent-shopper discounts in their product offerings. Or frequent-shopper companies should take on electronic coupon clearing and scan-downs. And what about the issues associated with these functions? Some of these topics are information quality, security aspects of the systems and data ownership. The issues are really all the same for all these applications, as well. If they are as similar as I think, maybe the individual at the manufacturer location who receives data about electronically cleared coupons should also be the individual who keeps track and pays for scan-downs, and the one who pays for frequent-shopper instant discounts. This would be a coupon-trade promotion-brand marketing type all rolled into one. It's an interesting thought. With the current emphasis on downsizing, consolidation and simplification of business practices, maybe these things should all be one person's job.