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    Gerlands' Offers Amazon.com Gift Certificates Through Coinstar Units

    HOUSTON, Texas -- Gerlands here today added a new feature to its Coinstar kiosk that allows shoppers to purchase Amazon.com gift certificates using cash or coins.

    HOUSTON, Texas -- Gerlands here today added a new feature to its Coinstar kiosk that allows shoppers to purchase Amazon.com gift certificates using cash or coins.

    The Amazon.com offering is the latest addition to Coinstar's Coin to Card program, which allows consumers to exchange coins (or cash for those units with cash acceptors) for gift cards redeemable at retailers that besides Amazon, include Starbucks, Pier 1, and Linens & Things. Since Amazon has no brick and mortar stores, customers choosing the Amazon offering will receive a gift receipt printed with a code that can input at the online retailer's site.

    "Amazon.com is the first online retailer to join the program, and I think it's a great choice," Kathy Sweidel-Caton, Gerlands' v.p. of customer service told Progressive Grocer. "With all of the identity theft news you hear about these days, consumers feel more comfortable using prepaid options online."

    Sweidel-Caton, a 29-year veteran of Gerlands, said the company was one of the first Houston supermarkets to deploy Coinstar units. It beta-tested much of the functionality in use today, such as the prepaid MasterCard and prepaid wireless minutes. Before today's full launch, Gerland tested the Amazon offering a several sites.

    Each of these new features adds incremental business, said Sweidel-Caton. "It provides additional services for our current customers, and drives new traffic into the store," she said. "Even those customers who shied away from the Coinstar machines because of the transaction fee, will migrate toward the Coin to Card programs, since there is no transaction fee; [Amazon] takes care of that."

    Just because the consumer doesn't pay a transaction fee, however, doesn't mean the retailer is short-changed. Retailers still get paid on every transaction that takes place at a Coinstar unit.

    Besides Gerland's an independent operator with 15 stores in Texas, more than 120 grocers have signed on to the new program, according to Coinstar.
    --Joseph Tarnowski

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