No Way Out

Is there no escape from the Internet, I wondered, eying a gas pump in Alpharetta, Ga. I was testing a new service urging me to browse Web-delivered coupons while filling the old Camry with unleaded. And it didn't promise me a super premium experience. The coupon-dispensing pumps are a service being tested around Atlanta by San Jose (Calif.) startup Ten Square, which is backed by Chevron (CHV) and British Petroleum. A small monitor offers about 10 coupons per screen. Some things make sense, like Coke promotions. Everyone buys soda at the filling station. But a $100-off deal from an orthodontist? We buy stuff at the gas station to wreck our teeth, not fix them.

Coupon-spouting pumps may hit your neighborhood sooner than you think, and truth be told, they're not too bad. Ten Square already has most major gas chains signed up. I expected to find nothing useful, but on the last screen I found perfection: free popcorn at a local movie theater. If any kernels get stuck in my teeth, I'll know who to call.

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