Friday, September 23, 2011

Still Life with Robin: The Long Receipt

by Peggy Robin

I was just at CVS. I was in a big rush, so I skipped the long line for the one person working at the cash register and went straight to the unoccupied self-checkout. Everything I had in my basket was bar-coded -- nothing tricky needing a bit of human intervention, such as a price look-up or a special discount coupon. I had no problem ringing up my own items quickly and efficiently. I didn’t even need a bag. I planned to scoop up everything in the tote I’d brought in and be out the door.

There was just one admittedly minor though annoying delay. I had to wait for my receipt to print. That should have taken all of five seconds, right? Now here’s the goofy part. This long, long, long printing process starts, and I don’t know how many seconds later, I have in my hand a two-foot-long piece of paper. For the number of items I bought, I could have had a two-inch receipt. I was so bemused by this flowing scroll that I decided to take a close look at it the minute I got home. Here’s what I found (and to quote almost any Dave Barry column, I am not making this up):

First 4 inches: The actual receipt for the items purchased. (Only 2.25 inches is needed for the listing of items, the other 1.75 inches being blank space.)

Next 3 inches: Information on the CVS Extra Care card program.

Next inch: Information on the availability flu shots. (CVS, please note: I do not begrudge the one inch of space for this useful purpose.)

Next inch: Blank space.

Next 4.5 inches: A coupon for $2.00 off the purchase of a dental product I don’t like and will never use. It expires in two weeks, in any case.

Next 4.5 inches: A coupon for $2.00 off a brand of deodorant I dislike so much that I wouldn’t take it even if it were free. (I hate the smell of it!)

Next 4.5 inches: A coupon for $3.00 off a type of moisturizer that I actually bought once before but had to throw out after I discovered it had a stinging rather than a soothing effect on my skin.

Final 1.5 inches: Blank space, followed by the words “Self Checkout” in big letters, and then a little more blank space.

Aside from the slight waste of time, there is also the waste of all that paper and ink -- not exactly an environmentally friendly process. I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be better to give the customer the option of a long or short receipt. That is, before your receipt starts to print, the self-checkout screen could show you the coupons that would be on the long receipt, and you could choose print just the ones that were of interest, or select "no coupons." Of course, that would slow things down even more, so I concede it’s likely I would be just as annoyed at the checkout by having to choose my receipt length and coupon preferences.

I wish there were some way to avoid the paper receipt altogether. At the gas pump I generally choose “no receipt.” But then, there’s never a reason to return gasoline. I suppose as long as I want the possibility of bringing back a mistaken purchase, I’ll be collecting long papers with each purchase. So, CVS, you got me; I suppose I will take my two-foot receipts with good grace from here on out.

Unless someone else can come up with a better idea and successfully sell it to CVS. Please feel free to share any thoughts or solutions in the comments section below.

1 comment:

  1. Several stores I've shopped at lately offer the option of an emailed receipt. Old Navy, Vineyard Vines and Apple for example. CVS should start doing this, providing users with the option of printing and/or electronically filing it.