Keep Your Damn Receipt!

They say a pun is the lowest form of humor. Analogously, a rant may be the lowest form of blogpost. But we love both from time to time.

The other day I bought a salad at a health club (overpriced at $7.50). The pre-packed kind, in a plastic container with a tiny plastic cup of dressing inside. They sell sandwiches and water and chips—it’s a small place run by a concessionaire.

I gave the lady a twenty. She gave me back change—a few coins, and several bills—with the receipt neatly held together with the bills.

So here’s my little rant. I hate those gratuitous little receipts. I mean, a salad?

“I don’t need the receipt,” I said, making a bit of a show of peeling off the receipt and handing it back to her.

That’s when she upped the ante. “The wastebasket is right over there,” she sniffed, pointing behind me as she withdrew her hands from the proffered receipt. Which of course just ticked me off more.

“I’m sure there’s a wastebasket on your side too,” was my (oh-so clever!) retort as I turned and left the receipt on the counter.

Now, maybe I could use a good “get over it” lecture. Fair enough. Still…

What is it with dinky purchases and receipts?

If I’m buying a computer, furniture, office supplies—I get it. The tab for six at a business lunch, the week’s grocery shopping, hardware—I get it.

But a Hershey bar at the airport bookstore? A coffee at Starbucks? A bag of chips or a magazine at a chain pharmacy? Like I’m going return it? Or put it on an expense account?  My tax return?

Am I the only one that thinks it annoying to get a receipt for every little purchase?

Here’s what I suspect.

• I suspect it’s largely the bigger, chain stores that are guilty of this.

• I suspect this is the same crowd that brought us “Your message is very important to us…”

• I suspect some programmer suggested it ages ago, something like, “now that we’ve got the inventory replenishment process linked to the POS system, you know what else we could do—like, for free?”

• I suspect some “customer service analyst” thought, “If the customer has to ask for a receipt, that’s annoying to the customer—but hey if we just give it to everyone without being asked…”

• I suspect the higher-up that approved this nonsense thought, “Hey, if we give one to everyone, then no one can ever blame us, and we don’t have to allow our brainless frontline staff to make any decisions at all. It’s a total win!”

That’s what I suspect, anyway. How about you?


12 replies
  1. Beth Robinson
    Beth Robinson says:

    You’re right that the cashier should have just taken it back and thrown it away herself. Personally, I use all those little receipts to keep track of my personal expenses, since even the little things add up.

  2. Judith Lutzy
    Judith Lutzy says:

    I disagree with you about receipts. For many people keeping a receipt is the only way they can keep track of or manage their cash flow. Many small purchases can add up to big dollars and create a cash flow issue for someone trying to keep track of what they are doing with their cash. Being able to either add up their receipts or keep a daily journal of their spending helps many people learn to limit their discretionary spending.

    Also, many people, even with small expenditures, use a credit card and having a receipt makes it much easier to track their credit card expenditures.

    It would probably be better if the cashiers were trained to ask if you wanted a receipt which does happen in some establishments. When you say no they just throw it away at the register.

    I think this is probably your own personal rant and is not really very important to most people. If they don’t want the receipt they just pitch it!


  3. Anne
    Anne says:

    Why do you think it has anything to do with the customer?  In many stores, the reason for ensuring that a receipt is given is to make sure that the sale is fully recorded on the till, to stop employee theft from the till by underrecording sales (by not totalling out properly) and pocketing the cash.  I may be unduly cycnical, but nonetheless that’s the explanation I’ve heard from various retailers.

  4. barbara garabedian
    barbara garabedian says:

    Years ago some retailers found it easier to give a receipt to all w/ the change rather than per customer request. It was easier than ripping off an individual portion when all the slips were one a continuous tape. It started in airports (hence the business receipt comments) and moved on from there.

    Know what I hate more than the little receipt?? Having the cashier hand me my change in a clump & coin) plus/the receipt in my hand! Some analyst somewhere probably determined that its easier/faster insteading of training the cashier. It’s irritating as hell because I’m juggling it all plus feeling compelled to move along (based upon the size of the line behind me) but I want to count it to be sure it is correct change and validate that the receipt is accurate (especially in grocery store scanners – notoriously poor for not acknowledging advertised specials ).

    Not to mention, they also do it because most cashiers today don’t know how to count out change appropriately. Ever try to provide the cashier w/ some coin after they ring up what you offered?

  5. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    I’ll have to agree with Anne.  The customer is in the best position to prevent employee theft from overcharging or shortchanging.

  6. Stewart Hirsch
    Stewart Hirsch says:

    I agree with all the reasons suggested.  However, these reasons do not excuse the behavior of your sales clerk.  Interestingly,  I almost always get asked in airports and convenience stores if I want the receipt and I almost always say no.  Just happened again today.

  7. Michael Holt
    Michael Holt says:

    Apart from being too busy (or lazy), you’ve just given me another reason not to have my own blog.  Boy, I’d end up with more rants just like this.  I like to think I’m pretty easy going, but there are quite often things that irk me, and if I need to file copy regularly, I’m sure these things would get a regular airing.

    But hey, since you started it, it gets me is that sales clerks  often pour the coins into my hand on top of the receipt.  Sometimes with notes underneath.  So, its a neat package for them.  But then, I have to separate notes (into the wallet), the coins (into the pocket) and the receipt… umm… (discard it there, look for a bin etc). As well as juggling the purchase. ts all very inconvenient.

    Still rather that than having a nearby army blowing up my street and killing my kids.



  8. Charlie (Green)
    Charlie (Green) says:

    Well–that was interesting!

    Though Andrea said it the nicest, the most common comment was basically "get over yourself."  My Significant Other even said, "that’s the dumbest blogpost you’ve written."  Gee, thanks hon.  Well at least she’s honest.

    Three of you even wrote very nice, careful private emails to me, I think to diminish the risk of publicly embarrassing me by staying, basically, Charlie, You … May … Have … Issues.

    Barbara alone apparently agrees with me.  The bad news is, Barbara, You … May … Have … Issues. 

    A minor quibble with Kevin and Anne: if the customer has been put in charge of monitoring the honesty of the cashiers, how is that different from Bernie Madoff saying, ‘hey, you got all the reports, if you didn’t see anything wrong, don’t blame me, you had the data!"  Which, by the way, is the stated position of many — not all — financial planners.

    But the final word is appropriately Michael’s; I’ve got better things to post about than minor neurotic rants, and you’ve certainly got better things to read. 

    Play time over.  Thanks all for the coaching, I’m feeling much better now.


  9. Jeremy
    Jeremy says:

    I could not agree more.  This is pointless.  The time has come for companies to start thinking differently.  Not only about the little receipts but most receipts.  Give me the option of if and how I receive it. 

    I added my $.02 to this rant on my blog:

    I think that the technology exists for us to start thinking differently.

    Thanks for the post.


  10. Jim Monk
    Jim Monk says:

    Anne said it first and correctly:  those receipts are part of the, shall we call it, trust process in a retail environment.  If bartenders have to give a receipt for each drink, there’s less opportunity for the barkeep to skim profits.  If the airport clerk has to hand over a receipt for each sale, then reductions in inventory beyond what the receipts show will indicate how much shoplifting is occuring.  I’ve seen plenty of places that have signs saying "No receipt, you get something free." as a method to include the customer in the control process.  It’s a slight loss of personal freedom to help control urges to be not so honest.  We all need to do our part — get over it.


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