The New-ish Receipt

Imagine that you're standing at a checkout counter. The cashier is ringing up items left and right. Your items are bagged and ready to go. You take out your credit card, swipe it, put it right back into your wallet, and leave. That's it. You don't sit around and waiting to sign something and you definitely don't have to mash some awkward 3ft receipt into your wallet.

But where's my receipt?

Mock-up Target receipt

It's sitting in your email. Here's the deal. Your credit card company, let's say VISA, probably already knows your email address. If not, they could easily obtain it from you. After that, the store's server compiles a receipt and sends it to VISA's server, which then emails it to you. The store's server saves a copy so that you can return things. It's even possible that VISA's server could do the same thing with the data that they currently receive, without the store having to change a damn thing.

How do you sign?

Why do you need to in the first place? It's not like that ever prevents theft. A card can always be stolen and used because people rarely check IDs. If they're that paranoid, they could require you to swipe your driver's license or ID card. It would also identify credit card fraud far quicker since you'd get emails from every transaction. And since you sign nothing you also leave quicker.

That's really not all that different from how things happen now. You might even think that it'd be easy to implement. In truth, it probably is. The absolutely ridiculous thing is that many stores already keep a digital copy of the transaction, and yet they still give you a receipt! Why are we so reluctant to use the technology available to us?

To be honest, I don't know. It annoys me to no end that these sorts of old-fashioned systems are still in use everywhere. We have the internet. Every card I own could be connected to my driver's license. Even those preferred customer cards could be added to it. 15 years ago I didn't have a cell phone. Now my cell phone can easily access almost all the wealth of human knowledge. And yet, I still need a paper receipt and extra pieces of plastic?

Small steps forward

There's a company out there called allEtronic that allows you to store partial card data with them and those preferred customer cards. The drawback is that the point of sale terminals have to be upgraded to run allEtronic's software. The other drawback is that they send you coupons. Still, it's a step in the right direction. Unfortunately, I haven't seen it anywhere. But I just learned that it existed, so it's quite possible that I've just not noticed. They don't list what retailers have signed on either, but I've seen Target and Best Buy mentioned in some articles.

Apple has implemented their own email receipt system in their retail stores. The downside is that you have to explain your email address to a cashier in order for it to work. I first thought about the basis for this article while visiting an Apple store, shortly after they implemented their system. I imagine that it saves them a lot of money while providing a novel service for their customers.

Money isn't the only thing eliminating receipts would save. According to allEtronic, the following are the yearly stats for receipt production (640,000 tons) in the US alone:

  • 9,600,000 trees
  • 249,600,000 gallons of oil
  • 640,000 cars' yearly production of CO2
  • 1,220,800,000 gallons of water
  • 1,457,920,000 lbs of waste

This isn't about "green"

I don't care whether or not you believe in global warming. The simple fact is that this is a lot of waste for something that doesn't even need to exist anymore. And please don't lump this in with the whole "green" movement. I'm talking about making a change that improves people's lives, while reducing needless waste. I'm not against producing paper. I'm an artist. I'm against producing paper for such a stupid purpose.

Honestly, this should be a top priority for the green movement. Trying to start with recycling and things of that sort is stupid. If you want people to make better, more environmentally sound choices, don't make people completely change their lifestyle. Start small. Make life easier. That's the whole point. Getting rid of receipts saves me time, effort, and space. It saves retailers money and it limits the amount of litter on our planet. That's a win for everyone, regardless of motive.