Why Store Receipts Keep Getting Longer and Longer

Ever run to the drug store for a tube of toothpaste and find that your meager purchase results in a receipt the length of War and Peace? Two-foot long receipts are increasingly common these days, as retailers embrace technologies allowing them to microtarget customers. The colossal waste of paper comes at a cost, not only in felled trees but on man hours spent on changing tape and fixing broken printers.

The Wall Street Journal details the various uses of receipt space and the reasons for the lengthy promos and their widespread popularity.

NCR said redemption rates for coupons printed on receipts can run as high as 3%, about triple the rate of coupons mailed to customers or included in advertising circulars. Retailers “find it’s one of the most effective places to communicate with their customers,” Mr. Bogan said.

There’s that. And then there’s the (totally unfounded) conspiracy theory that longer receipts can’t fit easily into wallets and are are therefore more likely to be lost, preventing returns.

Disgruntled consumers should make sure stores know how they feel about wasted paper. One option, suggested by a commenter on the Wall Street Journal site, is to tear off the promo portion of the receipt, hand it back to the clerk, and politely ask them to give it to the store manager. If you’ve got any other ideas, be sure to leave them in the comments.

Tale of the Tape: Retailers Take Receipts to Great Lengths [Wall Street Journal]

(Photo: Rob Dewhirst)