Recently we came across a piece on TheBigMoney.com that really struck a chord. The article, Death to Receipts by Chadwick Matlin, really gets to the heart of a problem in the U.S. Many people in this country, men in particular and me specifically, have wallets and pockets overflowing with receipts.
These are receipts – from grocery stores, gas stations and ATMs in particular - that we feel compelled to accept yet have no use for. We don’t ever round them all up and check them against our bank accounts or credit card statements (even though we should), and even if we were really on top of our personal accounting game, there’s got to be a better way to provide consumers with a record of their purchases.
Matlin has some sensible suggestions based around the idea that digital copies of receipts should be sent to credit card companies which would host them and make them available online (he doesn’t advocate e-mailing them to consumers though it would be easy enough to store e-mail addresses on the magnetic strips of cards). A reproduction of an actual receipt would in fact be a lot more helpful and useful than just a line item on a credit card bill, particularly when it comes to getting reimbursed for expenses.
One of the problems with this whole idea is that when you get a receipt at the point of sale, you have the opportunity, then and there, to tell the salesperson that the amount is wrong for one reason or another - as if the supermarket accidentally charged you for two boxes of Cheerios (Stock Quote: GIS) instead of one. But if you don’t get the receipt and have the opportunity to review it then and there, and a couple days later check the receipt online, and then find that you’ve been double billed, you’ll have a much harder time getting that problem corrected. How can you prove that you didn’t get two boxes of Cheerios? You could invite a representative of the supermarket to your house to check your supply, but he or she might say that it’s definitely possible to eat an entire box of Cheerios in one day. And he or she would be right.
You get the idea.
Ultimately Matlin agrees that a paperless system would be impractical (read his article to find out why), but it did get us thinking of how great it would be if digital receipts were at least an option. Alas, my wallet will remain deceptively thick.
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