Friday, October 30, 2009

Customer Point of View, #1

What's With Those #%$&@ Receipts?!

There's a trend you may have noticed over the past couple years when ending a retail shopping experience: mile-long sales receipts.

I think it first started with the automatically-generated coupons at grocery stores. Now this, I can somewhat understand and support. The coupons created by this system relate, at least remotely, to my purchases: if I bought a large container of vanilla yogurt, I might receive $1 off my next purchase of a different brand of yogurt, etc.

What does get my goat [is that phrase used anymore?], however, is a foot-long receipt with all kinds of useless, store-centered junk on it. This descriptor -- "foot long" -- is no exaggeration for a receipt I recently received at Staples:

A quick inventory of the information provided in this marathon receipt:

- Store name/logo
- Tag line
- Address/phone
- Date/time
- Customer satisfaction survey solicitation
- Product purchase info
+ Another 2.6 inches of plugs, promos, and bar code

Here's another example, this time from Borders.

[A BRIEF ASIDE: I know, I know. An earlier blog post -- specifically about an extremely disappointing experience at a local Borders -- stated that I would not go back. Ever. I've held true to this vow, having not returned to that specific store. In fact, this pile-o-receipts comes from another Borders; and the shopping was on behalf of my daughter. I still avoid Borders when possible. This next example supports that feeling.]

Borders bookstore, rather than presenting lengthy receipts, prefers a small pile of receipt paper:

Here, the breakdown is a little more clear:
- One receipt slip for, well, the receipt
- Another for their version of the customer sat. survey
- And a third devoted to a product and in-store promo

I see what the retailers are trying to do with these. Receipt paper is cheap, and each inch provides a fresh surface for a marketing message.

But have they ever considered how it feels to a customer?

1. They're Tedious
These receipts, once folded, become an annoying pile of paper, stretching a wallet to its limits. Also think about this point in the transaction: we're putting away our wallet, credit or debit card, checkbook, whatever. We're also thinking about the logistics ahead -- grabbing our bags/cart, finding the car keys, etc., and they hand over this long paper banner that requires folding, tucking away, stuffing into a bag or wallet. AND you want me to complete an online survey?!! Feels like a hassle to me.

2. They're Wasteful
In an era when we are becoming "green" conscious, giving a foot-long receipt -- when a 4-inch one will do -- is excessive. Whenever possible, I give any unnecessary pieces or portions back to the cashier. Whether they listen or not, consider this my tiny protest.

3. They're Self-Centered
Nearly always, the messaging crammed into these narrow lengths of thermal paper is all about the store/brand and has nothing -- absolutely nothing -- to do with the customer.

4. They're Remembered
Handing a receipt to a customer is typically the last human act that happens to us before leaving the store. Is that hassle outlined above how the store/brand wants to be remembered?


Buried in the ginormous Staples receipt was this simple message, written in the shouting language of ALL CAPS:


That, alone, would have been nice.

For more insight on this phenomenon, check out these resources:

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

Toothpaste Purchase Results In 3-foot Long Receipt
The Consumerist
[Gotta love their doggy measurement standard...]

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