/ Shopping

Do you object to electronic receipts?


Will you be hitting the shops for bank holiday bargains this weekend? If you do make a purchase, would you rather have an old-fashioned paper receipt or do you prefer receiving it via email?

I’m a data refusenik.

I fill out the wrong telephone number in email forms when it isn’t apparent why I should have to divulge it and automatically unsubscribe from the marketing emails that appear in my inbox as soon as I’ve bought something online.

As for the cloud, I’m totally suspicious of what actually happens within it.

Of course, you could say I just need to get with the 21st century.

But imagine my paranoia when, among the Viagra deals and once-in-a-lifetime-million-pound business offers, I started to get loads of emails in my junk folder from certain retailers that I’d only visited the week before.

How could they be watching me? Then it clicked. The magic word: e-receipt.

E for ease?

I had wondered why I was asked for my email address by one retailer when it was only fitting a new bulb in my car. And then I remembered duly giving it to a sales assistant in a jewellery shop because I was in such a rush to get a last-minute present before racing for the train.

Retailers say that e-receipts are more convenient for customers, because having a digital copy means it can’t get lost/washed/wrapped around chewing gum should it be needed for proof or purchase when returning an item. They also say they can also double up as a warranty.

I don’t need a warranty for an £8 necklace. But apparently they need my email address, so they can send me offers I’m not interested in and never knew I was signing up for.

Sharing data

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has reminded retailers of their obligations under data and privacy laws when it comes to e-receipts, and the fact that people have the right to know what happens to their personal data.

But how much do shops share this information with their staff?

I decided to put it to the test and go back into the jewellery shop.

The assistant requested my email address and I asked why. She said (of course) it was so they could send me an e-receipt. I said I’d rather have a normal paper one. She replied that she’d have to open up the other till and ‘we’re trying to save paper’. So I said I could wait, I’d still rather have a paper receipt and that I’d recycle it myself.

I’m not saying it’s the fault of any shop assistants – in fact, I wonder whether collecting email addresses is the modern-day equivalent of getting people to sign up to store cards. Do they work on commission?

But the retailers should make it clear that any information they ask for is backed up with an honest explanation. That way, a shopper can make a clear decision about whether to share their data, and not just be made to feel guilty about trees.

Do you also dislike getting sent receipts on email or do you think they’re preferable because you can’t lose them?


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I have only once been asked for my email when buying in the high street, and that was at Maplins. But we’re often asked if we want a receipt. I wonder if this is a London-centric thing?

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Well, all I can say is that we’re never asked for our email address at any of the shops we visit – and that includes all the major supermarkets.

That’s strange, Duncan. I have had emails from Maplin in the past, but now I just get occasional postal mailing. Maybe I unsubscribed from the emails I had not knowingly subscribed. I was a regular customer in the 1970s when they focused on electronic components and other items of little interest to most people.

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I’m not convinced by the quality of some of their products but I don’t recall any safety recalls of their products, so the buyers are probably more technically minded than some other companies.

I don’t really need Maplin to send me updates or electronic receipts. I know where their website and nearest store are.

I don’t recall ever being asked if I wanted an e-receipt.

I do get asked for my email address sometimes and usually give my secondary/junk email address and say I don’t want 3rd parties to have it. Companies can frequently email discount codes or special offers to be used on-line or in-store, so if it is a company I frequently shop with, can save me money.

You can always say you don’t have/can’t remember/just changing/give false emails or phone numbers if they insist on having them.

I now scan receipts and save them with downloaded manuals for quick reference. I lost quite a few on-line shopping email receipts a few years ago when Outlook took it upon itself to do some housekeeping and I hadn’t backed them up for a while, so lesson learnt, save them as documents and back them up.

I do think it should be a condition of contactless payments that a paper receipt be given, otherwise how can you query invalid payments that might appear on your card.

Scanning and saving the receipts along with the manuals is an excellent idea Alfa. I do keep all the manuals on HD but it had never occurred to keep all the receipts with them.

I also keep any guarantee info there as well. Some companies offer an extended guarantee for a short period, so if that info is available on-line, I do a screen grab and save that as well.

Many paper receipts fade rapidly, so scanning them might be useful for expensive purchases.

Rapid fading is why I started scanning receipts after going through old receipts that had turned into mostly blank paper .

There seems to be something slightly immoral in issuing receipts that are going to be useless in a relatively short time. It would be nice to think that is why decent companies offer electronic receipts but experience tells us otherwise.

The problem with fading receipts started when thermal printing was introduced. I was going through a box of old receipts and the old ones dating from the 70s and 80s are still easy to read, even though many had been annotated by me to indicate what they were for.

Maybe the receipts are designed not to last much longer than the guarantee period. I wonder if I can use my statutory rights to request a repair or replacement if they become unreadable within six years. 🙂

I am also fading rapidly so I agree with Alfa about receipts. I still have the habits of the pre-internet age and keep paper documentation for everything. Unfortunately some of the retailers have expired sooner than their receipts but the product marches on. I keep all this stuff out of the light in a few classified box-files so I have not noticed much deterioration in receipts but, as Wavechange says, the ink on more recent ones might dissolve sooner than on older ones so I might make copies in future. I tend to print-off all receipts for on-line purchases and then attach them to the delivery note as a solid proof of purchase.

Thanks for this Conversation, Anna. It is one I was hoping would come up.

I have had a lot of these electronic receipts, mainly from B&Q. I started to move them to an email folder but now they just accumulate in the in box and I continue to file the paper receipts. Companies that use them sometimes send other emails and at least the ones with discount vouchers can be useful.

Halfords wanted to send me an electronic receipt I agreed but asked for no marketing because I rarely buy from them and there is a convenient store near the nearest supermarket. Unfortunately, I started to receive marketing emails after my next purchase, my first online order. I have asked again, but I’m not sure I trust them.

I wonder what B&Q will do with the information about all the stuff I have purchased since moving home last year. It’s interesting that Screwfix, also part of the Kingfisher group, has a different technique and demands my postcode before processing an order.

I wonder why some stores do it and not others. We have been in both B&Q and Halfords in the last couple of weeks and both have processed our purchases through the till without asking for other info.

I don’t know about Halfords but B&Q issue cards to vintage customers, entitling them to a discount on Wednesdays. I expect that this resulted in the electronic receipts.

It’s funny that some shops are pushing electronic receipts on us whereas others ask if we would like a receipt or don’t even give one unless requested, for small purchases. Google tracking, electronic receipts, loyalty cards. Soon the companies will know more about us than we do ourselves.

Just occasionally the tracking can be useful. I went into Screwfix but could not find something I was looking for. Knowing that I had bought the same item several months ago I asked at the desk and they quickly turned up all the purchases relating to my postcode, including what I was looking for.

I’ve signed up for e-receipts before – off the top of my head I think it was Screwfix and Accessorize – and I find it fairly useful as I’m not very good at keeping receipts. I also find that some old receipts perish so they’re useless anyway. That said, I’m not keen on it being a cheeky way to get hold of my email address.

NotLeafy says:
8 June 2017

God I long to see the end of those irritating scraps of paper that haunt my clothes, masquerading as banknotes. They are also mostly printed with thermal coated paper so too much warmth or the passage of time makes them unreadable. I can find email receipts for online orders going back to 1998 on my computer, but when I wanted to retun a Lidl item only a few months old I had great difficulty as the paper receipt had faded. Do the rainforest a favour and join the 21st Century

Paul says:
9 June 2017

“Retailers say that e-receipts are more convenient for customers, because having a digital copy means it can’t get lost”
What we actually need is not an electronic copy of a traditional paper print-out but the actual data of the transaction that we can reconcile to our Bank Statement and use for Expense claims if appropriate. Getting a PDF copy of the receipt to use for evidence of an Expense is last-century, though still expected by many Expense claim systems/procedures. So the retailers can save trees/costs by sending us the e-receipt, provided they don’t misuse our contact details, but they won’t save us time until there is a standard format for the data of the transaction, ideally e-signed so that it can be verified as a true record within an Expense system. This is already covered by B2B communications (EDI) but needs to be done for B2C too. The introduction of touch-less payments hasn’t covered this yet but does need to. All the advantage is for the retailer/payment service provider with no record for the customer. Touch-less would not require e-mail use either.
The most precious resource you have is your time, so not wasting it on manual activity that can be automated is the real customer service opportunity for retailers, and for us.
Yes, I would swap to a payment provider that provides an App with a record of my payments.