[ExI] Receipts, Choice and Unintended Consequences

Ben bbenzai at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 30 09:23:04 UTC 2015

Mike Dougherty <msd001 at gmail.com> wrote:

     > Just last night I accepted a receipt at point of sale (cash) and put
     > it directly into the trash.  I felt bad for the senseless waste that
     > transaction represents.  I knew, however, that the protocol cannot be
     > challenged ad-hoc: it must be a cultural change to stop generating
     > those useless scraps of paper.

Those scraps of paper are far from useless.  I use them all the time.  
It would be just as bad to assume that the customer doesn't want one as 
to assume they do.  No, it would be worse, because it would take away 
the element of choice - "We don't normally give receipts" would become 
"We can't give receipts" very quickly.  Then how would I claim my 
business expenses?

It would be better be to have a generally-accepted practice of /asking/ 
the customer if they want a receipt, would it not?

This is just one 'unintended consequence'.  I'm willing to bet there 
would be more.

I think we can extract a couple of lessons here:  How very easy it is to 
slip into the mind-set that a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all solution 
for a problem is the best (or even only) solution, and that even the 
most simple and 'obvious' of things can have significant unintended 

I bet you clever people can come up with more examples.

Ha! I wrote the above before reading (from Dan):

"Many places now ask if the customer want a printed receipt. Places 
using Square also just email a receipt, so nothing gets printed -- 
unless there's a special request"

So, some element of choice, here - and some pressure to give out an 
email address.

Paper is still needed though, at least for many purposes.  There are 
good reasons why the 'paperless office' never took off.

There will always be unintended consequences, of course, but the 
'prescriptive solutions' mindset is at least something we can try to 
guard against.

Ben Zaiboc

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