It’s a common scenario: you’ve just left the supermarket and are a mere three blocks from home when you have a face-palm moment — you forgot the one item that was the impetus of your trip in the first place. Begrudgingly, you go to the closest drug store to pick up the toothpaste that eluded your earlier errand. After you’ve forked over your money to the cashier and wait patiently, you are flabbergasted when the cashier hands you a receipt that is nearly a mile long. In fact, it cannot be referred to as a receipt. It’s practically a scroll.
At a store that maintains a rewards program, when the cashier swipes a member card, miles of coupons accompany your proof of purchase to incentivize shoppers to stay loyal. It’s only natural for humans to desire such a tangible representation of a reward — just look at athletes kissing trophies. But when it comes to the shopping experience, is such a physical reward needed? Major drug stores like CVS seem to think so.
Instead of digitally placing rewards on buyers’ ExtraCare cards, CVS claims that long receipts are desired. “When you give rewards, you want people to feel excited,” the head of marketing for parent company CVS Caremark told David Lazarus, a Los Angeles Times reporter. “You want them to know that they’ve earned the reward.” Whether or not long receipts work on a psychological level, CVS admits that only 49 percent of their reward coupons are actually redeemed.
In a time of online banking and digital invoicing, receipts are starting to look like dinosaurs in the consumer environment. Once a method of proving our ownership over an item, receipts more often than not are immediately discarded. So if companies truly believe that coupon-laden receipts mentally stimulate us to shop more, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what it means to maintain loyal, smart shoppers.
When shopping, how do you define a meaningful transaction?
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.