Would you like your receipt?

I remember the days when you could go into a store and order a cup of coffee or buy a pack of gum and the clerk would just hand you a receipt.

But sadly, the world has changed. Now, many establishments offer you a choice, a decision to make. It seems simple enough. It’s a yes or no question.

“Do you want your receipt?”

I don’t know why this is so hard for me. I’m prepared for the paper versus plastic debate. I know whether I’m paying cash or credit. I’m ready to answer “no” when they try to sign me up for their rewards program.

But for some reason I can’t decide if I need that little piece of paper. I stand there, with my mouth hung open, “uh…. yes … no, wait.” I look to the other customers for a signal. What do you guys think? “Um.. No. Hold on. Yes, I want it.”

It’s even worse than the “would you like the receipt with you or in the bag” question. I don’t know. Either hand it to me or stuff it in the bag. I really don’t care. And maybe that’s why I have such a problem with the question. I guess I really don’t care. It’s usually asked by a fast food type restaurant and I know I’m not planning to return the veggie burrito I just scarfed down. Therefore, do I need the receipt? I still don’t know.

So, I make random, haphazard decisions, clearly based on whim. Sometimes, it’s a yes. Sometimes it’s a no. But, I can’t say that I’m comfortable with the decisions I’m making.

See, this is what happens when I say no: I watch as the receipt is ripped from the register, crumpled in the hand of cashier and then tossed into the trash beside them. I stifle a gasp. Fear runs down my spine. What if I really do need that receipt? How will I know they didn’t over charge me? What if there is super-secret information on that receipt that can now be harvested and used against me by the coffee making people?

But then this is what happens when I say yes: Receipts upon receipts pile up around me.

Now, instead of sitting in the trash at the local Starbucks, they’re lingering in my purse.

They take up residence in purses I haven’t used in years.

There’s even more in this purse, than in my current purse.

According to the plethora of receipts, I haven’t used this purse since June, 2011.

Some of them even get to live in this ceramic pot.

I don’t know why some grocery store and coffee receipts are more special than others, but they are. That is why they get crammed in the ceramic pot with the coupons I may or may not use and a birthday card from 3 years ago.

So, I fee like I need a plan, a strategy. Should I answer “yes” across the board? Or give a “no” if it’s less than $10? Less than $20? Maybe a “yes” for all goods from Starbucks, so they can’t harvest that super-secret information about me?

Or, I can just continue what I’m doing.

I don’t know. It’s just too stressful. Retailers, please, just make the decision for me. Just give me the receipt. And don’t you dare ask me if I want it printed or emailed.

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74 thoughts on “Would you like your receipt?

  1. Logan Windram says:

    I find solice in the e-mailed receipt. I don’t know if I need that receipt, maybe I do, maybe I do not. But it is safely tucked into my well organized inbox just waiting for me. Makes me feel warm inside, while also safe. When I get a receipt that I know is a “must have”, like it will be deductible on taxes, the anxiety goes through the roof… will I be able to hang onto it until it gets into the Tax Folder in the file cabinet? Do I even have a file cabinet in which there is a tax folder? No worries, if they can’t e-mail it, I simple scan that baby and emailed it to myself. Warm and safe yet again.

  2. heatherbcosta says:

    I keep all of my receipts so that I can check them off against my bank statement at the end of each month. Any sane person would then throw them away, but not me… For some unknown reason, I feel compelled to keep hold of them for years on end just in case I might actually need them. At the last count I had four and a half years worth of receipts in a box and being a woman, you know that is going to be a LOT of receipts….

    Heather xxx

  3. Carrie Rubin says:

    Great post! I feel your pain. Decisions around every corner. And some stores–like Macys and Nordstroms– now ask if you want a paper receipt or an email copy. If I say paper, I feel guilty for not being green, but I don’t want to give my email address out to receive even MORE spam. Oy…

  4. crumbsoffthetable says:

    Yes – keep your receipts. When I used to be a waitress, it always concerned me if the patron left their receipt, that they had no record of the tip/final bill. That always made me wonder and I’ll always ask for the receipt, just to at least let the person who checked me out know that I may have a record of that bill.

    • Nicole Roder says:

      Oh yeah, anytime I pay with a credit card at a place where you can leave a tip, I ALWAYS keep the receipt. When I waited tables, there were servers who would change the tip amount if the guest didn’t take their credit card receipt. Their logic was that they wouldn’t be able to dispute it without proof. I usually tear it up and throw it away, but I always make sure the server knows I took it.

      • jennifer Windram says:

        I can’t believe people would do that. I mean, I guess I can imagine it happening every now and then, but not on a regular basis.

        Luckily, I do always take my receipt when I’ve left a tip. Although, I think it has been more for my own memory, than to prevent changes. Thanks for tip!

  5. Nicole Roder says:

    LOL! I have piles of receipts in my purse and diaper bag. Whenever I go through it, I just toss them out. What do I need them for? Though I do keep all of my grocery receipts, and I magnet them to the fridge. I only keep them until the next week when I bring home the next grocery receipt, but I actually HAVE needed them numerous times! You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve gotten home and discovered that something I paid for didn’t make it into my bags. Or maybe the meat or the yogurt or something has gone bad already. Whenever this happens, I just take the receipt back to the store and they give me a new one. They never even make me show them the old one. I also hang onto Target receipts in my purse for way too long, and it’s because of that survey! The employees always seem like they soooo badly want me to take the survey, so I keep it. I’ve shopped at Target approximately 427 billion times. I think I’ve taken the survey twice. Eventually, I’ll be digging through my purse, looking for something I actually *need*, and I won’t be able to find it because of the mountain of receipts that have gathered there, so I’ll finally clean it out and throw them all away.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      I’ve been overcharged at the grocery store before and I try to catch it while I’m there. It’s usually on a sale item that was charged at full price, or a bulk item where they entered in the wrong code. One time they tried to charge me like $40 for snow peas, because they rung up my onions with the snow pea code.

      Hehe. I’ve never actually taken any of the surveys. You are so nice to do so!

  6. lindsaycummingswrites says:

    I literally just cleaned out about five purses this morning. I had about 25 dollars in change, 400 receipts, 15 lip glosses/chapstick, and a million crumbs from lord knows what and peanuts- wherever those came from.
    So, I guess I’m hoping you will make the receipt decision for me:) It’s too much anxiety!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      That’s where all the chap sticks go! I swear they sprout legs and run away while I’m sleeping.

      I still don’t know about the receipt. Most of my commenters are saying take the receipt… maybe I’ll just do what the guy in front of me does…

  7. Marcy says:

    We always keep the receipt for a while to make sure we don’t have to return something or to make sure what is on the receipt jives with the bank statement. Wow, Lindsay, you found $25 in change! That really is something. Jennifer, I love that you write about all the weird stuff that seems to have crept into modern life.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Yeah, I usually keep them for things I might return, but like Jim pointed out, there are some things you aren’t going to return – like a latte for Starbucks or a lotto ticket!

      I’m not surprised. You’ve seen Lindsay’s house 🙂

  8. Marcy says:

    Jim says:
    I love it that when I buy a lotto ticket they give me a receipt! Why! Is it so that if it’s not a winning number I can return it for another because it was defective? That I’m such a financial nincompoop the $1 I doled out can’t be accounted for and thus the IRS will initiate an audit? Is it so that when I see that it’s a losing number and crumple the ticket up that I’ll still have further evidence that I lost a buck and double my losing experience? Isn’t the lotto ticket enough evidence that I’ve spent a dollar or do they give a free one every now and then. If so, why have I never gotten the free one? Probably the same reason that I haven’t won the lotto and am stuck here writing about my daughter’s blog instead of being in Aruba, on the beach with an umbrella drink writing about it on my laptop! Oh well, hand me the receipt and I’ll file it with all my other papers that I thought were important like the $10 flashlight warranty .

  9. jmmcdowell says:

    Back in the days when a complete credit card number appeared on the receipt, I would always take it. Back then, card fraud could be done with the receipts people left behind. I still take them when I pay with plastic, but of course, today’s hackers don’t need receipts to do damage!

  10. M. C. Dulac says:

    I just finished laughing! You are the philosopher of our time!

    This also happens in Sydney. One day, I wasn’t quick enough when the guy asked “Do you want a receipt?” and he flung the receipt into a bin. Then I got over-anxious and decided that I should have it (in the event of some future dispute about the milk maybe?) and the guy had to fish through all these crumpled receipts, thus holding up all the other shoppers!

    There are far too many decisions in modern life I fear!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      I was wondering if it was just a U.S. thing. They love to ask you at our Starbucks and Whole Foods.

      That’s hilarious. It may be more likely to have a dispute about the milk than the coffee I already finished drinking, but you never know. I bet the people behind you were seething. Sadly, I’m very impatient and likely would have been very annoyed–tapping my foot and rolling my eyes, all while trying to figure out if I should take my receipt when my turn comes 🙂

      • M. C. Dulac says:

        Ha! It is definitely a global phenomenon! I think that shop knows to give me my receipt now.

        This whole topic leads to bigger dilemmas e.g when is it safe and prudent to throw out that receipt for a lip balm purchased in 2011?

        • jennifer Windram says:

          I’m gonna say it’s only safe if the lip balm has been used up and tossed in the trash. If it’s just missing, keep the receipt. You never know when the lip balm will decide to show itself again.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Hehe. Yeah. But my husband does the same thing. We have excel spreadsheets going back years, but he uses our credit card statement instead of the receipts to track expenses. He can tell you how much we’ve spent on wine, home repairs, and eating out over the last few years, and it will only take him about 30 seconds to pull all the info up 🙂

  11. Jeff | Planet Bell says:

    Thank you for making me laugh. Unfortunately, I am exactly the same way, however I’ve never put any thought into this before. Now I will feel pressure when I have to decide.

    I always find random receipts in my back pocket of my pants. I have a huge receipt on my counter for $250 worth of grocieries that I’ve intended to look through to see if I was over charged. Probably not going to happen.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Glad I could push my receipt anxiety onto someone else. The burden has been far to great to manage on my own.

      Um, $250? What the heck did you buy? There are just two of you right? Or do you only shop like once a month?

  12. mewhoami says:

    I thought I was the only one who struggled with this decision. Do I want my receipt? I don’t know. Can I think about it first? Is this a trick question?

    I agree that it was so much easier when they didn’t offer a choice. The receipt was handed to us without hesitation. Now I just stand there looking like a fool with a perplexed expression, trying to come up with the right answer. Pop quizzes should not be allowed at the store.

  13. fudgeandpoppy says:

    My husband’s wallet is mostly receipts. It fools him into thinking he has lots of cash in there, when actually it is just petrol receipts, lunch receipts and the odd buying something nice for his wife receipts. I seem to collect all the little vouchers and coupons from our local supermarket. Every time we go we get a whole raft of them, I stick them in my purse and then sort through them later to see if we will actually use any of them. There is usually one for buying 4 four pint bottles of milk, which unless you are hand rearing a baby elephant or running a milk bar, probably not going to happen.
    Of course as contractors we tend to have to keep some receipts for the tax man, for proof we ate some food, or used our car to get to work. My stepson for a while used to think receipts were actually money and wouldn’t let us throw any of his away that he has stashed in his dinosaur wallet from his various birthday money purchases.
    I think I only ever keep certain receipts in case things need to be returned, and my post office proof of postage for my Etsy sales – when they leave feedback I toss them as I know they’ve got their order. And receipts where I keep them briefly to see how many reward points I have on a loyalty card.
    A year or so ago we went out for a meal with my best friend and his husband and we split the bill. The waiter messed up so had to do my card again. I then found out I had been charged twice because he had mixed up our cards and it was Dom’s card that he’d accidentally voided the transaction on not mine. So we ended up having to sort out the money between us!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Sometimes I have so many receipts in my wallet, I can’t close it. The snap keeps popping open.

      That makes sense with the contractor receipts, I do keep all my business receipts. My problem is I keep forgetting to use my business credit card for business expenses. I’m so used to whipping out my personal one that by the time I realize they’ve already completed the transaction.

      “So we ended up having to sort out the money between us!” What a mess. Splitting the tab is never easy: do you take turns paying, split it right down the middle, itemize everything each person got? And then you had re-sort it again. Yikes!

      • fudgeandpoppy says:

        I don’t mind splitting 50/50 when you’ve all had the same number of courses etc but I do feel fed up sometimes when I’ve only had one course because I’m a bit broke but everyone else has three courses and wine and side orders and I still have to stump up a load of cash as they split the bill equally (usually when there are a lot of people out for a birthday or something).

        • jennifer Windram says:

          That’s happened to me before too. I’ll order a water and someone else has three drinks and for some reason they think it’s appropriate to just split the bill 50/50. Well, I’m obviously ordering water because I’m broke. No one just drinks water because they like it 🙂 I used to put up with it, but not anymore.

  14. Trent Lewin says:

    It’s like you’ve reached into my soul and pulled out one of my latent fears… I used to keep receipts in my pocket. My wife would call it pocket paper, and it just like grew and grew as though it was breeding, until it curved into a ball as big as a baseball… I’m glad those days are over, but you have reinvigorated my fears. Thanks a lot!

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Trent! What are you doing here? It’s like two worlds colliding.

      Um, yeah, so it feels like an eternity since I’ve responded to a “normal” comment, I don’t know what to say.

      Should I flirt with myself? No. How about write a haiku? No, that’s not right either. Just throw out random words: pineapple. Nope, that’s not going to do.

      How about this:
      I love fueling latent fears, that’s one of the things I do here. Or even create new irrational fears, like a fear of sharks when you live in the middle of the US.

      A big baseball? How did you ever walk? Or sit? I pity your behind.

      • Trent Lewin says:

        Just checking in, your humour on Art’s blog was too good to pass up digging further. Glad I could give you a “normal” comment, I see you may have left me a couple too.

        Perhaps you could write a haiku about flirting with yourself, and call it “Pineapple”? Just trying to be helpful. However, your desire to fuel fears is totally crazy, and I think I have to hop on this train to crazytown.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Another visitor from Art’s blog. It feels so strange chatting over here, but I’m very excited!

      Yes, in a strange way I agree. We spend all this time going on about free will, but would things just be easier if I didn’t have to decide if I want fries with that?

  15. librarylady says:

    Hi Jennifer, I love how you can take some mundane part of everyday life and make a fun post about it. The problem with keeping receipts is that whenever you need to actually return something, you can’t find that exact receipt. We’ve been on a budget lately and are trying to match up everything at the end of the month so I will have to try.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      I try. Sometimes the mundane stuff is all I have to work with 🙂

      I do the same thing and not just with receipts. I’ll be looking for a letter or a bill or a new credit card that was just mailed and all I can find is like pizza flyers and 2 cent stamps.

      The credit card thing just happened. I have no idea where it went. I never activated it. I finally had to call and report it missing. How embarrassing.

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