Sarthak Moghe


Everyone wants Digital Receipts, So Why Is the Retail Industry Not Adopting It?

Statistics show that approximately 90 percent of paper receipts end up in the trash can. Most people part ways with their receipts shortly after collection, and many others can’t remember where they kept it if they did at all. However, situations arise where you need a receipt as proof of purchase for warranty claims and returns, tax deductions, personal expense tracking and business expense reporting. In these situations, failure to produce your receipts may lead to significant financial loss or disciplinary action in the case of a tax or office-related expenses. People lose their paper receipts for several reasons, which include:

Inconvenient to Store and Maintain

Most paper receipts are not made to last. They come from the lowest quality paper, and the ink may begin to fade few hours after printing in some cases. In many instances, the thermal ink will start falling off with time, and you will only be able to produce an inkless paper when you need it. By design, a paper receipt is not easy to store and maintain as retailers try to cut the cost of receipts as much as possible.

Often Get Lost or Washed

Photo by Lance Grandahl on Unsplash

A paper receipt is easy to lose or wash. Due to their small size and fragility, most people crumble receipts into their pockets after collection and may not remember to remove it before dislodging the contents of their pocket or washing their attire. The receipts are thus, lost forever. Digital receipts can almost never be lost, and even when they get lost, will be easily replaceable.

However this is not the only drawback of paper receipts. In additiona to their inconvenience they are also

Not Easily Recyclable

While recycling waste is the right thing to do in an extremely polluted world like ours, paper receipts are an outlier in this case. Paper receipts contain BPA or Bisphenol A, a plastic component which suspected to cause cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, premature puberty, etc. Merely touching a BPA-coated surface exposes you to the substance as it can be absorbed via the skin. What’s worse, you can’t compost BPA-coated paper as it can contaminate groundwater. It makes a lot of health sense to stay away from BPA and BPA-carrying materials such as paper receipts. Going digital will save us from the presumably toxic effects of this chemical, especially cashiers and other people who have to handle these materials all day long. While not every paper receipt has a BPA coat, it’s difficult to find a distinction between the two types of paper receipts.

In the US, over 12.4 million trees and 13 billion gallons of water are consumed each year in the creation of paper receipts, generating 1.5 billion pounds of waste and 4 billion pounds of CO2. Paper products fill over one quarter of all solid waste in landfills, including receipts.
Additionally, an estimated 93% of paper receipts are coated with BPA (the same chemical banned from plastic bottles) or BPS (a similar replacement chemical), and should not be recycled. Research suggests that these paper receipts can contribute to human health issues. A study from the New York State Department of Health connects BPA to developmental, reproductive, and neurological problems. Studies show people’s blood levels of BPA spike after they touch receipts. In a test commissioned by Environmental Working Group, two-fifths of paper receipts were on heat-activated paper that was between 0.8 to nearly 3 percent pure BPA by weight. The receipts came from major retailers, grocery stores, convenience stores, gas stations, fast-food restaurants, post offices and automatic teller machines (ATMs). Retail workers are shown to have on average 30% more BPA in their systems than other adults.

- Green America, Skip the Slip

In addition to the inconvenience and potential health risks, paper receipts cost — they cost the merchant money and the environment valuable resources.

Financial and environmental cost

An average paper receipt costs between $0.015–0.05 per receipt. This means that a merchant printing 1000 receipts a day spends between $5,475 to $18,250 per year just on the thermal paper. Going paperless could cut the expenses on receipts drastically as there won’t be a need for printing materials.


Factors Preventing the Adoption Of Digital Receipts

There are a handful of retailers and POS providers who can send digital receipts in the form of emails and SMS messages to their customers. But adoption of these methods has been significantly low partly because of the deep discomfort people have about sharing their emails and phone numbers with strangers over the counter.

Some outlets also use apps and phone-based services that allow buyers scan or take a picture of paper receipts, but this method is inefficient and fraught with many problems.

One other major problem bedeviling the adoption of digital receipts is the lack of standardization and modernization of the available solutions in retail technology. The majority of the leading retail chains still rely on outdated POS software from the 90s that have no APIs or integration capabilities. Adopting a digital receipt system calls for expensive and time-consuming upgrades and integration to existing Point of Sales systems. However, there seems to be no motivation at the moment for the big players in the retail industry to upgrade, further delaying the adoption of an intelligent and environment-friendly receipt system.

Some concerned individuals believe that we can create a solution to change the status quo in the retail sector using innovative technology. TillBilly is a forward-looking tech firm working on an innovative solution to solve this problem to make digital receipt systems easily accessible and user-friendly without compromising people’s privacy or environmental sustainability.

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