Receipt for a Donut

As Mitch Hedberg used to say, "I don't need a receipt for a donut. I give you money and you give me the donut, end of transaction." This is so true, until you're traveling on business. Then you need a receipt for every last donut, steak, copy expense, and shuttle ride.

If you're anything like me, you get credit card offers in your mailbox daily. I have no need or want for another credit card. I'd change my tune in a heartbeat if a credit card company could solve my receipt problem. I don't want receipts, ever. I want a record of my purchase, sure, but I don't want that record to be a 2x6" piece of weak paper with survey offers printed on the bottom. What I want is Visa or Mastercard to build a transaction culture that allows merchants to email me PDFs or XML of my purchase information.

Do you realize how easy this would make filling out your expense report for business travel? Everyone hates expense reports. We only fill them out because if we don't, we don't get our money back. I can't stand tracking 4 days worth of crumpled paper so I can manually transfer the data to an Excel spreadsheet. I always lose one, they're hard to read, and they're just wasteful.

The Life Takes Visa commercials love to show people flowing through a shop, swiping cards and getting on with things. But you never see a receipt in those commercials. Maybe they've already built this magical receipt email system and forgot to tell us. The technicals have to be simple. They have an account number that is tied to my name, physical address, and many times, my email address. Get some nice business to business web services going and the data can flow to me. This won't be free to build, but you can build it with the money you save on receipt paper and wasted sales while the minimum wage cashier pounds on the jammed printer.

BTW, this isn't my first set of thoughts on receipts. I've complained about them before.

Edit: I forgot to mention that some retailers are already jumping on this. Apple retail stores have "line busting" handheld computers that allow you to buy equipment right on the store floor. They'll then email your receipt to the account in your Apple ID. This is slick, but I'd still like something that applies across all merchants.


Jason said...

This is awesome, I have your post directly following this (http://feeds.gawker.com/~r/lifehacker/full/~3/233505978/going-paperless-at-home) post from lifehacker about going paperless at home. I agree wholeheartedly with both.

If it took an interim step to make this happen, I would say the credit card companies could at least let you click on any of your transactions online and create a "receipt" that could be used for expense reports. It wouldn't show the exact item, but it would have a location and dollar amount at least. That could be done even with existing ancient POS processing systems in place.

I agree with you though, credit card companies are always looking for the next thing to entice you. Blink sure as hell wasn't it, offering me receipt handling might do it.

ukrpic FTW!

shannon said...

i try to save reciepts for all my credit card transactions, whether or not i need it for business purposes. for me it's because id on't like thinking of my credit card numbers hanging out on a reciept in a dumpster behind the gas station, or behind dunkin' donuts. if a reciept is printed, i'm going to take it no matter what my purchase was.