I have been traveling around a fair amount to promote my book, and while I have had a ball meeting new people (and what could be better than meeting a total stranger who says she loves your book?!?!? winning the lottery, maybe?), I have also noticed a disturbing new national trend.
I call it receiptism. Receiptism is a disease that has taken over every checkout at every store, kiosk, counter, or chain restaurant that sells so much as a cup of coffee. Oh, also newsstands everywhere, particularly in airports. A store or clerk who has contracted receiptism assumes that, yes, you definitely want the receipt for any size purchase, even if it is a $1.60 cup of coffee or a $2 newspaper.
Now that we’re on the topic, why in the world would I want a receipt for a cup of coffee? So if, once I’ve drunk half and realize I’ve actually had enough caffeine for the day, I can return it? And why do I want a receipt for the newspaper? Because if the news is particularly bad that morning, I can get a refund with proof of purchase? C’mon, people: Don’t we have better things to do with our time and our forests than to assume that everybody wants a receipt for everything?
Now, I realize there are certain people (including yours truly) who need receipts to file expense reports, which is the fourth worst thing about business travel. But why can’t we adopt a “receipt optional” stance, wherein the clerk asks if you want the receipt, rather than plopping it into your palm under a heavy load of change, making it nearly impossible to leave on the counter? Aren’t we all supposed to be encouraging interpersonal contact, what with the recent news that teenagers—with all their texting and whatnot—no longer know how to have a face-to-face conversation?
This week, I am proposing a radical idea: Every time you buy something small, disposable, and unreturnable (pack of gum, anyone?), preemptively tell the clerk that you do not want the receipt. Let’s see what happens. I’m hoping we can bring about some real social change.