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Published May 29th 2018

When Receipts Go Bad: Beware of Selfish Digitisation

The advent of GDPR has highlighted that for years we’ve all just shrugged when asked to tick the ‘keep me informed’ box. But, will brands will learn from the experience, asks Chris Owen

It may have been a long time coming, but the dawn of GDPR has finally woken brands up to realising that they should probably check whether people still want to hear from them.

The endless “don’t leave us!” pleas which have – ironically – bombarded inboxes over the last month has acted as a cathartic catalyst to finally unsubscribe all those things you didn’t know you got sent or got bored of.

It’s been a pleasant spring-clean of my ‘promotions’ folder in Gmail.

These missives, and the frequency to which people are not opting in (from anecdotal chats here, granted, rather than empirical data), suggest that a lot of the newsletters resulted from inadvertent, presupposed tickbox-agreement from customers.

The advent of GDPR, beyond the mass-data elements and services, has highlighted that for years we’ve all just shrugged when asked to tick the ‘keep me informed’ box.

There’s a hope that brands will learn from the experience, but the sceptical side of me doubts it.

A better approach?
I was having a coffee on Saturday. I like coffee. I have a six-month old baby, so as well as being a pleasant thing to drink with the paper, it’s also a life source after a fractured night’s sleep. Few things relax me more than just having a flat white, bimbling through the sports section, and watching the world go by.

I’d finished the coffee (and, for transparency, the chocolate brownie, in case my wife is reading this). I asked for the bill.

“Would you like your receipt emailed to you?”

I pause.

I try to think about why on God’s clean earth I would ever want a receipt emailed to me.

Maybe for a high value ticket item perhaps. If I needed it for a product warranty, or a guarantee further down the line. But for coffee…. I don’t… why would I even?


I realise I’ve been frowning for ten seconds.

“No, it’s fine. I mean, why do I want a digital receipt for a coffee and a brownie?”

“We can keep you up to date with offers and events?”

Digital receipts are nothing more than a hackneyed, tired data collection point which is nothing new to anyone but annoyed me when it cropped up again.

It also annoyed me because it is such an obviously selfish way to do so – it makes the whole customer experience longer, jarred, and vendor-centric not customer centric.

Someone, somewhere thought that making the simple printing and handing over of a receipt process into a 90 second awkward email submission “a better approach”. And that person was not the customer.

There have been no petitions demanding digital receipts. To be honest, I’m yet to hear in-store anyone say “yes” when asked.

GDPR is intended to stop some of this crap – although a lot of it will focus on brands making sure they adhere in the first instance before, in all honesty, probably reverting to type in the future but with slightly tinkered T&Cs.

In the meantime, can we all agree that digital receipts should be kicked over a rainbow?

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