Ridiculously Long CVS Receipts Will Remain Ridiculously Long

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cvsreceipt2.jpgI'm not sure when I first noticed them. I don't remember them as a child or a teenager. Then, one day, walking out of a CVS, I looked down at my hand and there it was ... a two-foot long receipt decorated with coupons and miscellany like the back of an old magazine. What was this so-called receipt? And why was it so long?!

This creeping sign of postmodern malaise, in which the length of one's receipt bears no relationship to the number of items purchased, has been swirling out of printers and control for too long. We are beyond paper, the anguished people cry. But the pharmacy does not hear us.

As the angry proprietor of the Facebook group, "One Million Strong Against Unnecessarily Long CVS Receipts," put it, "I don't care that they use my CVS card to track me across the planet, I just want a receipt that isn't 1/3rd my height."

Last June, it appeared that the madness might end. The Los Angeles Times reported that CVS was doing away with its often yard-long receipts and moving toward a more useful, digitized rewards program.

But now the company is backing away from that plan. LA Times reporter David Lazarus kept digging (that guy deserves a Pulitzer) and found the company "in fact isn't working on doing away with printing rewards on receipts and the goal isn't to store rewards in people's cards." Instead, the "rewards" CVS gives you -- which are what gets printed on that receipt -- will continue to come in paper form unless you opt into an offers-by-email program.

The reason, the company says, is that the receipts are, apparently, exciting to customers. "When you give rewards, you want people to feel excited," a company representative told Lazarus. said. "You want them to know that they've earned the reward." (Finally, I understand the whoops of joy often heard in the self-checkout aisle.)

CVS trumpets its decision in a press release titled "CVS/pharmacy Launches New Digital Savings Option for ExtraCare, the Nation's Largest Retail Rewards Program," which sounds great -- at first.

The release goes on to explain that customers can now get their rewards digitally if they sign up for ExtraCare emails. Easy enough, just sign up for the emails and then create a filter so you never have to see them, or send them to an email address you never check.

Unfortunately, such work-arounds will not help: Customers who want to avoid receipts and still use their coupons will have to read each coupon email and decide whether to send it to their printer or to their CVS card. Which is annoying, almost as annoying as receiving a 25-inch receipt after purchasing a quart of milk.

Image: triterion/Flickr.

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Rebecca J. Rosen is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she oversees the Business Channel. She was previously an associate editor at The Wilson Quarterly.

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