It was a hot day on the North Shore of the Greater Chicago Area. My wife and I popped into a CVS to get a few waters for the road. As the cashier – or perhaps they are referred to as “sales associates” now – finished our order, my jaw dropped as I watched the receipt roll out of the register. I kept watching. And it kept pouring out – a never-ending stream of paper. The cashier and I made eye contact as the receipt poured into his hand. He held his head up just a little – almost in a defiant way. The receipt was satirically long and it even made the checkout period a bit awkward. The sale was clearly complete and there we were standing in awkward silence awaiting a 3-4 foot receipt to finish completing. It is sort of like a long awkward pause in a conversation. Given the ridiculous length of the receipt and the time it took to print it out, I suppose I was expecting some sort of reaction from the cashier. But, this was all normal for him. He probably rang up a few hundred people in a single shift. That’s 800 feet of receipt paper a shift. I gave him a smirk as he handed me the rolled up paper. I got nothing in return – not so much as a flicker in his eyes or that empathetic look some people give you when they know you are thinking the same thing they are. I slowly shuffled off, astounded at how someone could act like this is normal.

When I exited the store, I couldn’t resist having my wife take a picture of the receipt in all it’s glorious length. That  picture has been on my phone for a few weeks now. And apparently I am not the only one who has noticed this situation. A Google search on “long receipts” brings up a whole first page on CVS.  The Huffington Post has a feauture article on the subject:

Evidence That CVS Receipts Are Getting Way Too Long

They also have plenty of photos. And they note the immense number of people “tweeting” on the subject (because if it is newsworthy, it must be on Twitter, right?). What is most interesting about the article is the quotes they pulled from the CVS representatives. Now note: The representatives at CVS are essentially marketing morons whose job is to not respond honestly to the issue, but give an answer that is completely meaningless and only an attempt to market CVS more. I wonder if corporate America realizes how stupid they sound sometimes.

Here are a few gems of wisdom from CVS representatives on this:

“…the company’s receipts are an exciting part of a customer’s shopping experience.”

“When you give rewards, you want people to feel excited,” the rep told the newspaper. “You want them to know that they’ve earned the reward.”

“Also, our Send to Card option allows many coupons & ExtraBucks Rewards to be sent to your ExtraCare card digitally.”

The “send to card option?” That can be automated. Dominick’s does it here in Chicago. The real issue here is that CVS probably figures a paper copy is less forgotten than a digital copy. But what is really so disappointing is the response from CVS. It is inconsistent with it own Environmental Policy Statement:

“As a company dedicated to improving people’s lives through innovative and high-quality health and pharmacy services, we are committed to: operating in a manner that meets or exceeds applicable environmental regulations; reducing our environmental and climate-related impacts; and contributing to the long-term sustainability of our business.”

Their statement continues and at one point they outline their devotion to minimizing the use of raw materials, seeking reductions in energy use, water use and solid waste among other declarations.

This all should come as no surprise. Most corporations – like CVS – are most interested in getting you to buy more of their product. We are a nation of consumers and thus are led to consume. The long receipt is nothing more or less than a series of advertisements, since you aren’t really saving money anyway (spending less is not the equivalent of saving).

Perhaps I am getting too old or maybe weary of marketing tactics thrown in my face at every turn. I get tired of executives hiding behind false smiles and answering to their misdeeds though a series of marketing statements or advertisements. But, I suspect the recent outcry from consumers over the CVS receipts is a sign I am not the only one upset or weary. I simply hope we are aware the issue here is not simply the environment, but the relentless nature of corporations in the United States who inundate us daily with their sales pitches, their consumer “value cards” we must use to get discounts and the amount of money / natural resources they use in the process.

An entity like CVS doesn’t care. What choice do you have? Walgreens? Don’t like your cell phone plan? You have a couple of other choices. I have more candy bar choices – a menial insignificant choice – in this country than I do for political candidates or where I choose to spend my money.

To borrow from Timothy Leary: “Turn of, tune out, drop out.” I’m not sure it’s possible to turn the noise down anymore, let alone turning it off…

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