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This is a personal finance question related to retail shopping. I am wondering why, with the evolution of the Web and relatively well-established credit card payment system, there is still no widely implemented solution for being able to get an electronic copy of itemized receipt of in-store purchases? (e.g. an electronic copy of your grocery receipt that lists every item purchased and its price).

The data is certainly available and probably retained in the corporate databases and extensively used for consumer analytics, sales forecasting, marketing, etc.

The email information is often also available to the retailer through the use of club/reward cards, since when you sign up for those you typically input email address. Alternatively, the retailer can transmit the itemized sale information to the credit card company, linked to the total transaction amount on the credit card activity statement (I am thinking a drop-down menu that expands to reveal itemized detail of the purchase when viewing the online credit statement).

In any case, it seems we have the data and we have the technology. So it's not that.

There is probably also real value in delivering such information to the customer. It would save forests by reducing the need for all those mile-long printed receipts (paper vs. electronic receipt can be a voluntary opt-in/opt-out option at checkout, just like paper or plastic).

It also solves the issue of not having the paper receipt when you need it later (say, if you buy a small appliance in a brick-and-mortar store, but don't keep the receipt which is later needed for warranty service/replacement of the product).

Then what is preventing this service from being offered? If you are in the corporate retail/marketing/banking business and have a good educated guess/insight, your answer would be especially appreciated but anyone is welcome to weigh in thoughts. Thank you.

closed as primarily opinion-based by JoeTaxpayer Jun 10 '15 at 15:52

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    This is going to be entirely opinion based. – Bishop Jun 10 '15 at 15:19
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    Apple uses it in their stores, so your premise is incorrect. Personally I have no intention of giving random retailers any of my e-mail addresses, any more than I was willing to give Radio Shack my snail-mail address. – Spehro Pefhany Jun 10 '15 at 15:19
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    As with many things, I think the answer is "Companies are not generally interested in helping consumers unless doing so makes more money for the company, and companies don't think the benefits to them of doing this will outweigh the costs." – BrenBarn Jun 10 '15 at 16:33
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    I would suggest limited demand from the consumer. Some stores do it - Home Depot offers it, but it's just an extra choice. Besides, one function (and perhaps the primary one) of the paper receipts is to keep customers from just walking out of the store with unpaid-for goods. – jamesqf Jun 10 '15 at 18:18
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    I don't understand the question since it includes it's own answer: at some stores you can sign up for the club or otherwise give them your email. That's a solution to the query in the title. If you are interested in the reason a specific store doesn't offer this service, you should ask them. By asking you demonstrate consumer interest in this. – user662852 Jun 10 '15 at 19:59
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In some stores that is done. When I shop at the Apple store or at the Farmers market the receipt is automatically sent to my email address.

Why don't others do it?

If the target of the itemized receipt is a credit card company they would be sending data that they spent collecting to another corporation. The grocery store is collecting your data so they can sell it to their vendors. They sell to vendors the info that Gen X shoppers that buy cat food are more likely to use brand X laundry detergent then Millennials. The credit card companies could gather even more Meta data that they could sell.

Privacy. Some people don't join the reward program at the store because they don't want a company to know exactly what they buy. Even fewer would want the credit card company to have that information.

The credit card companies would have to want this level of data that would have to be stored, maintained, and protected.

  • Good points, including some that I had not suspected. It seems that as Apple Pay and similar competitor systems gain momentum, such functionality would become more feasible since as you say it already generates an email receipt, so it would be a matter of including an itemized list into the receipt rather than just the total. I am however still surprised this hasn't been scaled up already. Many of the reasons you cite make sense, but similar arguments could be made 20-30 years ago against reward programs or credit cards, yet here we are. So might be a matter of gradual dev-t of paymnt systems. – A.S Jun 10 '15 at 15:30
  • Even if one does not join the rewards program, payment by credit card does provide the grocer a link to the payer. I have noticed that my grocer (large corporation) does track my spending via credit card number because the coupons I get (in the US Mail) differ from the coupons that my friend gets (he too is not a member of the store's rewards program but does use the same credit card to buy groceries all the time). – Dilip Sarwate Jun 10 '15 at 16:06

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