Washington: Paper sales receipts won’t die, even as the world rushes to digital. A survey of consumers conducted for a group tied to the paper industry found more than three quarters of US shoppers preferred to walk away with a slip of paper, not a copy sent to an email.
“Consumers prefer and trust paper and there is a very real worry about data security that needs to be considered,” said Greg Selfe, campaign manager for Choose Paper, a group formed last month to advocate for paper over digital as green groups target the slips.
US shoppers are the biggest paper backers, at 71 per cent, followed by the UK at 69 per cent, Canada at 64 per cent and Germany at 61 per cent, the survey found. A year ago, a separate survey found 68 per cent of internet users preferred a physical receipt while 19 per cent favoured a digital copy.
Choose Paper argues that hard-copy receipts don’t deplete forests, a key argument for adopting an email-only approach. Green America, an advocacy group founded four decades ago in Washington, is pushing US retailers to drop paper, citing the loss of trees.
Its efforts helped fuel a legislative effort in California this year to ban paper receipts unless a customer asks for one. Restaurants and retailers opposed the bill, dubbed “Skip the Slip”, which failed in August.
Green America is targeting three dozen retailers to adopt electronic receipts, although only Best Buy, Apple and Ben & Jerry’s currently provide them. The remaining companies either lack a formal programme, or make it optional, according to an online report.
“Our research shows that most people do not want digital receipts,” he said. “There is a risk that consumer choice is being taken away.”
A Toluna poll this year found 70 per cent of US consumers and 64 per cent of Canadians were concerned that by giving retailers personal information, such as emails and addresses, they were at a greater risk of being hacked.
About half of the 8,900 people surveyed in North America and Europe said paper receipts are more secure, while 23 per cent said electronic versions were most secure. Majorities also said paper is more practical for archiving, accounting, returns and refunds.
A debate without an answer
Green America said printing the slips consumes more than 3.3 million trees and 9.1 billion gallons of water a year, generating 4.7 billion pounds of greenhouse gases — the equivalent of 450,000 cars on the road.
Selfe said the data centers needed to send email receipts consume power. Emissions generated by emails are equivalent to the annual output of 63 million cars, he said. The percentage of receipts in that total is unknown.
Green America is also fighting paper receipts because almost all are covered with a chemical they contend is harmful. Choose Paper says there is no effect on human health.