Monday, June 9, 2008

Scarcity, Cost/Benefit, Call It What You Will...

I call it waste.

This is about something that has been bothering me for some time. I am constantly annoyed by the surfeit of paper I receive when checking out of most retail establishments. I notice it when I shop at grocery stores (Food Lion, Kroger, and Ukrops). I notice it at pharmacies (CVS and Walgreens). I notice it at hardware stores (Home Depot and Lowes). I notice it almost everywhere. (I will admit, I notice it less at gas stations; but I tend to "pay at the pump.")

I concede that that some of the yards of paper I receive may indeed be a sincere effort to solicit my opinion on their service. And I welcome coupons good for products "generated especially for me based on my previous purchases", although I am still stymied by a couple I've received for products in categories that I have no previous history of purchasing. Even if they are for "complimentary goods" for things I do purchase - I don't see the connection.

But what really bothers me, especially in times of decreasing profitability and "environmental awareness", are the huge sections of blank paper on the sales receipts. It tends to be less noticeable if you purchased a long list of goods - like the weekly grocery list. But if you've stopped in to pick up an item or two that may be on sale; or if you are shopping and the list is fairly short, the wasted paper can be staggering.

Recent trips to one of the hardware superstores mentioned above generated fully 4.25" of blank paper on a sales slips 14" long (30% if you're calculating). Trips to some of the grocery stores above for items other than the weekly shopping have generated similar amounts (25% - 35%) amounts of blank paper in the middle of the sales receipts.

Even if the generated blank space is not variable according to purchase but rather standard on each and every sale regardless of length; if you multiply the amount of blank space by the number of customers, you're probably replacing a couple roles of cash register tape per store, EVERY DAY, just to give out blank paper. That's got to cost money in the aggregate, and it's got to be equivalent to more than a couple of trees, considering how widespread the practice is. And we haven't even discussed the space in the land fill or recycling stream.

Now I'm not an environmentalist. I try to recylce. (Admittedly it's forced because the local government deams I must be - but I do see a potential yet unrealized benefit for society from doing the practice.) But am I the only one who thinks businesses are missing a way to (a) cut their costs (and prices), however marginally, (b) reduce waste and demand on resources? I do believe firms try to give customers what they want. Is there anyone out there who really wants all these really long sales receipts with large sections of blank space?

I look forward to your comments. And let me know us know if you've run into other establishments that seem to generate a lot of blank space to print out a receipt.

1 comment:

Alex said...

There's a lot of waste in our economy. Even food, which we consume so much of, we waste. Just look in you garbage can. Anything you buy is wrapped in a layer or two of plastic or cardboard. Our economy is the strongest in the world. How much stronger would it be if we wasted nothing?