Electronic communication gone mad

There are times when I feel that we’ve entered an era of electronic communication madness – when we communicate electronically, not because it’s helpful, but because we can.

Last week I conducted a research interview in a coffee shop. This is something that I do quite often, and I always ask for a receipt for my purchases.

At this coffee shop, I was told that they don’t provide paper receipts any more. Instead, they could email my receipt to me.

So, I waited patiently while the staff member fiddled with the ipad/cash register hybrid, got my email address, and sent my receipt via email. The process took several minutes.

Of course, I couldn’t resist pointing out that the emailed receipt took more time (both mine and theirs), created more frustration (for me, for the staff, and for the other people in the queue), and was more likely to fail than the traditional paper receipt. I also asked whether I was running the risk of being put on some promotional list.

The staff member said that the move was an effort to save paper. But it’s not really. If anything, it’s a cost-shifting exercise, because I’ve had to download and print the receipt. In my case, it’s used more paper, because my only printer uses A4 paper.

At the time, I didn’t think to ask whether there is any legal problem with their inability to offer a receipt at the point of purchase.

I received my receipt as promised, so at least the outcome was what I needed. But my experience as a customer is one of unnecessary frustration.

The result will be that I’ll avoid that particular coffee shop if at all possible. But, when I do go there, you can be sure that I’ll always ask for a receipt (even if I don’t really need one) – just to make the point that their system is cumbersome and difficult.