Consider the environment: Do you want a receipt?


Microsoft dining services installed a self-service store in our building. After you complete your transaction, the kiosk reminds you to consider the environment and asks if you want a receipt.

If you say, "No receipt", it spits out a blank piece of paper.

So I guess technically you didn't get a receipt.

(The problem has since been fixed.)

Bonus chatter: One of my friends has an ATM at her workplace that reminds you to consider the environment and asks you if you want a receipt. If you say "Yes", it tells you that the ATM doesn't print receipts.

Comments (31)
  1. Tanveer Badar says:

    It is almost like a QA department, if you take the post to mean “do one thing while meaning another”. Every time they sign off on something, it is bound to break in production.

  2. Ambarish says:

    Maybe in their universe paper has zero environmental cost but ink is really bad for the environment?

    1. MarcK4096 says:

      Ink is pretty bad for the environment, at least according to the Penn & Teller BS episode on recycling. If there is no ink, then paper recycling won’t generate ink sludge.

  3. Fabio says:

    When you renew your subscription, Milan’s public transportation vending machines will spit out a receipt whether you tap yes or no

  4. JJJ says:

    There’s a Mitch Hedberg-style joke in here somewhere… “No, I would not like a receipt… but I do need some scratch paper.”

    1. Falcon says:

      A scene from Demolition Man comes to mind!

      1. zboot says:

        Still haven’t figured out the seashells?

  5. morlamweb says:

    I’ve seen the no-receipt option cropping up, slowly, in my usual retail haunts (though not in the stores where it would save the most paper: grocery stores). I jump at the chance for a receiptless transaction whenever it occurs. I don’t need another useless wad of paper floating around in my bag or wallet. I remember a time when I use to scan, OCR, and organize my receipts and PDF files. Nowadays, I can’t remember when I last looked at a receipt for useful information.
    I do travel for work, and there was a time when paper receipts were required for reimbursements; nowadays, the company automatically imports the expenses from the corporate credit card into their system, so there’s no need for paper.*

    *(unless your corp card is one of those systems that isn’t accepted much at all internationally, or even at most stores in the domestic U.S.; in that case, you’re back to paper).

  6. Yuri Khan says:

    I will think of the environment when my basic needs are fulfilled. Putting the receipt into my wallet so I can enter that transaction into my ledger so that I know where my money goes counts as a basic need.

    Although if they accept my card, I can probably live with an entry in my bank statement.

  7. Thomas Harte says:

    Consider the environment. Are you really going to read all of Infinite Jest? Would something like Hard Times not be more your cup of tea?

  8. Kevin says:

    > One of my friends has an ATM at her workplace that reminds you to consider the environment and asks you if you want a receipt. If you say “Yes”, it tells you that the ATM doesn’t print receipts.

    That’s not a bug, that’s a feature! If you tell people to think of the environment, and then ask them whether they want a receipt, most will say “no.” None of those people are going to complain that the ATM doesn’t offer receipts, so you’ve cut your complaint rate in half without actually doing anything.

    1. “Her workplace” still means “Microsoft”, right?

  9. Paul Topping says:

    We see so many bad user interfaces in devices like ATMs and other kinds of devices where there is a significant mechanical component. Is it that they are run by marketers and/or mechanical engineers that don’t take UI design seriously? Or is it that the mechanical engineering is done first and the UI designers are unable to fix the problems? Perhaps both.

    Those automated supermarket checkout machines are a great example. As are automated parking meters that take credit cards. I’ve learned to navigate the supermarket ones but I still marvel at the huge number of UI design mistakes they contain.

    1. Richard says:

      Unexpected bagging in the item area…

    2. morlamweb says:

      Those supermarket checkout machines really cheese me off. The slightest thing that’s out of the ordinary – like, say, bagging your own items while still ringing up new ones, so as to more quickly free up the terminal – throws the machine into such a state where a store clerk has to come over and reset it. If a machine acts up, I simply pack up the items and walk over tone one of the staffed checkout lanes, and I usually complete the transaction faster than waiting for the damned machine.

    3. Evan says:

      > I’ve learned to navigate the supermarket ones but I still marvel at the huge number of UI design mistakes they contain.

      So you’ve maybe noticed the difference in key order between phone keys and keypad keys. (I believe Don Norman’s “The Design of Everyday Things” talks about this.)

      A local checkout supermarket chain has one of those loyalty programs. At checkout, you can of course provide your phone # instead of scanning a card and it’ll look it up. They recently replaced their self-checkouts with ones that are a lot better, but three guesses as to whether they used the *phone* order or keypad order when entering your *phone* number. And the first two don’t count.

  10. Nik says:

    By the law of preservation of receipts, every time someone declines a receipt, a CVS receipt somewhere else gets a bit longer. That’s why they’re frequently around 3 to 4 ft long.

  11. Brian_EE says:

    I’ve noticed the “do you want your receipt?” question a lot lately too. When I answer “No.”, the clerk crumples the receipt and throws it in the trash. It’s not helping the environment, just reducing the clutter when on the table at home when I empty my pockets.

    1. zboot says:

      Maybe their trash goes to a special recycling center – they can’t trust what you’d do.

      1. mikeb says:

        That reminds me of when my workplace first started a recycling program, and everyon got a second bin for recyclable paper. But if you worked late enough, you’d notice that the janitor emptied both bins into the same roll-around trashcan.

  12. We don’t have printed receipts or transaction logs. They are sent via email or SMS, and can be accessed online.

    1. Brian_EE says:

      A lot of small businesses (here in US anyway) are using a transaction processing system called Square. It gives you the option to have your receipt emailed or SMS texted to your phone. I always choose “no receipt” as I don’t need even more people having my phone number or email address.

      1. Strange. I don’t see why Square makes you give email or phone number to anyone at all. Here, ATMs and POS devices initially printed receipts. Then, banks started offering online services to cut costs. Part of it is the ability to see a record of all your transactions. They also offer the optional account change notification service on email or SMS for a small annual fee. One day, the printed receipts were removed altogether. The only one having an email or phone number is the bank, which tends to know one’s whole life anyway. Fast-food vendors still print a tiny bill with your customer/queue number. In case you pay by plastic, it’ll your have transaction ID too. The ink on this paper is volatile, so after a week or so, I’ll have a post-it note paper. But I don’t think they did this intentionally for environment.

        1. zboot says:

          If you want an electronic receipt instead of paper, how else would you get it?

        2. Tom says:

          You seem to be conflating transaction notifications and receipts. A transaction notice it just tells you the time, recipient and total amount of the transaction. A receipt lists all that plus an itemized list of what was purchased and the price along with tax information. Your bank can send a transaction notification; it cannot send a receipt.

          1. Well, tell that to ATM and POS manufacturers, Raymond Chen and literally everyone else in this blog. The word they consistently use is “receipt”.

          2. cheong00 says:

            The terms that banks use is “notice” or “advice”. Receipt is issued by “payment received” side and technically I don’t think ATM should generate receipt (unless you are paying fees for your bank accounts)

  13. Raymond Price says:

    Related UI issue- You can put the little checkout kiosk into scanning mode, to just scan barcodes until you’ve gotten everything you want. The screen says “Scan an item or press Continue”. There is no “Continue” button, it’s labeled “Next”. It’s a little thing, but you’d think they could have caught it in QA.

  14. Joker_vD says:

    Ah, yes. “Do you want some coffee or tea?” — “Tea, I guess…” — “Nope, you guessed wrong — you want coffee, here it is!”

  15. Ivan K says:

    I recently learned that receipts printed on thermal paper can contain high levels of Bisphenol A (BPA) with exposure by touch potentially many times that of using certain plastic drink containers. BPA has health concerns… https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A

  16. Yukkuri says:

    Consider the environ. Do you want a $RECEIPT?

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