Receipts of Unusual Size
How many customers do you think it takes before K-Mart goes through a mile of paper in cash register receipts? It may not be as many as you think.
On Sunday, I found myself needing to purchase a cheap lamp. So I went down to my local K-Mart and picked one out. I also bought a light bulb. Upon checkout, along with the merchandise, I was given this ridiculously long receipt. I measured it. It’s 21 inches long. I bought two items and got a receipt that’s 21 inches long. Is wasting that much paper really necessary?
I couldn’t even get the whole thing to fit on my scanner. I had to scan it in pieces and then stitch it together in Photoshop.
I did a little math. If every customer purchases exactly two items (an underestimation, I’m sure), then K-Mart goes through approximately one mile of paper every 3,017 customers. Only the top 6 inches of the receipt contains information relevant to the purchase: the date, items purchased, price, store number, etc. The remaining 15 inches contains ads for things I could have purchased if I’d known about them before I went to the register, and also a list of store hours. I don’t know about you, but when I want to know a store’s hours or what they sell, I never dig out old receipts to find the answer. I never even glance at that information. Are there people who read their old receipts? It seems like a big waste of paper to me. 15 wasted inches of paper per customer. That comes to one mile of paper wasted every 4,224 customers.
How many miles of paper must K-Mart waste every day?
I wasn’t going to attempt to answer that question, but then I realized that once I had my receipt scanned in and resized and placed alongside the text on this page, the image was longer than the text. And that was messing up the layout of this page, causing my browser to do some weird things. So I decided to do some more digging and see what I could learn. K-Mart’s corporate website has all sorts of information about the number of stores they have, but not the number of customers. The most recent data I could find was in a BusinessWeek article from 2000, where K-Mart’s CEO referenced K-Mart’s “30 million store customers a week.” By now, many of those store customers are probably shopping on-line in greater numbers than before, and the number of K-Mart stores has surely changed since they filed for bankruptcy in 2002, but even if only half as many people still shop in the stores, that comes to 507 miles of paper wasted by K-Mart every single day in useless cash register receipt ads.
I think I see an easy way for K-Mart to become a bit more eco-friendly.