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More retailers offering paperless receipts

September 21, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Paper or email? That's the new question you may be asked the next time you buy something at a store.

Customers are now being given the option to have a receipt emailed to them. But if you opt for an e- receipt, what else could start popping up in your email?

Paperless receipts are the wave of the future: major banks email customers ATM slips, mobile vendors send you e-receipts to your inbox, and the number of retail stores offering customers electronic invoices is exploding.

"More customers are opting to receive their receipts via email because it's saving on paper and it's also more convenient for them," said jeweler Shaleighne Murphy.

That's why Stephen Macary, a certified public accountant, loves e-receipts. He manages a fleet of company cars. When one needs an oil change, the repair shop emails him the invoice.

"It gets you the information in a timely manner, and you're able to view the documents pretty much right away," said Macary.

But shortly after Macary gave the shop his email, surveys, coupons and reminder notices started popping up.

"All these vendors capture information and they're going to capture it for emailing you something," he said.

So retailers can actually track you through e-receipts and coupon offers.

"When you send a digital receipt you can see the person open it, you can see if they clicked on a subsequent offer," said Mark Johnson, president and CEO of Loyalty 360, The Loyalty Marketer's Association.

Consumer advocates say some retailers take that information and build profiles about you like, who you are, and your buying habits. Privacy experts say before you opt for an e-receipt find out:

  • Can you opt out from e-offers?
  • Does a company sell your information to third parties?
  • How do they keep your information secure?

Because even retail trade groups admit this information is ripe for hackers.

"These email addresses now can be as valuable as a credit card number because they have huge data insights into the individual transactional behavior and product interests," said Johnson.

Macary recommends setting up a separate email account just for e-receipts. He says despite the slight risk of scams and spam, he actually loves getting the coupons and reminders sent to his inbox.

"I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons when it comes to going paperless. I whole heartedly endorse it," said Macary.

If you do opt for paperless receipts, you may want to save back-up copies on a flash drive in case your computer ever breaks down. You don't want to lose the e-receipts, especially if you're saving them as tax records.

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