Small Print

The other day when I dropped by a local CVS store for errands, I thought I could get my shopping done in minutes. No chance. It wasn’t that my list too long but I had to wait for the cashier to print out a longgggggg receipt—so much longer than my arm. How long is it exactly? Three feet. (I measured it with my metric/imperial system conversion ruler.)

Why on earth does a merchant give out customers long receipts? Does he think we will really read every word on that lengthy slip of paper? I like keeping receipts for the record. But I also notice the pile of receipts gets higher and higher despite the fact that I rarely shop. Perhaps this is an American custom that nobody should get away from the bombardment of advertisement and legal protection.

I did spend some time reading some of the recent receipts. From Home Depot to Macy’s, from CVS to Wal-Mart, nearly every receipt—some are front and back—includes retailers’ return policies, promotion coupons and limitation on these benefits. Of course, as a consumer, all I’m concerned about is how much I’ve spent on this transaction; when, where and what I purchased. This is the basic information on a receipt. In China, all this information can be summed up in a palm-size receipt or even smaller.

Ah, I see. Perhaps the American retailers want to make it easy for the customers not to lose their receipts. I often misplaced the tiny receipts in China. But now, since the overall receipts in America are longer than the grotesque tongue popping out from a jack-in-a-box toy. I have to roll each one of them like a wad of money. (I wish.) Plus, the coupons attached to the receipt may be of use someday. How should I mind carrying it around in a secure place on me?

The legal statement that comes with the receipts is written by attorneys, of course. But how many ordinary people understand the complicated legal terms? With the tiny print and weird font, the message is incomprehensible, but I’m afraid not to get the receipt — there may be something I need on it.


Filed under: Prose, Songyi Zhang's America