Nearly 10 million trees; almost 250 million gallons of oil; more than 1.2 billion gallons of water; around 1.5 billion gallons of trash.
This is the list of resources consumed and byproducts generated in the production of 640,000 tons of receipt paper used in the United States every year.
The list doesn't include the waste from hundreds of thousands of tons of discarded receipts, which, if they are thermally printed, are non-recyclable.
It all makes a strong environmental case for the concept of the "e-receipt" a transaction document emailed directly to the customer.
And then there's convenience. Anyone who's tried to return a shirt after he threw out the receipt or pulled 15 crumpled slips of paper out of her purse along with the car keys should get the allure of an e-receipt.
Apple stores began offering e-receipts in 2005. Other retailers have followed suit, including Nordstrom, Whole Foods, CB2 (a Crate & Barrel spin-off), Budget Rent A Car, Gap, and its sister stores Banana Republic and Old Navy.
For ATMs, 'the missing option'
For years, ATM operators have given customers the option to skip a printed receipt. But this only goes so far — there will always be those customers who will never be comfortable with a receipt-free transaction.
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"We couldn't really move the needle on print/no-print," said Alicia Moore, head of ATM banking at Wells Fargo. The FI reached a plateau with two groups of customers, she said: those who always printed a receipt and those who never did. "We felt like there was sort of a missing option."
There was. And it came to light in 2009, when the idea of an e-receipt surfaced at an annual brainstorming meeting for new ATM services. In June of 2010, Wells Fargo launched its e-receipt program following in-house coding and extensive piloting.
'love, love, love the emailed ATM receipts'
Not surprisingly, tech-savvy customers were early adopters of the program, Moore said. But as more retailers begin to offer e-receipts, Wells Fargo customers are becoming more familiar — and more comfortable — with the concept. As a result, the trend line of adoption for the program is still rising two years after program implementation.
"As retailers start to adopt it and consumers feel more comfortable about not just the ATM or just the Apple store doing it, it becomes more mainstream and we start seeing the shift of adoption," she said. "But we also find in general that when we offer new services, people do become used to and adopt services at their own rate, whatever they feel comfortable with."
"Comfortable" may be a bit understated, given some of the enthusiastic customer tweets about the program. "@ WellsFargo - I absolutely love, love, love the emailed ATM receipts. Thanks!" wrote one customer. "Really impressed with @WellsFargo, I can get all my ATM and physical deposit/withdrawal receipts emailed. Whatttttt!!," exclaimed another.
But will it catch on?
Though at least one international FI — Brazil's Banco Bradesco — also offers ATM e-receipts, Moore is not aware of any American FI other than Wells Fargo that has the service. "We haven't been able to find one, and I know my team members are always looking for other banks offering it."
The fact that there is no off-the-shelf software for such a program could be a hold-back for smaller FIs that lack the budget for in-house programming. And they can't really expect a monetary return on their investment — the ROI comes in the form of customer satisfaction and loyalty. For many, this makes the up-front cost difficult to justify.
Similar cost obstacles exist for IADs. While customers might be more likely to visit their locations for the convenience of an e-receipt, that's a difficult revenue-driver to track. Also, independents presumably would have to provide for at least a one-time setup to attach an email address to the user's card number — requiring additional data management.
A score for the brand
Jason Falls, a social media-watcher and author of "The Conversation Report: What Consumers Are Saying About Banking," said the Wells Fargo e-receipt program made a smart brand statement. "Yes, there's a convenience factor for those who are tech savvy and track their finances electronically, but the e-receipt is almost totally a feel-good for customers wanting their bank to align with their personal position that we should be better care takers of the planet ... In this case, Wells Fargo has extended its brand to the green consumer market quite well."
Whether motivated by the environmental benefit or the ease, the Wells Fargo e-receipt program is definitely moving the needle on printing at Wells Fargo ATMs, Moore said. While no-receipt customers are still no-receipt customers, print customers are becoming e-receipt customers, reducing the number of printed receipts in a meaningful way. In fact, this summer the bank celebrated the issuance of its 100-millionth e-receipt.
"[O]ur customers have avoided the use of over 20,000 rolls of receipt paper which could stretch from San Francisco to Perth, Australia — nearly 8,000 miles away," said Mary Wenzel, head of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo, in a celebratory news release. Which was distributed by email, of course.
For more on this topic, visit the bank automation research center.