The psychology of receipts

receipt-courtshipDo you want a receipt?

Is what the local petrol station asks if you use a credit card?


  • It makes me suspicious of their reason NOT to give me a receipt.
  • It embarrasses me in front of others. Now that I want a receipt, it creates a small delay. Asking the attendant to print out a receipt makes me feel like I’m asking them to do me a favour. Good customer service tries to make the customer leave the store feeling good, not awkward.
  • It interrupts the shopping experience.
  • Now I’m thinking… what other stunts are they pulling?
  • I start to compare this petrol station with others. I’m already thinking of going back to the Esso station.

In other words, because I suspect they’re trying to outfox me in some way, I’m unlikely to go back again. I don’t trust them and they don’t seem to care.

Who benefits?

Another thing to consider is what’s the benefit – to them – in not printing a receipt? It saves a few seconds and some paper. And what’s the benefit to me? I’m not sure.

Maybe other people don’t check their receipts, maybe that’s a sign of the times, but I usually give it a quick glance, then rip it up.

How to fix this?

I suspect the problem is the training plan.

  1. Culture – The petrol station is part of an international chain. I can tell that the attendants have been trained as they follow specific ‘scripts’, for example, trying to upsell me chocolate at the point of sale, making forced chit chat. It feels fake. They don’t like giving it; I don’t like receiving it. So, the scripts need to be modified or hire staff who can talk to customers with a little confidence.
  2. Scripting – I live in Ireland. The scripts sound (to my ear) like something written for US customers. For example, the attendants say ‘I’m good.’ Not an expression you hear here all the time, though it’s creeping in. Secondly, in Ireland, we’re not used (read: don’t like) being up-sold. We want to get in, get out.
  3. Products – if they are going to upsell, then choose something more useful.
  4. Assess – when developing a training plan, most trainers focus on identifying the topics and writing the materials. What they overlook is evaluating the training. Is it working? What needs to change?

The problem in the petrol station isn’t the receipt. It’s the affect it has on me as a customer. It knocks me off balance, makes me suspicious, and makes me feel awkward.

The bigger problem is that the petrol company (I assume) isn’t tracking the response of customers to these scripts. Maybe they are but I’ve asked a teenager who works in another station and no, they’re trained and that’s it.

Training plans succeed if all three pillars are in place.

  1. Identity the subject.
  2. Create the materials.
  3. Improve.

Do you ask for a receipt?