Stores save on paper with double-sided register receipts

A new Met Foodmarket grocery store opened in my neighborhood a few weeks ago, and on my first visit, I bought about a dozen things that none of my other neighborhood stores carry. It wasn't until I got home that I noticed that my cash register receipt was only about four inches long. Usually, even purchases of a few items come with a receipt that's easily six inches or longer.

But this receipt was different. Only a few items were listed on it. Right after my baby carrots, where the onions should have been next, I saw this phrase: "Continued on other side." Sure enough, the back of the receipt contained the rest of my items as well as the grand total.

Ingenious! Now my store will literally cut its paper use in half. I don't know what took stores so long to figure this out.

Somehow, though, very quietly, 2008 became the year of the double-sided register receipt. In Europe, which is often the first place to cotton on to simple solutions like these, the giant British supermarket Sainsbury's started using double-sided thermal paper for its receipts in about half of its 823 stores. In America, Lowe's and Whole Foods are among the big names slowly converting their machines to double-sided capability, and NCR has estimated that paper usage will be cut by about 45 percent at ATMs where they're printed.

One Seattle natural foods market estimated that its 40 registers use about 1,200 miles of paper a year, so double-sided printers will make a dent it its overhead that, if it doesn't find its way back to consumers' wallets, can at least ease a little pressure on the trees of Washington state.

So far, most of the stores implementing this simple tweak seem to be ones that already have an eye on conserving resources. But for the many American stores unsure about how to keep their heads above the high waters of recession, more simple changes like this could make a big difference. That's one unavoidable expense cut in half.

Every time I go to Best Buy, I get about a foot and a half of scrolling gibberish, even if I just buy batteries. (For the last time, I don't want to take your phone survey.) If Best Buy isn't willing to trim its receipts by giving them a flip side, may I suggest that at least it makes its paper out of toilet roll? That way, I wouldn't have to squeeze the Charmin ever again.
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