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Social media has changed the way we communicate. It’s created entire new industries. It’s helped to topple governments in the Middle East. And now, it’s convinced a drug store chain to shorten its absurdly long receipts.

Well done, internets, well done.

After years of playing defense and deflecting customer complaints about its comically lengthy receipts, CVS has buckled under the pressure of a few days’ worth of internet and social media chatter. No longer is it defending the long receipts and offering vague assurances that it’s working on them – it’s now promising to take imminent action to shorten them.

“We’ve found a way to reduce the size of the ExtraCare portion of your receipts by 25% while still providing you all the coupons and rewards,” CVS Chief Marketing Officer Rob Price announced in a statement released late Friday. “The smaller, value-packed receipts will start printing in the coming weeks.” And, reiterating what another CVS spokesperson told Coupons in the News earlier this week (read: “CVS Promises Shorter Receipts, Fewer Printed Coupons – For Real This Time”), he added that “early next year, you’ll be able to send all of your offers directly to your card” instead of having them print out at the register. Currently, only “select offers” can be made paperless via CVS’s “Send to Card” feature.

It’s a remarkably swift turnabout, considering that the store’s lengthy receipts have been discussed and disparaged for years. The Wall Street Journal ran an article on the issue back in 2009. The Los Angeles Times picked up the mantle in 2010 and attempted to shame the company into changing its ways. But as recently as last week, CVS was still issuing a standard, humorless response to anyone who complained about getting receipts that were taller than them. “Printing coupons on receipts helps us cut back on the amount of paper needed to print coupons on paper or send direct mail offers,” CVS told Facebook commenters, with a straight face.

But this week, what the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times couldn’t do, a handful of niche websites and a parody Twitter account did. Nothing like becoming the butt of internet jokes to move a company to action.

In a story published earlier this week, Daily Finance’s Matt Brownell highlighted the jokey Twitter account @CVS_Receipt, which shares CVS customers’ photos and snarky comments about their overly long receipts:


The business publication Fast Company picked up the story, and urged CVS to embrace the meme and not try to fight it: “CVS ought to seize the content marketing opportunity this snafu affords its brand,” Katie Manderfield and Matthew Mirandi wrote. “Leverage the lolz, be confident enough to poke fun at themselves, and transform digital mockery into serious brand loyalty.”

CVS tenuously tried to play along the next day (and less than 10 minutes after @CVS_Receipt retweeted Coupons in the News’ take on the story):

By then, joking about CVS receipts had become a full-fledged fad. Ultimately, CVS posted its mea culpa on Twitter and Facebook, the very social media sites that were mocking it. “We’ve gone LONG on savings. And, as you’ve noticed, our receipts have gotten lengthier too,” Price’s statement acknowledged. But, “over the past few days we’ve been listening to you,” he added, in announcing the new shorter receipts. “Thanks for the feedback.”

Of course, a four-foot-long receipt that’s 25% shorter is still three feet long. And people who aren’t interested in the printed coupons are unlikely to take advantage of a program that allows them to load the offers to their card. Plus, many customers spoke out to say they don’t mind the long receipts – and the coupons – at all.

So slightly shorter receipts, that contain the same number of coupons and offers, is a compromise that could please everyone – or no one. But it’s a start.

And the whole backlash, even if it was in good fun, should serve as a cautionary tale to other retailers with disturbingly long receipts. Thankfully for them, there are no Twitter accounts named @RiteAid_Receipt, @Kmart_Receipt or @Sears_Receipt.



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