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I’ve written in the past about my desire to transition to a paperless personal financial system. As part of this, I’ve gotten in the habit of shooting photos of all of my receipts and/or scanning most paper documents that come across my desk.
So now, whenever I buy something, I take a moment to take a snapshot of the receipt with my iPhone and then upload it to Evernote (using the Evernote app, which makes it quick and easy). I likewise store many of our scanned documents in Evernote such that I have a mobile, syncable, and searchable repository of all kinds of information.
This has worked well and has greatly streamlined things in our house. That said, I’ve always wondered what would happen when it comes time to return something and all I have is a photo of the receipt. Well, earlier this week I found out.
I had to return an item to Walmart and all I had was the snapshot of my receipt. Not sure what format would be most acceptable, I copied the image back to my camera roll and “scanned” it using JotNot, which is an app that essentially turns your phone into a scanner (it does keystone correction and then creates a black-and-white or color image in your preferred file format). I then printed the resulting image and headed to Walmart.
Upon my arrival, I presented the rep at the service desk with my printed copy of the receipt and explained that it was a printout of my digital copy since I store everything electronically. In theory, this shouldn’t be a problem because their receipts all have bar codes that can be scanned (or manually entered) to pull up the transaction. But theory and reality aren’t always the same.
She took my copy of the receipt, flashed it to a co-worker and asked if they could accept it. The co-worker said “nope, no photocopies” (which it looked like) and turned away. I have no idea if this is official store policy or if the employees were just mis-informed. But instead of arguing the point, I whipped out my phone and showed the rep the original photo of the receipt. She took a look and relented.
If she had refused, I would’ve only been able to return it for store credit (not a huge deal, but still kind of a pain) and it would’ve counted against my limit of three receipt-less returns within a 45 day period. Again, not a huge deal but not ideal. There’s also a risk that I would get less than I originally paid because they typically issue receipt-less refunds for the lowest recent sale price.
In the end, I was able to get this taken care of with relatively little fuss, though it was touch and go for a minute. Note that many other merchants (Target, Lowes, etc.) will do an on-the-spot receipt lookup by swiping your card (assuming you paid with a debit or credit card) though this doesn’t seem to be an option at Walmart.
What about you? Have you tried to return things with a digital image of the receipt? If so, did you run into any problems? Do you have any tips or tricks for making it as painless as possible?
Note: While writing this article, I ran across an older post from The Consumerist highlighting the Walmart Electronic Payments Hotline (479-277-2643). Apparently you can (or could back then) call this number with your store location, date of purchase, and credit/debit card number and they’ll look up your receipt and fax you a copy. Hopefully a fax from the mothership will be acceptable at the return desk.