I have been meaning to write this post for some time, but a thought I had with respect to the current corona virus crisis brought it back to my attention. And more about that thought later.
On the left is a recent Aldi receipt. As you will see it is relatively simple - just like supermarket receipts used to be. It begins with the name of the store. They don't even bother with a detailed address - just the suburb and their ABN which is probably a legislative requirement. Then there is a list of what you bought and the price, including the per kg price for the plums and whether the item attracted GST. The GST amount is listed separately at the bottom. Now I have never paid much attention to this. I had probably not thought about it much, but having now checked all the three receipts I realise - well I probably did anyway - that it's only food that does not have GST attached. Cleaning things and toothpaste do - which is possibly not fair to the poor, as these too are essential items are they not? The curtains - no - indeed I'm not fully convinced that we want them anyway, but you can't argue that much with my husband.
The only other information on this particular receipt is how we paid for it - with a Visa card - and the fact that we got some cash as well. But then Aldi do not have a rewards card, and they do not email me with information about special offers - or corona virus. Aldi's approach is much simpler - they rely heavily on their catalogue and don't seem to care what individual customers buy.
Next is Woolworths. We bought just five items but this receipt is 33cm long. And this is where you begin to realise that the receipt is more for Woolworths' benefit than your own.
But let's look at it item by item. They have an actual address and also a phone number. Aldi did not do that, and they are also keen to let you know via logos and slogans who they are.
They have little symbols to show whether something is on a special or attracts GST. And here's my first question. On this particular bill I (actually David) seem to have been charged 77c GST and yet there are no GST items on the list. So what is the 77c for? I asked David but he also could not see why. Are we being done out of money little by little? I'm willing to bet that none of us ever check this. Well maybe some careful people do, but not most of us. I do check that the price is what I thought it would be as it is clocked up on the computer screen, but that is the sum total of the attention I pay.
But whilst on GST, as I said before, food - all food - is GST free. Which sort of begs the question of should it be, when I look at this
particular receipt. Should Chocolate ice cream lollies, apple muffins and rich fruit loaf be GST free? They're all 'luxury' items really - you can tell this is a David shop. And moreover they are not healthy. Perhaps the ruling should be no GST on essential items whether food or not. Although I guess it would never be that simple as sooner or later you would get into what is essential and what is not.
In big letters they tell me I have saved $2.20 on the two specials I bought and that I have earned 24 reward points on this shop, bring my total to a massive 400! Not very big, but then I guess we redeem our 'points' all the time on petrol. Oh and there's the usual format for paying with a card - this time we also took out some money via EFTPOS.
At the end of the actual receipt is the coded information for the store, the transaction and the cashier - I'm guessing it's just a number (56) because we did a self-checkout. This bit of information is very definitely for them.
And what is the barcode below that for? It doesn't seem to be linked to anything, although I guess if you went back to the store and questioned it, they could probably bring up the receipt on their system by scanning the barcode. It's just a guess though. It maybe tells them much more.
And finally you get their current special offers at one of their partners - in this case at BWS. We don't pay much attention to these either, but maybe we should. My scanner was not quite big enough to include the other barcode at the bottom - this one was more evident though - it is for the special wine or beer offer. You had to present it to get the offer.
But no that's not all. On the reverse, are a series of little promotional ads telling you what wonderful people Woolworths are. Including the very first one here - a recipe - what to do with apples that are a bit past it. And a link to part of their website for similar tips.
They exhort you to get their app so that you can browse their catalogue of specials and promotions for their latest charity effort, whereby they contribute if you buy a particular item, or donate in a collecting box. And finally, for this particular receipt a reminder that kids can get free fruit in the store. I see that the next one, which is cut off is something to do with Jamie Oliver, and I'm sure there are similar other items. I am certainly not going to knock the 'worthy' things that they do. I do think that they do contribute to various worthy things and they should be applauded for it. But it's a balance isn't it between the worthy and the promotional? Does it matter that it gives them a bit of righteous publicity if charities and the health of our kids benefit? Could those charities exist without them and similar commercial sponsors?
And anyway does anybody read this stuff? If we don't read the front of our receipt properly - that mysterious 77c GST - then I don't think we are likely to read the back.
Now I'm sure that the back of these supermarket receipts used to be full of special offers for other businesses - for which the supermarket doubtless got a cut. But no more it seems. I wonder why? Coles no longer have anything at all on the back of theirs.
So on to Coles.
This one was even longer - 40cm. Admittedly there were more items, but not many - 11 as opposed to 5.
Coles are a tiny bit more personal in that they name the store manager - Addy and the cashier - Aoife. And I do remember her because of the unusual name, which was Irish. And she did have red hair too. I imagine that if we had done a self-checkout then there would have just been a number here.
But they don't give the address of the store - just Eltham - although there is a phone number. I'm sure the name of the cashier is not really for our benefit - more for them to check up on her and also to ensure that the name tallies with the number of the register (also given) and the date. Woolworths never tell you who the store manager is though. Coles generally have a photograph and a name on the wall, although they seem to have stopped doing that of late.
We weren't done of out of GST here, it tallies I think (well I haven't actually done the sums), and I think their symbols for specials and GST items are a bit clearer.
There is the same information on how we paid, and also in big bold lettering highlighted by a bold starred border, how much we saved on this shop. It does leap out at you a bit more than the Woolworths one, so you might be impressed, because it's a reasonable saving. Unlike Woolworths though they do not tell us how many fly buys points we earned on this particular shop, although I see we now have 70087 points, which we don't really know what to do with. I should investigate. The reason they accumulate here is because we do not redeem them on petrol much. I will come to this later.
Again there is that mysterious barcode at the bottom of the actual receipt. Obviously information for Coles, or merely a device to bring it up on the system if needed?
But we are now into promotions.
First of all I see I now have 23 glassware credits - their current thing - having earned 2 on this shop. Well actually I think this particular promotion is over, so any points I might have accumulated have done nothing for me. I wonder if these sort of promotions are successful or not? For me it's meaningless. I do not shop enough to earn enough to get a set of glasses, and besides I don't need them, or even want them. Do people really go and spend more so that they can get them? I suppose Coles must know. And how do they calculate how many glasses they will need?
And last of all we come to a genuine special offer - like Woolworths this is one at their associated Liquorland store. I actually should check whether this is really an offer you only get having shopped at Coles or whether, if you walked into Liquorland, you would find the self same offer there anyway. Apologies for not checking. We suspect it might be one only attainable by shopping at Coles, because they have their own in store offers and also some that you can only get by ordering online.
No it wasn't quite the last thing because there is the petrol voucher. If you spend more than $30 (same in Woolworths) you get 4c per litre off petrol at their Shell petrol stations. There is one near us - in fact it is slightly more convenient than the Caltex one, for Woolworths, but we generally don't choose Coles, for two reasons. One the price is often higher anyway - an obvious reason not to choose it. But the other is that you have to keep this coupon, which expires after a month or so, and tender it at the petrol station. Not as convenient as just flashing your rewards card. And I have to say that it does seem a slightly more old-fashioned way of doing things, for they surely don't glean as much information as they would if we used our flybuys card.
But here I come to information gathering and the corona virus. Those fly buys cards and Rewards cards collect huge amounts of information about your likes and dislikes and very possibly your financial situation too. And therefore we get those targeted emails telling you what specials this week are likely to interest you personally. And they are pretty accurate are they not? And maybe they entice you into the store to buy those specials.
And I do wonder if they could actually find out who has been buying up all those toilet rolls, pasta, and flour. And if they could, and if it became important, and if we lived in a police state, could they find those people and penalise them? Is that a scary thought? The code for each item you bought is not on that receipt but every item on the shelf must have a code. So therefore there must be a link somewhere. You could probably put a link that would ring some sort of alarm bell if you bought too many toilet rolls. Too late now of course, but it's a thought. I wonder if it's in that mystery barcode.
There is absolutely no doubt that those cards and the checkout machines collect a huge amount of information about you. If you choose not to use the cards, then they don't get the information I suppose. Is that a good or a bad thing? What would you miss out on? The opportunity to get some special deals I suppose - particularly petrol. Not needing to always have cash in your purse or wallet. If I linked my flybuys card to a Velocity card, which I believe I can, I might eventually be able to get a flight to France - next time we can go anywhere that is. I do remember some of our English friends who visited many years ago saying that their shopping in Sainsbury's had contributed to their airline tickets. But would you miss out on anything else? I honestly don't know what I could get with my flybuys card, and I wonder whether other people do as well. I'm guessing a huge amount of flybuys card points are never redeemed.
Then there's the question of wasting resources - I saw one guy who did a similar exercise, but concentrating on all of the wasted paper with the useless information. Well I suppose he is right, but even if the main winner in the information game is the supplier - Woolworths and Coles, I imagine it must make them operate more efficiently which ultimately would enable them to keep prices down at least a bit surely? Or am I naive?
All very much food for thought anyway.