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Keep Sales Receipts to Reduce Stress

10 times out of 10, I sign my sales receipt and immediately turn to find the nearest garbage can. I don’t keep them in a shoebox, I don’t save them for tax purposes, and they definitely don’t hold any sentimental value.

Well, it turns out there’s a good reason to check out your sales receipt on that little piece of paper.

I walked into the hardware store a little while ago, bought some superglue and a box cutter, and walked up to the register. This sign got me a little worried:

I wasn’t sure I would make the $5 minimum purchase, though I thought the sign was interesting because the law recently changed, allowing businesses to set minimum purchase amounts, up to $10. I mentioned to the manager that he can actually require a minimum purchase amount, as of about a month before then. I’m not for making life more difficult for consumers, but I am all for letting people know their rights.

It turns out that my two items came out to $7.44 (read on for the explanation of why I know this), so I didn’t have to run out to a not-so-nearby ATM.

I left the store, deposited my sales receipt in the garbage can, and went on my way. Two days later, I opened my Mint account to find a $47.70 charge from the hardware store, and my eyes shot out of my head. No freaking way. I called up the credit card company, which insisted I needed a sales receipt to prove how much I should have been charged (I’m not sure that is entirely true because they have an online form you can fill out). Either way, I took VISA’s advice and headed back to the store to talk to the manager.

He remembered our conversation about the minimum purchase requirement, so he trusted that I wasn’t just playing with him. I couldn’t remember what my total should have been, so I asked him how much the two items would cost, including tax. $7.44. OK, the numbers were similar enough that maybe it was an honest mistake (or maybe the employer who rang it up wasn’t being so honest). He was able to find my transaction, but needed the sales receipt to back it up, which was in his home office.

I gave him my information and partial credit card number and stopped by a few days later to check on the progress. He apologized for the inconvenience and gladly refunded my roughly $40. Phew!

I am SO glad this guy exists. $40 wouldn’t leave me homeless, but to lose it for a simple reason would suck. I also think that had this happened at a bigger store, it would have been a real hassle. This guy made it easy and the fact that he had access to all the sales receipts probably got my money back to me much quicker and with less of my time wasted.

Now, after all purchases, I check my receipt to make sure that total looks close enough. It saves me the stress, plus it keeps me in touch with my purchases: I actually know how much they cost!

On my very next shopping trip, to Trader Joes, I picked up cheese, cream cheese, and tomatoes. The total? $7.77. Should I have booked a trip to Vegas?



  1. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. When I was on vacation this summer (motorcycle camping), I was double charged by Wal*Mart for a purchase up in who-knows-where, New York. I, however, am from south central PA, and of course didn’t know about it til I got home from Vermont later in the week and balanced my books. When you can’t make it to the store the purchase was from, there’s quite a rigmarole you have to go through to get it reversed (which happens to involve fax machines – who the heck has a fax machine? My bank wouldn’t even do a fax for me). I eventually just gave up and kissed that $35 goodbye. Could’ve done a chargeback, but I did one of those a year or two ago, which is equally a pain in the ass, and didn’t want my bank to give me the boot or something.

  2. You wondered what would have happened with a bigger store. I suspect they would have an easier time locating a receipt. I had to do this with Office Max (to verify the date of purchase of a shredder for warranty purposes). They checked it out and sent me an electronic copy to my email.

  3. I agree with you. To avoid any hassle especially with the use of credit cards, as a consumer, you need to keep receipt at least a month or until you have your billing statement in your hands to track down all your expenses. I don’t really keep sales receipts since I don’t need to use credit cards in our place so I personally pay the bill.

  4. Ugh, stories like that make me want to go back to all cash. I do the same as you and find that nearest trash can for receipts because I don’t want to keep a bunch of paper. Only thing that stops me now is the inconvenience of running around with a couple hundred dollars on grocery day.

  5. It bothers me that cashiers don’t tell you the total anymore. They just expect you to see it on the credit card swipe machine.

  6. I don’t throw my receipts away when I get them but the chances of me being able to put my hands on the one I needed if anything like that did happen would be pretty slim.

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