Blame Big Data for CVS’s endless miles of receipts

Buy a single item at CVS and you can end up with a 4′-6′-long ribbon of register tape, a kind of orgy of coupons and come-ons. The phenomenon of the farcically long CVS receipt goes back to 2008 or so, when the company started buying data-mining services to plumb its customer loyalty card data, generating coupons on the fly.

This apparently worked — for a while. But stimulus regresses to the mean (AKA: we get used to stuff) and so CVS needed to do more to get the same yield, and other companies started printing their own super-long receipts, poisoning the well by getting us all more adapted to (and thus unimpressed by) the phenomenon. Register coupons have a long and weird history. Getting a coupon into the hands of someone who is likely to use it is hard because most people won’t use most coupons.


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