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Fading Receipts
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If you buy anything from Best Buy that you might need to return in the future, make a photocopy of your receipt right after you've made your purchase and staple the original receipt to the photocopy. The reason: Best Buy receipts are printed on thermal paper with ink that fades so badly that they become unreadable. That makes them unusable to prove the date of purchase if an item goes bad while it's still under the manufacturer's warranty.

It doesn't take the receipts very long to fade, either. A new computer I purchased from them about two months ago has been making a lot of noise on startup and then shutting itself off after a period of time. When I looked for the receipt in my files, I had trouble finding it because the ink had already faded so much that part of it is unreadable. The date on the receipt is almost totaly rubbed off, and the year part of the date is rubbed off. (You can see the 0 for 06, but not the 6). I can't make out the actual price I paid for the computer, either. I looked at a few other receipts I have for equipment purchased at the store over the last couple of years, and those are all but blank.

The problem isn't limited to the Best Buy where I shop. I've seen reports on the Internet from people in other locations who've had the same problem, too.

Frankly, I think there ought to be a law against using ink that fades on receipts. But until there is, protect yourself by making a photocopy of original receipts from Best Buy and any other store that print receipts on the thin, somewhat shiny paper that's characteristic of thermal printing.

Posted on September 24, 2006 at 8:23 PM | Comments (33)

Comments

The bottom line, is always have copies locked up! The reason for the fading ink is in your best interest, so NO ONE gets your information, which is now a MAJOR violation with the feds in your FACTA and HIPPA regualtions.
As inconvenient as it may be, they are protecting us from Identity Theft and most stores can tell you when you made large purchases and some like Office Depot have a membership program that will track your purchases.

Posted by: Penny on September 26, 2006 at 10:19 AM

I rather doubt the fading ink does anything to protect identity - at least not from most stores. Your name, address and full credit card number do not appear on cash register receipts from stores. So I don’t see any way a cash register receipt could give away much information about you.

Posted by: Janet on September 26, 2006 at 12:08 PM

I do not believe fading ink on store receipts is in the best interest of the customer. The cash register receipts have no personal information like Janet has pointed out. And yes, I am a Best Buy customer with faded receipts(Target and Kohl’s Dept Store have the disappearing ink as well). They are not protecting my information, however it does keep them from providing me with service I am entitled to. If they can’t read the receipt, I’m out of luck. The fading ink is a JOKE on the consumer that can’t prove what’s on the receipt. So I doubt as well the fading ink is to protect our identity.

Posted by: Dee on September 26, 2006 at 7:37 PM

This reminded me of the controversy about “planned obsolesence” in which products are engineered to break or become inoperative after a certain period (usually the end of the warranty period). Dishonest corporations are hoping that we will throw out the faded receipts and forget about any guarantees that may be implicit in them. Keep these receipts in cool, airtight, light-tight containers to preserve them best while they are stapled to Xerox copies made of them when still readable. Don’t throw them into boxes or spindle them with other receipts to be sorted at the end of the year.

Posted by: DPG on September 27, 2006 at 9:30 AM

Janet,
These new receipts are written by thermal printers, which means that the paper reacts to a heat source in the printer in order to produce an image.
So here’s a warning to all of your readers… DON’T leave your receipts in the car, especially in the summer time. I’ve had receipts turn dark gray or black in just days, making the products impossible to return (happened to me with some cell phone accessories).
—Mark Widawer

Posted by: Mark Widawer on September 28, 2006 at 2:57 AM

I know exactly what you mean. We have a limousine business and we have to save reciepts for Everything. A few of you had mentioned using your credit card and that the store was using the excuse that the ink fading was for your protection. What I have done in the past is taken my faded reciept to the store along with a copy of my credit card statement to show them the purchase date, and amount. This has worked for me everytime. You worked hard for your money so feel free to throw a fit, I do. If these stores want to stay in business they need to re-adopt the policy that “the customer is always right”.

Posted by: Melissa Draudt on September 28, 2006 at 2:16 PM

This is unbelievable. I have had the same problem with receipts fading to the point that its nearly a piece of white paper but I had recently been attributing it to leaving them in my wallet too long. I often have trouble with credit cards going bad due to all the items in my wallet and thought that it was also wearing out receipts that had neglected to file away. To hear that Janet’s receipts are fading while neatly stored in her files where no friction is occuring daily is horrible.
Sneaky retailers

Posted by: John Borne on November 30, 2006 at 11:13 PM

This happens all the time. I eventually started running my receipts through a copier. Worst case, I download a “dot matrix” font and recreate the receipt (from memory of course) in MS Word…

Posted by: Traume on May 13, 2007 at 10:59 PM

Thermal printers are used because they are low cost and low maintenance with no inks or ribbons needing to be replaced. They produce the image by applying heat onto a chemically coated paper and since the entire slip is coated any additional heat will turn the whole thing black obscuring your original printout. The printed image will begin to fade whenever the dye in the coated paper is exposed to such items as UV light, sunlight, florescent lights, organic vapors such as alcohol, solvents, cleaning chemicals etc. Storage should be out of direct light and away from heat and humidity. Avoid using plastic for storage since it is made from petroleum products, (use manila folders or envelopes). Also do not store in contact with carbon or carbonless paper, adhesive tape, or post-it notes.

Posted by: Dale on June 12, 2007 at 2:27 PM

The mystery continues. I too have gone through receipts recently for the flexible spending account reimbursement. I can hardly see some of the items on receipts, dates are non-existent. It’s rediculous that I would have to xerox receipts which generally requires having to tape them to letter paper, etc. to run through my officejet copier. Oh sure, I can pay to copy them at Kinkos or use the office resources, but I shouldn’t have to.

Maybe we can come up with a plan to make the merchants more accountable to us for purchase receipts.

Posted by: Prince on June 28, 2007 at 3:59 PM

Could it be that the stores want them to dissapear, so that don’t have to honor the product which was purchased?

Posted by: mike on July 30, 2007 at 12:03 PM

I believe it’s true the stores want them to fade so their unreadable so the customers are unable to keep tabs on just when the product was bought, and ESPICALLY if there was an extended warrenty involved, they want you to forget all about that so they don’t have to honor what you’ve paid for. Yes, one can copy the original, yes smart thinking, but again, probably over 90% of the poeple don’t think to do that, leaving the stores to gain. I speak of Circuit City, Home Depot, Best Buy,to name a few. My question, is there something one could do to try and retreive the information once it’s faded, perhaps spray it with a mist of vinigar or something like that? Don’t know, but am going to try until I figure out a way.

Posted by: Tom on August 17, 2007 at 12:45 PM

Also, don’t use highlighters to mark up these receipts, use an ink pen only. The highlighters wipe information right off the receipt. Ask me how I know : (

Posted by: Lynn on August 24, 2007 at 10:39 AM

There are answers to this problem.
1: Don,t buy from these stores.
2: Ask for a written receipt.
3: Yes copy the receipts and keep your credit card statements.

Posted by: Perley on August 24, 2007 at 10:41 AM

After reading all the previous comments, with several suggesting photocopies, I wondered if anybody had considered scanning the receipts to save the images to your computer.

Posted by: Jerry Sholley on September 9, 2007 at 2:35 AM

My husband and I have 2 semi trucks on the road. The business of disappearing ink on the receipts is worse than ridiculous. The receipts can fade to nothing before you get them into a folder or binder! Copy them? Scan them? You are kidding right.

Too bad spraying them with something won’t bring the ink back.

Ah! Lynn, I too learned the hard way. I highlighted the dates on the reciepts so I could quickly find it. Soon I could find nothing but the highlighter.

Debra

Posted by: Debra on September 27, 2007 at 4:58 PM

After finding this discussion, I went looking for scanners. I found one that the guys could carry in the trucks. Can anyone give any insight on how the IRS might feel about these documents?

It is really frustrating to have your tax deductions fade away :-)

TIA
Debra

Posted by: Debra on September 28, 2007 at 12:03 PM

Businesses use thermal receipts because the only supply is paper. The printers are small requiring very little counter space, and they are very fast.

There are thermal papers that are coated so as not to fade nearly as quickly, but they are more expensive. We live in a highly competitive business climate, where most big box businesses believe that Americans won’t pay the extra .02 per receipt to get a non-fading version.

I run a retail business, and we still use laser receipts, that don’t fade. Yes the printer is bigger and slower, the receipts are bigger, but they don’t fade, and the paper doesn’t self destruct.

Posted by: N Jung on December 6, 2007 at 11:52 AM

WOW! Now I am really upset. The IRS is auditing me and I have diligently kept every receipt for the last 20 years just for this day. Thinking I was going to blow the IRS out of the water with my ironclad evidence, I went to go through my receipts. SURPRIZE! They are all faded out. 7 out of 10 of them are completely white. Others are partially faded in critical areas. I have kept my receipts in airtight containers in the dark (Attic). After reading through this discussion, I now see that this is a common problem that every business owner faces. Aside from the fact that I have wasted years of my life storing useless pieces of blank paper and am going to lose the battle with the IRS, what I am really mad about is that nothing has been done about this problem on the national level. In my opinion, it is a criminal act for a store to give you a receipt that will fade knowing full well that the IRS views that receipt as a legal document that can be used as evidence in a court of law. Legal documents, by law, must be made of durable material. Just imagine if your birth certificate were made out that crappy material?

In a nutshell, we need to make it a law that as long as the IRS requires receipts as legal evidence for you to prove your expenses, stores should be required to issue receipts that are durable.

Posted by: Victor B on March 26, 2008 at 6:20 PM

Its a shame that only today i have read about faded receipts. In April this year i bought a bag from a pet shop in New Farm, when i got home i checked the receipt & found that i had been charged twice for the bag, but didnt pick it up at the time as i had bought several other items. I rang first thing on the next day & the owner/manager agreed that she had overcharged me & would refund ,but i had to go to the store in person, i asked for a cheque to be sent or a visa refund over the phone but neither of these were possible. I explained to the owner that i only went over that side of town very rarely & it would take some time before i could get there.She said not to worry she would remember & would refund any time i was able to get there.Two weeks ago i went to the pet shop, the owner manager had no recollection of the conversation ,unfortunately the receipt had faded almost completely apart from the word ‘Shop’ & the visa card receipt was for the total amount ( c $330-) not the individual amount of $85. Though she offered $40 credit out of good faith, i just dont think it is good enough.Visa card couldnt do anything as it was over the time limit for investigation.
Im sure C.S.I could have some way of getting the ink back to original!!
My advice is trust no one & get a written receipt !

Posted by: A.M.A on October 11, 2008 at 2:53 AM

I have the same problem with Home Depot receipts. I used some logic and tried a couple of experiments and I have found the solution! I put a receipt in the toaster oven and began baking it while I watched. After a short while the receipt began to turn black and all the information showed up clearly in white! Try it, but don’t let it go too long or it might ignite. Let me know your comments.

Posted by: Dave Butler on November 24, 2008 at 12:27 PM

If the receipt they give me is hard to read (ie faded or fading) I usually request that they provide a “darkened” xerox copy of it when I make the purchase. They do, after all, have offices at each location.

If more people did that they might think twice about using those thermal printers since the cost to Best Buy of making xerox copies for most customers would outweigh any savings they have been making by using the cheapo printers.

But I also think (or know) that the practice is deliberate.

Posted by: Lee on December 7, 2008 at 1:13 PM

csi would pt the receipt in an eclosed fish tank, sans fish and place a few drops of crazy glue on the silver wrapper from a stick of gum….seen it in beverly hills cop too….very fascinating

Posted by: anna on March 19, 2009 at 2:41 PM

Hmmmmm…I think I’m going to have my checks printed on thermal paper…

Posted by: Blueblood on June 26, 2009 at 7:47 AM

If you or someone you know has been denied the expense by the IRS because the receipts faded, please give me a call or drop me an email. I am a NY tax attorney and am putting together a group of people that have been affected by this and want to take legal action to protect your rights. My email is info@hacohenwolf.com and our telephone number is (646) 688-5785.

Thanks,

Dave Wolf, Esq.

Posted by: Dave on September 8, 2009 at 9:05 AM

Thank you all for the information.
I have been helping my cousins with their sm. business taxes (past four years) and reading the receipts has been a nightmare.
I too, wish we could add some type of spray and then be able to read the receipt.
Has anyone had an experience being audited with the IRS with the problem of faded receipts?

Posted by: Melissa on January 28, 2010 at 12:52 PM

“…there ought to be a law against using ink that fades on receipts.”

THERE IS!

This is fraud in the inducement of a contract. If a company sells you something, then there is consideration from both parties. If one party decides to reduce their consideration at the expense of the other party without their knowledge and consent, this is fraud.

I have filed a FTC complaint and will let you know how it comes out. Sears never delivered an item I purchased in the store to me. They wouldn’t refund my purchase over the phone. Months later, went I went to the store, the receipt was badly faded and impossible to read. Tomorrow I will start litigation to recover the money I paid them. I will never buy anything else from Sears.

Posted by: Bill on February 11, 2010 at 9:59 PM

I have read about faded receipts. The store is using bad thermal paper printer. It makes original receipt unreadable and this is very detrimental to the buyer.

Posted by: Zane Marquez on August 4, 2010 at 4:51 AM

So…(yes this is some time later) should we store the original receipts in a cool dry place (which right now I cannot think of such a place). Usually if it’s cool and dark it is also dank. In light of customer dissatisfaction (closed accounts, etc.) which lead BofA to rescind their Debit Card Fees and the protests all across the country…the customer / citizen / voter can make a difference if we apply enough of the right pressure in the right places and at the right times.

Posted by: Sharon on November 2, 2011 at 12:24 PM

Well, here is my hopefully logical opinion: We all have the problem of having a receipt fade away. These companies are responsible for the equipment that these stores use, therefore, the receipts were not destroyed by the consumers fault so the stores should be liable and honor them - no questions. Alas, We do not live in a very logical world..

Posted by: Kay on September 10, 2012 at 9:40 PM

Thank you Dave Butler for your suggestion! We tried holding our prepaid XBox reciept next to a 60 watt light bulb and were able to get the missing numbers from our code. If anyone tries this make sure it doesn’t burn since it is a little touchy. Only use it as a last resort!

Posted by: Skye on September 27, 2012 at 10:37 PM

Is there a way for the ink to come back. Not even a year ago I purchased a flat pannel 42” Philips HDTV and my reciept is almost non exsistant. I called philips and was told I need a copy of my original reciept. This is a problem becuase my ink is almost non exsistant. Can anyone help me Please!!! I have only but a few months left before my warrenty expires!! I was not aware of this fading reciept ink paper!

Posted by: Layla on October 25, 2012 at 2:25 AM

im wondering if clear spray will help to preserve the receipt. any comments? im gonna try this with some sample of receipts and will let you guys know the result.

Posted by: bondy on December 12, 2012 at 3:18 AM

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