Returning Items Using a Digital Copy of Your Paper Receipt

Returning Items Using a Digital Copy of Your Paper Receipt

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.

26 Responses to “Returning Items Using a Digital Copy of Your Paper Receipt”

  1. Anonymous

    It seems that everything Walmart stands for is all about how to give their customers as hard of a time as possible. In the few times that I have shopped there, that has been my experience, but I will confine this to the specific issue being currently discussed. I tried returning an item in new condition and with all tags still in place which had been purchased four days previously at the same store. This was paid for with a Visa card. I was expecting to get a credit back on to that same card but on producing a scanned copy of their receipt I was told – “No returns without the original receipt” Great, after lining up for more than 10 minutes! I cannot see any logical or technical reason for their refusal as the recipt contained the transaction # as well as the last 4 digits of the Visa. I had to go back to another Walmart with my original receipt in order to get the item credited back. For several years I have always scanned in my receipts for two main reasons, 1. It makes tax time easier (and BTW the IRS accept digital copies) and 2. I no longer have a problem being able to read receipts which have faded out, sometimes within a few weeks. Fortunately I still keep the originals for a year or so in case of doubles not scanning. Walmart really “twisted the knife” when I rewturned with the original receipt as when I pulled out the Visa Card, they told me that was not necessary as the had the transaction in their system, and would credit the card back automatically. As they actually DID have the entire transaction in their database, why did they put me through this hassle? That is why I shop at Costco and Home Depot. It will be several more years before I return to a Walmart.

  2. Shopper

    Hi, I guess you may know by now that there is an easy solution to this problem solved by Walmart itself. If you use the Walmart app there are two ways to add receipts and store these digitally into their app. If you pay using Walmart Pay (which is part of the Walmart app), you can then submit this receipt for processing which actually compares the prices of the items you bought with other local stores and actually refunds the difference if any is found. The big advantage I think is that the receipt is available within the App – you don’t even get a paper receipt. If you do have a paper receipt – you can scan it with the app and submit it into it for the same processing which compares prices – however, there is a timelimit (I think one week) so best way is scan the receipt as soon as possible after the purchase.

  3. I have the solution to this no receipt problem at walmart stores everywhere, well actually it’s Walmarts solution since they invented it, well they also cause problem so let’s hope this cancels things out. For most this issue can be a hassle and annoying for many, who find them selves at a Walmarts Customer Service Desk, with a small problem, a missed placed receipt, but for Walmart Shoppers this small detail is not so petite in this store it’s now became a wall. This NO RECEIPT, then NO CASH refund return or lately even having the second option of store credit axed, so NO GIFT CARD CREDIT also, if the returning item(s) total is over $60 before taxes. Seems harsh for missplasing a small peice of recycled waste paper. So getting to the rout of this Walmart receipt block aid, the public with a little research and some good old reading, we find that this issue all steems from a small clause in a legal document written up by Walmarts Lawyer regarding all store policy and also for in this case the returning or replacing of a Walmary product. The Lawyers state pretty much in this portion of so said document is that in nearly all cases the customer “YOU” should not be trusted in your actions, this is in direct regards to the stores annual profit and return product losses. So how this all fits, is when you don’t have a Walmart receipt that has been issued to you by an employee a representative of Walmart. Without that to them you are nothing, but one thing a liar, so if you tell them you lost the receipt and before you say anything they already thinking in there head NO REFUND, because to Walmart after your first sentence was spoke and you are now trying to explain your alternate methods of access to your paper God, that would in most other establishments and should here at Walmart, now become deaf to your receipt-less sorry excuse for a soul, because thanks to those Lawyers trying to find cheats and holes to make more bottom line cash and max profits for mighty share holders at allany cost, but there own. Everyone knows it since you walked in Walmart, you are not to be trusted, just hurded threw like cattle. Which is fine, but once you stop feasting on all the child labored products and goods, it’s time to pay a get out, because remember if you are not doing what I just explained to you as being excepted, your worthless, scum and above all a liar in all you say. Well finally since it seems there will never be an end or an amendment to the legal bierocracy of Walmart. After many years and millions of paying customers complaints, just being of the issue of NO ORIGINAL
    RECEIPT – NO CASH REFUND type. With this the fact of miscontent building up towards Walmart coming from a mistreated and biasly judged public. We’re now doing more than just taking a relaxed outlook or just plain agnoring Walmart Corp. and its family’s queries. Most of these issues Including and then some, are non existent, under trained, understaffed or just down right lack of ambition, care or skill and to just come down to good out attitude towards people. With Walmart employees and management are both at faults includes staff help, quota managing, self initiative, teamwork, anger management skills, over all support and any and all customer care and one on one support. Soon after the talk started spreading far and then wide, and now the people that matter had seen all the negect, abuse and mistreatment. Because now we noticed that we have all the power. The power to buy or not to buy. We had the cash. So 5 years ago they created the first Walmart lost receipt retrieval hotline. Just by calling a 1-800 number and answering a few quick questions, the will fax you a receipt to you personally or to Walmart customer service desk, for approval and verification. Presto problem solved,
    Yeah right!!!

  4. Anonymous

    I returned a jacket with a bad zipper to costco (US). No receipt, it was a year old, and it was a gift from someone who has a different card on the same account. They looked it up on compouter, didn’t find it, on her card. Told them she probably had her sister pick it up since at the time there was no local costco. they asked for the sister’s name and city and found the purchase on her card and issued a refund or store credit. If I had a scanned copy it probably would have made the lookup easier. So they are good at returns,
    But as @Joe mentioned, thgey don’t share your purchase history with you. Their website is a complete and total train wreck. I can look up details of any item offered for sale at competitor Sam’s Club and food items will usually include ingredients and nutrition but costco doesn’t even have most items.

    If you have a My Lowes (home improvement) card, there is no need for a receipt. It is a key part of the marketing for the card. Also, I think you can look up your past purchases online, which helps when you want to buy another – and that is just good business sense.

    One of the reasons I always figured stores wanted the original receipt is to prevent you from buying one and returning 3. Hence the crossing out of returned items. But their computers should be able to detect supernumerary returns. Last time i returned two items from two different Walmarts (with receipt) they didn’t even bother to cross out the line item on either receipt.

  5. Anonymous

    There is a way round this and I have done it. A car garage refuse to accept my digital copy of a receipt. So I printed the receipt out on to paper and they refused this as well saying it was still a scan. Then I loaded the receipt into photoshop, cropped it, brightened it up and printed it out again. Cut it out so it looked like the original receipt. Screwed it up a few times then took it in. Result: It was accepted by the same person who had rejected it twice previously! I wanted to tell him so much but I had to resist!

  6. Anonymous

    I have been wondering the same thing and ran across this article. I use walmart app savings catcher and wondered since it stores your receipts that walmart should accept that

  7. Anonymous

    Someone mentioned that the problem was that he was dealing with walmart and walmart employees are incompetent. Well I work at Walmart and the only reason why someone would possibly have trouble with this at Walmart is because walmart gets scammed A LOT, because they are so lenient on return. I get scammed returns back in my department everyday. Example: an hdmi cable that looks like it’s 3 years old with incorrect packaging. I don’t work in the customer service department so I am not sure if it is policy to not accept receipts like that but if they give you trouble just ask for an “assistant manager” Walmart managers kiss ass and even if it is against policy as long as you have the TC number they will not give you trouble.

  8. Anonymous

    I called Walmart corporate to inquire about their receipt requirements for returns for refund or replacement. I was told that photocopies or “e-receipts” are perfectly fine and if I ever had a problem to have them summon the store manager. And if the store manager had a problem to ask that he or she call the corporate office then and there for clarification.

  9. Anonymous

    I use the Quicken Mobile App on my Android phone. It allows me to enter the transaction at the time. It also records the GPS location and gives me the option to take a photo of the receipt. Once it sync’s back to my Quicken on my computer everything is there.

  10. Anonymous

    Costco Canada recently phoned me (an automated message) to inform me I had purchased Almond Butter that was part of a recalled batch that had problems with salmonella.

    Costco has a record of everything you have bought, so why don’t they share that with us? The “paper receipt” is theoretically not required to prove you bought something – just your membership card is enough. The reality is that lots of returns don’t happen because people are bad about filing their receipts.

  11. Anonymous

    Fyi..As far as Walmart goes, if you take in your bank statement showing the transaction details and date along with the card you used to make the purchase they can look up the receipt for you and get your cash back and avoid a in store credit. I had a receipt that was faded and when I questioned them about a receipt look up this is what I was told by a Walmart representative.

  12. Anonymous

    I’ve finally moved to “paperless” about a year or more ago. After much study I went with the Scansnap 1500. Small footprint on desk. Fast, excellent, sheet feeder scans. Delighted with performance. Also went with Evernote. Put the two together and you can kiss off your home file cabinet. I do also keep hard copies of things like notarized documents. I keep a hard copy document index in Evernote so I can also find the documents in my old file cabinet.

  13. Anonymous

    I’ve been “paperless” since the first Visioneer Paperport scanner came out over 12 years ago perhaps.

    I’ve printed and returned items within the return period without problem at every store imaginable.

    If you have a “problem” with an individual simply ask for the store manager. Don’t bother with asking for a supervisor, just aim for the top. Whomever responds will resolve the problem you’re having with the first person.

    Recently at a Michaels I had 1/2 our entire order ring up without the sale prices after not only asking what was on sale from the staff but being physically shown. It was holiday stuff that apparently wasn’t on sale “yet”. When I told the manager very politely and very firmly that it would be the last and final time I ever allowed my wife to shop there (the ticket was well over $100), she simply returned the entire basket and re-rang it. She then apologized that her staff was new and they had completely mis-informed us. What I’m getting at is that a manager has the in-store authority to pretty much do whatever they want within reason.

    As it relates to accepting a printout or screen shot of a sales receipt, that’s a simple customer service issue as indicated by another poster.

    Each day I either physically scan, or take an image with my iphone to pdf, then upload to my Dropbox folder of receipts which I have categorized (otherwise will never find what I need). I have a folder for Target, Walmart, Costco, Lowes, Home Depot, Michaels, etc. I don’t waste time scanning grocery or restaurant bills (nothing to return).

    It’s liberating to be without paper. I figure if the grid goes down who cares about receipts anyways. There’s no reason to keep paper.

    On a side note, anyone ever notice that every McDonalds in the entire world has the worst receipts of any entity out there: not that I would ever scan a McDonalds receipt.

    Happy scanning. I currently use the sheet feeding Epson GT-S50 and cannot recommend it highly enough. I also use the Professional version of FileCenter 7.0 (developed in Utah).

  14. Anonymous

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I have read elsewhere online that at least in the case of defective merchandise one does not necessarily need the original receipt. The only thing needed is proof that it was purchased at that particular store (or store chain) which could include something as simple as an except from a bank statement. That is not so for regular return items, but at least for a defective item your scans and photocopies should be perfectly acceptable.
    We have had to return two defective items to Sears within the last year however and had tremendous trouble doing so. I also digitize receipts, but I tend to do so at least 3 months behind schedule on a normal basis. It’s just so hard to find the appropriate receipt when it comes time to make a return for a defective appliance or electronic item.
    On our first return, I paid for it on a Sears creditcard and was able to verify the purchase with the people at Sears card services. It took the manager of the store to override the other staff’s decisions however.
    We are still trying to return the second item. It is within warranty and purchased with a protection plan. However, it was paid 1/2 with a gift card and 1/2 on a debit card. This is proving to be a stumbling block to proving where we bought it and the price paid. The store has rejected us twice and sent us home to contact the manufacturer.

  15. Anonymous

    I’m glad you posted about not getting rid of original receipts. I don’t like to save things so I better rethink my strategy.

  16. Anonymous

    Just a heads up, as an avid scanner/shredder of all things receipt, AND a previous big box retailer Customer Service Manager, a nice piece of info most don’t know: If they require the ‘original’ receipt they will likely have a method to access and print one for you. They use the receipt specific numbers to access the data. The only people that balk at taking a copy are the a**holes, as it were.

  17. Anonymous

    I think your issue here was that you were dealing with Walmart. Of all of the big box stores out there my experience is that they are the worst in terms of customer service and having employees capable of using their brains. Any small deviation from a standard transaction results in the deer-in-headlights look from the typical Walmart employee followed by a near automatic “sorry, we can’t do that”.

    @Kathryn – I totally agree about receipts becoming unreadable. I have even found receipts that faded almost completely filed safely away in my file cabinet away from heat and light. Any big ticket receipts get scanned just for this reason.

  18. Anonymous

    I scan my serious purchase receipts. I name the images with Date, Store Name, Purchase Item, Amount. I file the original in a small accordion by month. The computer files are easily searched and lead me to the original. When I’m checking my credit card statements, I can search for the amount of a charge and find the digital copy of the receipt.

  19. Anonymous

    That’s great to know. 🙂 I have had to return items with missing receipts before and just settled on store credit. Now I’ll just snap a pic. Thanks!

  20. Anonymous

    I keep the original receipt for all large purchases. It is not ’going paperless’ if you already have the paper…

    Paperless, to me, means converting to electronic form so you never use paper in the first place. Like using online utility billing, or paperless bank statements.

  21. Anonymous

    My teens went out shopping this past week to the mall and one of the stores they shopped in now gives you the option of having the receipt emailed to you instead of having it printed and given to you at the time of purchase. They took advantage of this and it appeared in my inbox instantaneously.

  22. Anonymous

    That is certainly a great idea to have the scanned receipt for returns. I have been scanning my receipts since I got a scanner but I have never had to return anything and not had the receipt.

    I am going to follow your lead on this one and I hope stores train their workers on using mobile versions as more and more people are using their phones.

  23. Anonymous

    I have considered doing this and never thought of the return problem. It is definitely something I’ll have to keep in mind if/when I decide to jump on board.

  24. Anonymous

    I bought a mattress set at Sears and was given the advice by the Sears representative to make a photocopy of the receipt. I thought it peculiar, then I noticed that the receipt seemed a bit thin, shiny and delicate.

    Since then, I’ve noticed that many of my receipts become unreadable when left in hot places, like cars, and this could render any warranty void.

    Scanning receipts seems quite sensible to ensure that warranties, proof-of-purchase, etc. remain intact. That Sears receipt remains readable.

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