The restaurant is fairly full on this warm Sunday night at SXSW. The lights are low and the place has a back-woodsy charm about it. There is a small 4-piece band tucked away in the corner. The drummer keeps things swinging with just a snare and high-hat. There’s a man playing the upright bass and a guy on a semi-hollow body guitar with just the faintest crackle of distortion. And then there is the young woman with a violin in her hand, eyes closed, singing a siren-like melody. The diner guests lean in to carry on their conversations, all the while swaying to the cajun-blues groove of the band.
Our table is right near the band. It couldn’t be better—save for the fact that we can barely hear each other. The group at the table have actually only known each other for only a couple days, the product of people connecting virtually long before they ever meet face to face; our connections being facilitated by technology in ways we wouldn’t have imagined just a few years ago.
We talk. We drink. We eat amazing food. We talk some more, opening up about our lives and granting access to our real self. We find ourselves ready to move on to the next stop in our evening’s journey and meet up with more of these new companions. The restaurant is full and buzzing with conversation, music, and laughter. We signal to the waiter that we are ready for our check. When it comes, the all-too-familiar dance of “how do we split this up” begins and we quickly resolve how to best take care of the bill. Some have cash. Some have a credit card. I am one with a credit card.
We split things up and help the waiter out by detailing which card should be charged what amount. The waiter returns a while later and hands me the little tray with my card, two receipts and a pen on it. I grab the first receipt and begin to add my gratuity and sign my name only to scan a little further down and read the text at the bottom of the receipt:
TOP COPY-MERCHANT. BOTTOM COPY-CUSTOMER.
“Crap,” I think to myself. I have moved them around and am no longer sure which is which. I read it again and try and think of my movements when I first took the tray from the waiter. “Okay, I know I grabbed the pen. Then I took both receipts off the tray so I could write…” From here I can’t say for certain what I did. Did I take the bottom one and move it to the top? Was the one on the left the top copy or the one on the right?
At this moment, I realize I am overly frustrated for no reason at all. I can just add the gratuity and total it up, add my signature to both of them and then be on my merry way. The only problem is the entire experience of this great restaurant—the food, music, drinks, conversations—was just soiled by this insignificant design flaw on my silly little receipt. Except that it wasn’t just a silly little receipt. It was the very last piece that *could* have been the perfect closure to an exceptional experience.
And it got me thinking, why not create a simple, standard way for this little hiccup to never happen again? Make it painfully obvious, so that even a fool may not err therein. We humans quite open to suggestion, especially when it doesn’t require us to think and will actually help and not hinder us. It is a silly little thing—this text at the bottom of a receipt—but like Charles Eames said, ”The details are not the details. They make the design.”
So I present to you my solution, to be implemented across the bottom of all receipts the world over:
TAKE THIS COPY. LEAVE THIS COPY.
After all, it’s the little things that make a difference.