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How CVS Birthed the ‘Receipts Are Too Damn Long’ Party

The latest sign of society's downfall is finally getting the attention it deserves. Like Occupy Wall Street before it, the embers of change are first being stoked across social media. The problem? To paraphrase the great Jimmy McMillan, the Receipts Are Too Damn Long.

That’s right, epically-long receipts are the latest example of corporate waste, and the chief offender appears to be CVS (CVS). The drug store chain’s penchant for giving customers about 4 feet and 10 inches of extra paper with their purchases has taken on a life of its own as an Internet meme, spawning its own parody account on Twitter (@CVS_Receipt, launched Jun 29) and spurring legions of not-quite-fans to find new and unusual uses for the receipts.

The latest round of attention gathered steam earlier this week when AOL Daily Finance’s Matt Brownell crafted a post after one of his coworkers received a 38-inch receipt for purchasing one item.

CVS’s response to Brownell was that the coupons it prints on the receipts use “less paper than printing coupons on additional paper or that would be required if we sent direct mail offers to our members.” Still, they added that they would be reducing receipt lengths in 2014.

Fast Company picked up on the thread on Wednesday, noting that CVS was missing a golden branding opportunity. “Other brands pay top dollar for the same kind of user-generated content that CVS currently has at its disposal,” said the authors. The meme was also described as “receipt-shaming” -- something most companies would prefer their brands not be associated with.

Even CVS's Facebook Page is peppered with customers complaining about the miles of receipts they find themselves leaving the store with.

It turns out that CVS has been a long-term offender. On Thursday, Coupons in the News pointed out that the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times had looked into CVS receipts as far back as 2009. The WSJ article noted that Duane Reade drug stores, RadioShack (RSH) and Kroger (KR) were also guilty at the time of issuing absurdly long receipts. The LA Times article, from 2010, took issue with CVS' rewards program and its practice of giving those rewards to customers by attaching them to an "unusually lengthy receipt every three months."

CVS told Coupons in the News on Thursday that it was exploring ways to shorten the receipts, but offered no further details.

Other retailers may now find themselves in the crosshairs of the receipt crusaders. The @CVS_Receipt parody Twitter account helped bring to light another receipt abuser – Sears Holdings' (SHLD) Kmart chain. The Albany Business Review jumped at the chance to resurface a December 2012 article on Kmart’s habit of handing out receipts that ranged in excess of 30 inches.