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Disappearing text on receipts leaves consumers unable to return gadgets

Technically Incorrect: In the UK, some stores use receipts printed using thermal printers, but the text can fade quickly.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


Fading away.

eHowTech/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

You buy a laptop and, too soon, there's something wrong with it. So you grab your receipt and take your gadget back to the store.

Some customers in the UK, however, are finding this more difficult than they thought. The text on their receipt has faded away.

As Britain's Sunday Times reports, the problem lies in thermal printers that don't need ink cartridges.

They might be cost-efficient, but because they print the receipts on temperature-sensitive paper, the text can vanish after a while, especially if the receipt is left in light or heat.

The Times cited retailer Argos as one of those whose customers have complained that when they took gadgets back to the store, they had problems.

Even though the gadgets may have still been under guarantee, the receipt simply didn't show proof of purchase anymore.

An Argos spokesman told me: "Argos is aware that thermal receipts may gradually fade over time if exposed to sunlight or heat. However, if a customer needs to return a product and their receipt is faded beyond recognition -- or if they have lost their original receipt -- there are other acceptable ways that they can provide proof of purchase."

Acceptable to Argos, that is.

The spokesman told me that acceptable proofs of purchase include "an e-receipt (where applicable), transaction details (approximate purchase date, store number, payment type and catalog numbers), photographs or photocopies of the original receipt as well as credit card or debit card statements which highlight the purchase."

For those used to life's simplicities, some of this may seem like a bit much.

Argos seems to have saved money on its receipt printing, so it's down to the customer to ensure they can prove their purchase.

And what if you pay cash? What if you buy several items at once? What if the warranty is actually printed on the receipt? And what if it's, say, a three-year warranty?

Perhaps a good solution is to photograph your receipt as soon as you make your purchase. That way, you can print it out before going back to the store. Moreover, there are YouTube videos that show you how to darken your faded receipt using Photoshop.

In essence, though, it's up to you to ensure that you have a record that won't fade away.

"Exceptional customer service is an absolute priority for Argos," the company spokesman told me.