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Bad News with the Bad News: Restaurant Printing Associated Press Flashes on the Receipt

Written By Scott Joseph On January 11, 2013

Old ebbit newsIt’s one of the oldest waiter cliches, something the server says as he or she hands you the check: “And now for the bad news.”

Now thanks to an experiment at Washington, D.C.’s, Old Ebbit Grill, the waiter can say that and mean it. The venerable restaurant, steps from the White House, is printing up-to-the-minute news reports from the Associated Press on customer’s receipts. The news updates are fed through the restaurant’s point-of-purchase system (the computerlike devices where servers enter orders and tally up checks). The goal is to have the receipt feature news flashes that may have occurred while the guest was dining. The project is titled “The Latest News.”

The receipts will also feature advertising, which is certainly nothing new. Store receipts have been touting projects and offering discounts for ages. The first advertiser to sign on for the Old Ebbit Grill project is Domtar, a paper manufacturer. The receipts’ advertisement reads “Paper is good. Pass it on.” Why do I picture the crew at Dunder-Mifflin on the TV show “The Office”?

Paper may indeed be good, and so, too, could the news printed and delivered along with the waiter’s “bad news.” But are people really going to rely on what’s printed on what is usually a hard-to-read slip of paper instead of checking their smartphones, which is what many people do while they’re waiting for the bill. In which case the tidbit on the receipt may already be old news.

What do you think? Good idea or bad?

By the way, Old Ebbit Grill is one of my favorites in D.C. It’s one of those big old-style places that looks like it’s a tourist trap but actually does terrific food.

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