The put out hand of the cashier, holding the receipt between their fingers in a gesture of contempt, was usually ignored by most of Romanians who were out on a shopping spree. Therefore, an increasing number of merchants avoided wasting electricity on their receipt printing mashines, avoided wasting their time by handing out the receipts to customers and wadded them as soon as they saw the light of day, thus filling up rubbish bins with proofs of payments. Streets were filled with these pieces of paper and nobody cared about them: neither did the revenue authority, nor did merchants, nor customers.
And then, on a sunny day, the receipt was suddenly reinvented. Actually, it remained the same, but gained something that failed to cross anyone’s mind before. It gained a brand, a promo, a marketing campaign of wide amplitude and, above all, a value. Thus, the pathetic little receipt, disdained by everyone before, unexpectedly became Most Wanted, sought even in the tiniest snake hole by Romanians, daringly rescued from recycle bins, collected from the soles of passers-by’s shoes, carefully cleaned of the dirt and beautifully straightened out, put in catalogues dated according to month and day, caught with paper clips and kept in files like an official document.
And all of it happened in an impressively short amount of time. As the Ministry of Finances managed to awaken the fairness of Romanians by taking into account one little thing: their wild passion for games of chance and for fast earnings. Thus, they invented the Lottery of Receipts and proved that genuine hysteria can be created overnight by imposing only one rule to the game: collect as many receipts as you can, and you will earn a lot. A whole lot.
And even if when the Lottery was announced for the first time, a few months ago, the Romanians had exercised their well known and intensely trained scepticism by continuing to ignore the put out hand of cashiers – who veiled their contempt this time, as they were stimulated by the drastic controls the revenue authority has performed recently – a few days before the Grand Drawing, they became sort of receipt-addict zombies. Thus, beggars and homeless people started frantically seeking all rubbish cans in the neighbourhoods of stores; ashamed housewives out to walk their dogs discretely filled the small bags initially destined for the “needs” of the animals with the precious pieces of paper blown away by the wind around the bushes; workers were stripping their ignorant colleagues off the proof that they had paid for their sandwich during lunch breaks, neighbours were asking one another whether they happened to have some more receipts from stores and, moreover, there were even paper advertisements issued by entrepreneurs who sold receipts to illusion hunters. And everybody impatiently awaited the Great Drawing. Although nobody did understand the complicated rules. There was one thing for sure: the more receipts you had collected, the higher were the chances that you would earn some money. A lot of money. Free money from the state. That was fabulous! One man had collected over 1,500 receipts from rubbish bins, ordered his entire family to arrange them and had 23 winning receipts. Other people had made various deals and reached an amount that was almost similar. Other people were plain lucky. All of them gathered in rows at offices all over the country, clinging to the precious pieces of paper, to officially declare that they were among the grand winners.
Yet, the more intense the frenzy, the more painful the expired bomb. Because, as the number of people who appeared at the revenue authority offices with winning receipts increased, Romanians were finally understanding one sad thing: that the earning diminished constantly. Yesterday, the gain only amounted at RON 167 per winning receipt, due to the over 6,000 persons who had found winning receipts hiding in their pockets. Therefore, the glory of the receipt only lasted as much as a spring flower and left Romanians even more sceptic than ever before, especially that the authorities attempting to prevent tax evasion announced that they would change the rules of the game for the next Grand Drawing.
And yet, the campaign made by the Ministry of Finances achieved one thing: it turned the Romanians buried in the daily routine of the struggle for survival into hysterical laboratory rats raging for the illusion of fast gain guaranteed by the state, but supported by their own money paid to the state. The perfect trick.