BOLOGNA--Behold the scontrino. It's the register receipt, generated automatically with every transaction, no matter how insignificant, whether cash or credit. Coffee (one euro)? Drinks & dinner (43 euros)? Theater tickets (60 euros)? Ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching. The scraps of paper may get left behind, swept onto the floor, or go through the laundry at the bottom of your pockets, but that's hardly the point. It's not about you. Every merchant has an account with the Codice Fiscale, Italy's tax man, and this is the way tabs are kept. Not easy to do off-the-books transactions in Italy any more, with hand-written bills and an old cookie tin that doubled as a cash drawer.
Mind you, nothing about this system interferes with the age-old Italian tradition of asking for a discount (sconto), but most of the time, most of the time, the price is the price, and it includes VAT. (Actually, it's called IVA, Imposta sull' Valore Aggiunta.) A brave new world.