What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

11 June 2011

Have It Your Way

Unless you've been living under a rock, or in a country where reusable bags are not breeding and handing themselves out in bulk to all unsuspecting recipients, you're probably the proud owner of a snazzy reusable bag or seven. I hope you're using them. And I say "have it your way" because you can get these bags in pretty much any size, colour, or pattern you like. Companies that used to give out pens and notepads now give out bags. Grandparents can get bags with their grandkids' pictures on them (although I can't say I'd be flattered if either of my grandmothers took me shopping in this way).

My fleet of reusables. The mesh bags
are for produce or for the bulk bins
(almonds, usually) and they tend to
bring delight to the store clerks.
The problem with reusable bags is that they don't do you much good sitting in the car. If one wishes to get any benefit out of the reusable bag, then one must take the bag into the shop. There's no way around it. And I heard recently that at least one store has decided that putting reminders on cart corrals is a better motivator for customers than giving a 5-cent discount for using a reusable bag. Pffft. It's not my local store, which is nice for them, because if it were they'd be tired of hearing from me by now with all the protesting e-mails I would send out. I'm very fond of my 5-cent discount.

So here's my little story for you: I've used my backpack for loading groceries for my entire adult life, but it took a while for me to start refusing the plastic bags and loading my purchases straight into my backpack. And when I did, it sent the supermarket employees into a dither. I explained, as politely as I could, that I had to load my bag myself since I was the one carrying it. The poor sacker would stand and look at me, in fear and trembling for getting into trouble if the manager saw the customer serving herself instead of being served. (This was before the reusable-bag craze took off.)

I remember one day that there were no fewer than three sackers standing and watching me pack my bag (I was the only shopper at a checkout; it was a slow day), asking occasionally, "Are you sure we can't help?" I finally got tired of it and asked them what the issue was, and one of them explained that they had, in fact, been reprimanded for letting me load my own bag instead of doing it for me. I said, "That's dumb," to which they all non-committally grunted. When I got home that day, I called the store, demanded the manager, and explained very slowly and carefully that I had the highest opinion of their customer service but the lowest opinion of their management and would they please stop being such idiots. And not long after that, the entire chain began offering the 5-cent discount for reusable bags and no longer breathed down my neck when I wanted to pack my own stuff. I don't know if it was my influence or not, but I did remain a loyal customer until the day (quite literally) that we moved out of Lubbock.

Do you have a multitude of reusable bags? Do you use them? Is your local store welcoming of such things?


Anonymous said...

We have them, we use them. You have to buy the plastic bags if you want them. Sort of the reverse of your discount for bringing your own. Some of our smaller stores (ie drug stores) have started charging for plastic bags. Almost ALL stores ask, "do you need a bag?" now and a few just hand you your purchase with no comment made and no bag. It has become easy to remember to take the bags out of the car at the grocery store. Not so easy to remember to take a bag into the other kinds of stores, especially if you don't know if you will be purchasing anything. I don't know about you but I carry a VERY small purse with no room in it for bags.

Laura said...

I have plenty of reusable bags. Sometimes guilty of not taking them into the store. Some of the cashiers at our bigger store act inconvenienced by having to put my reusable bags (that I bought from that store with their name on them) on the carousel to load my groceries that I pay for (to help them keep their job). That is annoying.
Our smaller store gives five cents back for using reusable bags and they are nicer. I would go there exclusively if they had better produce, but that's a whole 'nother story!

Su said...

Oops, forgot to add the picture before this one posted! Fixed it! ;)

@mybabyjohn: I SO wish the US would get on board with charging for bags. It just makes sense. If you charge the customer for a bag like you would for anything else in the store, then overall operating costs will go down. That's easy math, even for me. And no, I don't carry a purse at all, usually. But I do have one tiny bag with its own carrying pouch that will fit into a purse.

@Laura: I don't know what "bigger" store you're referring to, but in my experience, Wal-Mart is a repeat offender in making it hard to use reusable bags. I practically have to shout "NO!!" at the cashier to stop them from bagging my stuff. And if they don't listen, I just stand there while I unpack the bags they loaded, repack into my reusables, and hand them the plastic bags back. You'd think they would learn. ;) I suspect upper management is the problem, again.

Liz said...

One store has a monthly raffle for using reusable bags. I've never won, though.

I don't have the reusable bag issue, though. Sometimes I have to point out that I do have bags, at which point they usually say something like "oops" and pack my bags. I even take in a bag to the frozen yogurt place when I buy a quart. They know me now, and they expect this.

Grahame said...

I usually remember to take my bags in. It's just a habit you have to get into. One local store has a sign out in the parking lot that reads, "A bag in the hand is worth two in the car."

Martha (MM) said...

Yep, I have them and I use them but our stores don't give discounts. Thanks for stopping by :-)

Su said...

Hmm... my comment from earlier has vanished. If I can't comment on my own blog now, I'll be very sad.

@Liz: I've never thought about reusable anything for a frozen yogurt place. Great idea!

@Grahame: Hee! What a great sign.

@Martha: Bummer!

JEFritz said...

I use my own bags for the big shoppings, or I get paper bags because I can reuse them at home.

The store I go to actually has a scanner that allows you to scan items as you go and then pay at the end. Since I can just scan and pack, I don't have to wait at all :). I wish more stores had these. It might even encourage bringing your own bags.

Su said...

Do you mean like a self-checkout, or some other nifty gadget? If you mean a self-checkout, then I agree-- it's much easier to use the reusable bags that way. It's not my favourite thing (the machine has an attitude problem), but I don't hate it, either.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Yes, yes, and yes. Although at the moment my bags are in my car which is in the shop. I've been driving my dad's car which has no bags and brought home more plastic bags in the past week than in the 2 years preceding! Got to get my bags back! And take the plastics to the supermarket's recycling bin :)

KimberlyJ said...

Everywhere I go I see them for sale. I bought one small bag at the video rental store because my daughter begged me and i have one big one that I got as a gift from a friend. A nice big one for groceries. I must not be in the right place a the right time when folks are handing these out. and regardless if you have your own bags or not, if you want to pack your own groceries, you should. some baggers just should NOT be baggers.

Su said...

@Susanna: Bummer! I'm a bit leery of the store's recycle bin, though, since I don't know where the bags go.

@Kimberly: Wow, I'm impressed that you haven't ever gotten one handed out. I've had to turn them down! And that's true about the baggers-- I love that stores hire eager (ish) teens to do the bagging, but sometimes it takes them a while to learn how things should go.

Anonymous said...

I should really keep some in my car because sometimes I am on my way back from an outing and then decide I need a few things from the store so I don't have my green box full of re-useable bags with me. So frustrating. I know what you mean about them watching you like you're a weirdo if you pack your own bag. I just hate looking like lady muck expecting them to do it.

Su said...

They'll get used to it, right? I have a small one that I carry around with me for spur-of-the-moment trips. But since I carry a backpack all the time, I probably don't need it.