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Sunday, January 31, 2016

My Five Cents on Five Cent Plastic Bags

How many of you have stockpiled plastic bags from grocery stores and retail outlets?

I know it seems like a rather bizarre question to ask, but it does have something to do with this post.

I have to admit that I do have quite a few plastic bags at my disposal.  And, why wouldn't I?  Plastic grocery bags are the perfect size for my trash can upstairs, and I use them when I am packing my lunch for work (usually when I bring along a salad or something like that).

And at most stores that I shop at, the bags are absolutely free of charge.  It's because of that fact alone that I haven't bought any kitchen catcher garbage bags since 2003! least that WAS the case.

The recent announcement that Walmart Canada was going to begin charging five cents per plastic bag in February 2016 certainly had everybody talking - and not necessarily in a good way either.

I don't know what the situation is like in the United States, but here in Canada, plastic bags have had a cost at several other chain stores for years.  Many grocery stores started charging a nickel a bag because of environmental concerns.  I can see where they're coming from too.  Plastic bags don't degrade naturally the way that paper bags can, and they can end up sitting in landfills for years.  That, plus plastic bags can choke certain animals who might mistake them for food.

And from a business standpoint, let's face it.  Plastic bags in bulk are very expensive to buy, and the charging of bags may help cut costs down for the operating businesses.

But you wouldn't believe the number of people who are up in arms over the company's decision to charge for plastic bags.  Some are upset and feel that it's another way for a business to nickel and dime all of us to the poor house (their words, not mine).  Some feel that it's going to be the first step in declining customer service.  And some have even stated that as long as we will be charging for bags, they will no longer be shopping at the store.

So, being born with a gift of gab and being argumentative to a fault, I will attempt to rip these arguments apart.

First of all, I want to state that the charging of plastic bags is not a new thing.  At least, not in Canada, anyway.  I seem to remember some businesses charging for bags as early as 2010, if not earlier.  That was six years ago!  And honestly, if people are complaining about the fact that they have to pay a whopping five cents more...big deal.  I suppose you might have an argument if this were, oh, 1916.  But five cents doesn't really seem to buy anything at all these days.  You can't even buy penny candy for five cents!  But, I suppose the same people who are complaining about paying for bags are also the ones who complained about the penny rounding that was implemented in 2013 following the Canadian government's decision to eliminate the penny.

In short, don't try to reason with them.  You can't.

Oh, and about the threat to not shop in a store because of the nickel a bag rule?  95% of the time, those people usually return to the store in a week's time.  Trust me.  I've worked retail for eleven years.  I know by now who is serious and who is just blowing off smoke.  And let's just say that in those eleven years, I've inhaled a lot of..."smoke".

Fortunately, there are a couple of solutions to make the transition smooth.  For one, you can purchase the reusable canvas bags that a lot of stores have for sale.  These bags can last for years, and can hold quite a number of objects.  And at least in the case of Walmart Canada, the price of some of these bags will be dropping to twenty-five cents a piece.  This might seem redundant, given how people are upset over five cents, but keep in mind that the 25 cent canvas bags can be used over and over and over again.

(Though, I will ask all of you to please WASH and CLEAN your bags after you're done with them.  There's nothing more annoying and inconsiderate than having a cashier open up a bag that reeks of cigarette smoke, alcohol, and cat urine.  And yes, I've heard things.)

You can also bring along a laundry basket or a plastic tote, and use those to place your newly bought groceries in.  Most stores won't mind, believe me.

Other than that, customers will simply just accept the five cent fee or take their groceries without bags.

But can I just ask one thing?  Can you please stop harassing cashiers, staff members, and managers about the bag charges.  None of us have anything to do with the change, and therefore it is not our fault.  We're just doing our jobs, and I don't think it's fair that we should have to take people yelling at us over something we can't change.

Shop with respect.  And that's my five cents on the subject.

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