Friday, April 18, 2008

Meeting Resistance From Store Clerks

Because I am lazy (besides the two jobs and three children), I tend to reuse my existing plastic bags vs. trying out all these neato patterns listed here. (That's what you guys are for - give me feedback!) However, last week I was flabbergasted when the Meijer clerk refused to reuse my plastic bags! Here's how the conversation went:

H (me) - Oh, I brought my own bags to reuse.

Clerk - We don't reuse plastic bags.

H - What?! (This has never, ever been a problem for me before.)

C - We'll use those new reusable bags we're selling.

H - (fuming) Funny, this was never a problem before you started selling those bags.

C - Well, it's just that reusing plastic bags is unsanitary.

At this point, I pulled out my two hand-knit Nettie bags and a Target bag - yes, I whipped out a reusable Target bag at Meijer! So there!

H - They're not any less sanitary than reusing the other bags. I'm sorry, but whoever is telling you this is lying to you.

I was still mad as heck, but trying to be nice. Clerk continues to bag items, using my non-plastic reusable bags and fresh new plastic bags.

H - So, is this a store-level decision or a corporate decision? I need to know who to talk to about this new policy.

C - (looking sheepish) Well, uh, actually, I think it depends on the cashier. I mean, this is something they told me years ago. It's just one of those things that stuck with me.

H - (mentally) AH-HA!!!!

Oddly, the conversation took a friendlier turn as I told her that I would be making more Nettie bags and that I would add a buttonhole to the top edge to make them eaiser for cashiers to use at the turnstiles.

Now, I am not the best at the quick verbal comeback. Here are some points I wish I had made:

1. I have never, ever, had a Meijer cashier, or any other store cashier, question reusing plastic bags before.

2. Up until Meijer started selling their own branded reusable bags, they would refund shoppers 5 cents for each bag they brought in to reuse, thereby encouraging shoppers to reuse plastic bags.

3. Every single item I purchased was already packaged and well-protected from any "uncleaness" lurking inside a reused plastic bag. Not one thing was going to be pulled out and put directly in my mouth without unwrapping it first. Not even the apples. (I am a little ashamed of this, but it's a valid point regardless.)

4. Do most shoppers who use the canvas/whatever reusable bags wash them out after every use? I doubt it.

5. Shoppers who use the U-Scan lanes may reuse plastic bags if they choose.

I hope the cashier will think about our conversation and realize the above points. She has worked at that store for a while, so I'm sure she is familiar with the former bag refund policy. In the meantime, since it appears this is a one-cashier situation and not a store-level or corporate-level decision, I don't feel I need to write a letter or anything.

I will still shop at Meijer because they are Michigan-based (local to me), have great prices, buy at least some of their produce from local farmers, and have an amazingly diverse line of store-brand organic food that is fairly competitive price-wise with the regular stuff. And, hopefully, next time I meet a resistant cashier, I'll be better prepared to educate her about reusing plastic bags.


Erica said...

How very strange! I worked as a bagger and then a cashier in a Meijer store back in high school. I never heard ANYTHING like "don't reuse plastic bags, that is unsanitary" during training. (Admittedly, this is 12 years ago, before anybody really would have tried.)

I do remember being told that if the customer didn't care which type of bag we used, we should pick plastic instead of paper because it cost less per bag ;)

ChrisD51 said...

Hey, I didn't know you were from Michigan! Me, too. I've never tried to reuse plastic bags. Kinda frosted that they dropped the nickel rebate once they started selling their own bags - I would think it would encourage people to use the reusables.

Chris in Port Huron

ilex said...

I live in Michigan, but I go to Meijer only as a last resort. After hearing your story, whether it's an individual cashier decision or not, it underscores to me just how inactive the company leadership is on the sustainable front. Thanks very much for sharing it.

heather t said...

Chris - at least by reusing the "free" plastic bags, you don't have to pay for their canvas bags. My goal is to reuse my remaining plastic bags until they are unusable, then switch to all handmade ones.

Ilex - Where do you shop for groceries, then? Personally, I like Meijer as an option for people who can't afford the specialty shops (like Trader Joe's) for the reasons mentioned. They are a good alternative for people trying to break away from Wal-Mart or whatever. As far as the "big" grocery chains go, I actually think Meijer is doing pretty well. Of course they could do better, but they're not The Gap, tossing hangers in the dumpster while claiming to be "green"! :)