Saturday, January 31, 2009

The NO Grocery Bag Dilemma

As more and more grocery stores jump onto the green movement and also try to cut down on expenses in this tough economy, we can expect that the day will come when free grocery bags won’t be provided to customers.

We’ve seen how many grocery chains, including Wal-Mart, are pushing the sale of reusable Green Bags. That’s all well and good if you live five minutes away from a grocery store and you only buy a few daily items; But what about rural shoppers who buy hundreds of items only once a week? How many green bags should customers be expected to purchase and to carry with them into a store?

I’m one of those weekly shoppers and I have no intention of purchasing bags when I often spend over $200. on groceries in just one store. As far as I’m concerned, the store should be giving me all the free bags I need! If a store were to refuse to give me free bags for my purchases, I’d walk away at the checkout counter and go elsewhere!

Store managers need to start thinking creatively. Green bags with the store name and logo are sales tools. Perhaps one or two could be offered as a free gift to purchases over a certain dollar amount?

Or green bags could be discounted for purchases over X amount of dollars?

There have to be reasonable and multiple options or customers will shop elsewhere. It only takes one bad experience to lose a customer forever.

See what happens when a store just suddenly runs out of free bags and the manager doesn’t have the good sense to remedy the situation to the customer’s satisfaction.

Last week I received the following e-mail that was forwarded to me:

I just had what was probably the most amazing/unbelievable shopping experience of my life at Albertson's and it makes me want to comment on customer service. Since I've been on the road much of the month, I hadn't been shopping for more than Dr. Pepper's since 2 January so I went to Albertson's and loaded a buggy full, only to find out when I got up front that the Albertson's in Roanoke, TX had no bags. Yes, you read that correctly – no bags. The manager informed me that "we're trying to do something about it" and basically let me know that I could just unload everything from the buggy into my car and then carry it in the house when I got home… probably 50 items and he wants me to carry them in individually in a nearly freezing drizzle.

So it makes me think: what would I do if I was managing this situation?

#1.  We'd let the customer know that we cared.
#2.  I'd offer to help the customer in whatever way I could.
#3.  They have shopping bags for sale in that store; if I were the manager, and I was about to lose a good customer with a buggy full of groceries, I'd give him all the for sale shopping bags he needed.  I'd go to the back and find some boxes that goods had been shipped in and load them up.  I'd do something that let the customer know that I valued him and didn't want him to go away dissatisfied. Point is this is a tough economy that is going to get tougher and Albertson's won't be getting any more of my money.

By the way, I contacted the Albertsons in Roanoke, Texas and discovered that they now have free bags and that was only a one day occurrence. One day of poor management decisions lost one customer who sent out a mass e-mailing on the subject. No telling how many more people were turned off to that particular store. Not good!


  1. At first it's difficult to remember to bring reusable bags with you to the store but after a while the habit becomes ingrained. You need to keep a few at home and a few in the cars. I'm in the plastics recycling business and at some point I realized that plastic recycling is little understood by the general population. For this reason there is lot of misleading information out there about what actually can and cannot be recycled. We are plastic recyclers and this admittedly is a plug for our new product THE BETTER BAG, a unique reusable grocery bag. First of all, most municipal recycling programs do not accept any kind of reusable bags for recycling. Consequently the recycling symbol printed on the tags of these bags is really meaningless. Reusable bags put into your home recycling will most likely be culled out and thrown away. Second, plastics need to be virtually 100% pure to be recycled by ordinary plastics recycling methods. Plastics that are impure are called contaminated or commingled. We've purchased a variety of common reusable bags now being sold at supermarkets, office supply stores and other retail outlets. Many of them bear a tag that says that they are 100% pure. When we tested most of these bags, we found that the threads or the handles or the bottom stiffeners used to make these bags are often made from a different material than the bag fabric itself. This renders these bags commingled and in our opinion, not recyclable. A famous grocery chain promotes bags that are made from 80% recycled soda bottles, what they don't understand is that the other 20% of the bag is another foreign material and that the mixture of these materials creates a commingled product. Sure, using any reusable bag beats using a one time disposable paper or plastic bag but why use a bag that will eventually end up as solid waste when you can use a bag that can be recycled over and over again?

    THE BETTER BAG is a triple play. It's made with recycled material. It's incredibly sturdy and it's the only reusable bag that's guaranteed recyclable. We can offer this guaranty because we recycle it! To learn more, please visit our website:


  2. Steven that's great information. By the way, didn't I read that many of the reusable grocery bags are actually made in China? Are we supposed to trust in their bags???

  3. Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but I recall when I was younger the grocery stores gave away cardboard boxes too, before they began compacting them to sell to recyclers.

    Even though they sell them today, a smart manager faced with this situation could have sent someone to the back and retrieved some boxes before they were compacted, or emptied some, and boxed the groceries with an apology for no bags today.

    Customer Service is rapidly falling by the wayside and with some simple efforts, customers can be accomodated and appeased most of the time and made to feel as if they really are important to a retailer.

    Most people really aren't all that difficult to please, we just appreciate some courtesy where we spend our money.

  4. I personally like paper bags, because I always have some way to reuse them. Very few places have those any more.

    You say "Perhaps one or two could be offered as a free gift to purchases over a certain dollar amount? " Good idea, but when you buy as many groceries and you and I do, it would be a pain to bring back all those eco-friendly bags, they take up much more space than plastic or paper bags do.

    Debbie Hamilton
    Right Truth

  5. It's like this. I use those plastic grocery bags for trash, and for my new kitty litter box. If they quit giving them out, how am I going to bag my cat you know what?

    Seriously, If a store thinks I'm going to pay for one of their promotional bags they're out of their mind.

    I usually don't do "liberal" stuff, but at our local health food store I bought this incredible hand made basket that came from Africa. It's one of those businesses that are the little start up kind for women by women in 3rd world countries.

    I use it constantly. Don't mind using the basket, but no way am I going to pay for a promotional piece of junk just to make the store look good.

    The Pink Flamingo

  6. I'll make a prediction on an entirely new phenomenon.

    Advertisers paying to be put on the bags. The key is not to put advertisements on the bags that compete with the grocery store that is providing them.

    The fault is the construction of homes. Homes should have some kind of built in dumbwaiter that would allow one to literally drop their groceries into the dumbwaiter and they would end up somewhere in the kitchen for arranging.

    As long as robbers couldn't use the dumbwaiter to get into the home and the dumbwaiter could be easily cleaned, that is the kind of idea whose time has come.

    The customer pays a deposit for a big cardboard box that fits inside of the grocery cart. The cardboard box is put inside the trunk of the car as is.

    The customer comes home, parks by the dumbwaiter, and then deposits each item one by one. No bags required.

  7. I've been using cotton grocery bags for about 20 years. These are the kind with handles, of course. My original ones are oft-mended but still in service. You can find large cotton bags in craft stores or at craft sites on the Web if you can't get them at the grocery.

  8. I reuse the plastic shopping bags. When the kids were in diapers I used them to dispose of the diapers. Now I line our wastebaskets with them. I have a few of those "green" bags but always forget to bring them to the stores.