Five Cents, Please*

“Would you like a bag for that?”

This has become my new closing statement as I complete transactions in my store. Some people simply smile, and nod, grateful that we offer bags at all. Others shake their head and tell me they’d prefer to take a box. That’s awesome. Then there is the third group of people who inevitably respond to my question with,

“Are you charging for bags?”

“Yes. They are five cents.”

They then look at me like I’ve broken into their bank and stolen all their retirement money, grumble about the high price and throw their money or credit cards down on the counter. In my head I think,

“I’m sorry, did you hear me incorrectly? I’m pretty sure I said FIVE CENTS, not fifty dollars.” Considering how much money I see thrown on the floor or into our “Give and Take” bucket, I’m often flabbergasted that people are so tight with their nickles.

Over the past several months many Ontario stores began charging five cents for their plastic bags to promote the use of reusable bags–which, for the record, typically hold up to three times the amount the cheap plastic ones, AND they help the environment. Sounds like a win-win to me! Most stores have reusable bags located at the cash register for the very reasonable price of 1 – 2 dollars, and will offer incentives to customers who use such bags, such as points toward free groceries, air miles and the like. So, let’s recap: more storage space, store incentives AND help the environment… is this really such a bad thing?

Apparently so. Day after day I hear complaints about the price of bags, and I realize that if my store is your fifth stop of the day and you’ve had to pay for bags at all of them, then sure, you might be a little frustrated. But here’s the thing: I guarantee that reusable bags were sold at at least 50% of the stores you visited, so why not invest? Are engaged in a love affair with plastic?

Or maybe you believe that this is just another gimmick to make more money, and hey, maybe for some it is. But it most definitely is not for us, or stores like Metro who will be using the money collected from the bag fee to “fund the Green Apple School Program which will encourage schools to take part in green programs and will offer grants to conservation and healthy living proposals submitted by teachers and students.” (http://www.allheadlinenews.com/articles/7015197423)

Does that really sound like such a terrible thing? Here. Take my five cents AND keep the bag.

I also understand that this is a relatively “new” thing. We’ve all become so dependent on the convenience of free plastic bags at stores that it’s easy to forget those dang bags you forgot in the car, or at home, so sure. Complain a little. It’s not easy to remember dragging those bags around when it’s not a habit yet. I get it. But here’s the thing–make it a habit. Leave your bags in the front seat where you can see them. Leave a sticky note on the dash to remind you to grab them. Just please, please don’t complain about the price of the bags to me. I didn’t choose this. I didn’t decide to make you pay for them.

…but I do think it’s fabulous.

Go green, or go home.

Now I realize that Ontario is just one tiny speck on a great big map, so what are things like where you’re from? Do you think that stores should charge for bags?

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15 Comments

  • sarahbration

    Wonderful post!

    I completely agree with everything you wrote.

    I'm baffled by people who are so insistent on refusing to invest in a reusable bag or two and would rather gripe about the 5 cent fee they are being charged for contributing to the destruction of the environment.

  • KLM

    Here in NS Superstore just recently (6months or so) started charging for plastic, and soon after a lot of stores have followed suit. Am finding that it is now pretty much routine to grab some recyle bags as I leave the car now, not such a big deal! There will always be the diehards who for the life of them won't admit its such a great thing to do!

  • KristinaP

    I actually like plastic bags, because I am trying to destroy the earth. :)

    No, I actually like them because I reuse them at home for various things.

  • misellebee

    Some stores charge here, and others give a few cents back if you bring your own bags. I think it's fabulous. It's just a small incentive, but it makes people think twice about plastic bags and that's always a good thing. Personally, I love the fabric bags because they do hold so much more and because I hate having 38230478 plastic bags under the sink.

  • Karen

    My roommate and I have had many an argument about bag fees. She's totally for them, I'm mostly against them. I'm okay with it if a store decides to charge. After all, stores have to pay for the bags, too. But I am totally, emphatically against the government charging a bag tax, which they have proposed here in California. 25 cents per bag that would go to the GOVERNMENT. Nope. Not okay with that AT ALL.

  • Girl w/the Red Hair

    I LOVE it that stores charge for bags now. People need to get it through their heads that this planet isn't going to save itself. Bring your own bag, carry your groceries OR fork over the $0.05!

  • tia

    i LOVE my reusable bags. i leave them in my trunk so i'll have them whenever i need them.

    it's so easy, people! good for your store to charge for the plastic bags. maybe it will pound sense into some people's heads.

  • Janet

    I'm in Missouri, and nobody charges for bags here. But very few people take their own bags to stores. I do, and the cashiers are always really cool about it, so there must be some people who take their own. I have heard that Target will actually give a 5 cent discount for each re-usable bag customers use.

  • Janet

    I'm in Missouri, and nobody charges for bags at this point. But, very few people bring their own bags, so maybe it would help if they were charged. I take my own bags, and I see a few people doing it, but most don't. I have heard that Target is giving a 5 cent discount if you bring your own bags.

  • Classroom Confessions

    Agreed! No one except Ikea has started charging for bags here, but many places are doing the incentive thing for using them. Beyond the obvious environmental factors, I LOVE that I can go to the grocery store and leave with just two big re-useable bag. So much easier!

  • dearjennymac

    I'm pretty sure I said 5 cents and not 50 dollars…

    hahahha… its so funny if it also werent so true. Why balk at 5 cents people? Good for you! No plastic bags!!!!!!!!!

  • Bluebelle

    Shops don't charge for bags here but I remember the first time we were charged for a shop bag – getting grocerys on holiday in France we were charged for a paper bag. Which was really unhelpful anyway as it had no handles – what's that all about? Anyway, I think people are becoming more educated now and probably overall charging for plastic is good as it'll make people think twice and be more responsible in their behaviour. I don't mind as I always bring my own re-usable bags to the supermarket anyway!

  • stephatalittlebirdieweds

    The best way to handle this is ask if people NEED a bag. That's what I was taught working at LUSH. When people hear want, they can't really say no, but if you ask if they need one it makes them think about it and usually they have a space somewhere or can just carry it!

    I always try to bring my grocery bags, I love them! If I forget, I'll just carry things in my hand. I've noticed that the space under our sink is a lot less cluttered than it used to be.

  • CallitaClan

    I usually try to bring my reusable bags wherever I go. But sometimes I forget and may be a little annoyed about it just because I forgot. But not the end of the world. Because I remember most of the time! I like how Target gives 5 cents back per reusable bag you use. I also love how much more you can fit in those bags. I always tell them to stuff them full!

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