Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wal*Mart Does Something I Don't Like

If I'm a fan of Wal*Mart for any reason other than low prices and convenience, it's the joy I get from watching some people, usually lefties, careen into the fever swamp at the mere mention of the store. But I've said before, my preference for shopping at Wal*Mart is strictly utilitarian--if another store were to come along and offer me a greater value or convenience for my money, I'd drop Wal*Mart like a hot potato.

Well, Wal*Mart is in the process of trying something I absolutely do not like. Here's the email I sent them today:

I am unhappy with the decision not to have plastic shopping bags at Wal*Mart. I reuse all my shopping bags; providing them is no more "wasteful" than is toilet paper, which is only used once.

Getting rid of the bags creates an avoidable inconvenience for many of us, and for a number or reasons. First, having to purchase shopping bags is just silly. Second, impromptu stops at Walmart will be curtailed because people won't have bags with them and won't want to buy more. Third, people will bring in all sorts of bags or boxes, some of which might not fit on the "lazy susan" bag tables that currently exist, slowing down the entire checkout process. Fourth, those of us who won't bring bags at all will slow down the works when checkers will have to put the groceries back into a shopping cart as they do at Sam's Club.

Jumping on the "green" bandwagon this way is a shallow, feel-good, look-what-a-good-corporate-citizen-I-am, cheap attempt to appeal to a vocal section of our public, at the expense of customer convenience. I encourage you to reconsider.


I received a reply stating that this change is an experiment that will occur only for 30 days and only in 3 stores in Northern California, "after which time we will evaluate the test results to determine the next steps." I hope the next step is to recognize that they've made a mistake and then correct it. After all, their stated goal is to have "zero waste", and Wal*Mart already has bins in which people who do not reuse the bags can toss the bags for recycling.

I'm curious where the plastic bags are made, and where the reusable bags they're selling are made. I also note that paper bags, which Wal*Mart does not use, are made from a renewable resource.

11 comments:

Ellen K said...

I reuse plastic bags as well. They are used to cover artwork in progress, to delay clay work drying before completion and countless other tasks in my classroom. As a consumer, I often shop when I can, where I can. The thought of having to have to remember to bring bags, or to bring enough bags or to have every single vehicle at my house stocked with bags is something that I am just not willing to do. I have enough to handle. In addition, one of the reasons that disposable Kleenex was invented was to prevent spreading infection with cloth handkerchiefs. Knowing how drippy meat packages can become, it would be necessary to wash them weekly to prevent spreading bacteria to produce or hands or other surfaces. Imagine returning from the grocery, placing the leaky bags on the counter and not cleaning it afterward. And has the amount of impact of washing these bags been taken into account? What about the dyes used, the manufacturing and shipping of bags-which are heavier than plastic and would require more fuel to ship to locations for purchase? And what about the fact that most plastic bags are the after product of plastic recycling? If you do not use the plastic for some purpose, then why recycle? If you don't recycle plastic containers into another use, then plastic ends up in landfills, plus communities that have invested in plastic recycling to pay for recycling programs end up losing money which will cost the taxpayers more. What then? Read Freakonomics. It really leads you into thinking through the complete resolution. And most of these "green initiatives" are little more than icing.

Darren said...

Ellen, I can always count on you to present something rational and reasonable. Thank you! I hadn't even considered the sanitary issue.

KauaiMark said...

The City of San Jose' has decided to ban plastic bags in the city limits starting 2011(?)

I reuse every bag that come home for everything from trash can liners to picking up animal poop.

I guess I'll have to BUY rolls of plastic bags on the black market after that date...

Ronnie said...

Eh the only thing I'm willing to concede is number 3 since the "lazy susan" bag system is probably the most efficient design I've seen. I think that a system like the one at Sam's Club could probably be designed in a way that was both more efficient and still bag-less but I would think the best idea would be to only use this new system at newly renovated or opened stores so as not to slow down one of the fastest checkout systems I've seen. If a system really needs to be instantly workable at all current stores and bags are a necessity then I agree that paper would probably be the best option since it's both easily and widely recycled currently. For once I'm going to have to agree with you :)

Coach Brown said...

Ukiah is one of the three stores.

My wife and I have been using cloth bags anyway for over a year, so the whole Wal-Mart change, while a little bit of a shock, isn't that big of deal.

However, it has made me adjust my shopping habits. I don't shop as much and when I need to pick something up after work, I go to a different store.

Also, I think Wal-Mart has jumped the gun on completely dissing bags. Note even our local hippy coop has stopped providing paper bags. They encourage your own bags, but not require them.

Darren said...

I agree with KauaiMark entirely, and use my bags for exactly the same purpose!

And Ronnie, you agree with me? It's about time that UC education is paying off! :-) I'm curious about your opinions on my UC fee hike post.

PeggyU said...

I use paper and plastic. Paper for cage liners for our gimme pigs and plastic for trash can liners. Neither is wasteful, IMO.

Of course, I don't know how much providing bags adds to WalMart's overhead. I have a feeling they'll be back to providing plastic bags very soon, though.

Polski3 said...

I sorta enjoy taking my much reused paper bags from Trader Joe's into Vons......

Issue I have with cloth/recycled mystery fiber AND plastic bags is the damage to your fruit by using such bags. I find my peaches, bananas, tomatoes etc. do better in paper grocery bags.

gbradley said...

That's funny.
If plastic bags are outlawed, only outlaws will have plastic bags.

I agree that reusable bags are a bacterial infested sponge.

Mrs. Bluebird said...

Man, if they get rid of plastic bags, where am I going to put all the scoopable kitty litter poop when I clean out the litter boxes???

Darren said...

You'll have to *buy* bags to put it in, making the waste savings a net *zero*. The only thing improved by this is Wal*Mart's bottom line since *they* won't have to pay for the bags now.