Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Eco-Friendly but Patience-Testing: The Trials and Tribulations of Using Reusable Bags

Do you use reusable bags when shopping? Always? I think I generally do a good job, or at least I have good intentions. I have my nylon BAGGU bags, which I love because the fold up so neatly in their little pouch in my purse, so I almost always have them with me. And they're pretty big once they're unfolded, so they hold quite a bit, and they're sturdy and machine-washable. As it is time to pay for my purchases, they're right there in my purse when I go to pay, so it's not like I forget them. So what's the problem?

The problem is this: in their rush to keep the lines moving and check me out quickly, the clerks at the grocery store or Target don't want to be hassled with using my bags, because it's quicker and easier (and a habit) for them to use theirs. I have found that I need to place the bags on checkout counter before I place anything that I want to purchase there. And tell the clerk that they are my reusable bags. And make sure to unfold them. And give them at least twice as many bags as I think they should reasonably need.

The other day, I was at Target buying some miscellaneous stuff. Mostly groceries, plus laundry detergent. (Yes, our Targets all have grocery stores now, isn't that convenient?) I put my three reusable bags on the conveyor, then my fruit platter, laundry detergent, two bottles of juice, etc. First, the checkout person started to put the fruit into a plastic bag, and I said, "That's okay, it can just go in one of my bags." Then she put the liquid laundry detergent (which has its own handle, mind you) into a plastic bag, so I took it out, handed the plastic bag back to her, and just the detergent directly in the cart. Then the granola bars and other random stuff went into one of my bags (yay!), and then the juice she started to DOUBLE bag in plastic bags. At which point I said, "No, REALLY, I don't want ANY plastic bags."

Perhaps I should just bag my own stuff, you say? Perhaps I should, but I was also trying to pay and keep Brody from screaming. And at the grocery store, I do often use the self-checkout, but I find that it takes about twice as long because I have to wait for the other people who often can't seem to figure out what they're doing to finish up in front of me. And then it's my turn to look like I don't know what I'm doing as I try to use my reusable bags and the self-checkout register keeps telling me that I need to remove them from the bagging area and rescan them, because the register thinks I'm trying to steal something I didn't pay for. So I have to wait for the attendant, who is busy attending everything except people using the self-checkout registers.

All of this just to avoid accumulating more paper or plastic bags. Saving the earth is a lot of work.


  1. I should get the kind you use. I'd remember them more. We have probably 15 or so reuseable shopping bags. Where do they live? the closet? I forget to bring them with me, or even put them in my trunk. I do well if I go with my friend Steve or Jessy, they always seem to remind me to grab one.

    Also - it does seem most of the time at Target (not experienced this at grocery stores) that if you have reuseable bags, you have to bag things yourself. Give them to the cashier and they get pretty inept... it's kinda weird.

    Also had the same issue with self-checkout. Depending on how much I have (which tends to not be a lot when I use self-checkout, I'll scan everything and stack it in the bagging area - only after I'm done paying, do I then bag everything in my bags. They really need to add an option where you can set your bags up first before scanning...

  2. I can rarely get Ryan to agree to use the resusable bags I have in his trunk. If I am there and hand him one, he rolls his eyes first but does use it. But yeah, he loves to use the self check-out and hates anything that complicates that. So we end up with lots of plastic bags from his shopping trips. I still save them out of habit from the dog ownership days.