January is slow for retail. Hours have been cut in my store and I was taken from my department to run the front register. I thought back to when I was a kid, and I watched the women who worked the checkout register in the grocery store. Things were different then–the registers did not run on electricity, they were mechanical. Items were not scanned, but each item was manually entered into the register. The worker running the register had to be fast and accurate and enter the numbers into the register. As I watched them work, I thought that I might enjoy that job when I grew up.
Another employee would put the items into PAPER BAGS, which we always re-used. They became book covers, garbage bags, wrapping paper, a surface to work on when cutting meat. And– because they were made from trees, they were biodegradable.
At some point, the world decided that paper bags were bad, and that too many trees were being sacrificed to keep making paper bags.
Enter the Plastic Bag which was going to solve all our problems and save all the trees!
Fast forward several decades, and the plastic bag has become the villain. Bags are dumped everywhere, hurting animals and sea creatures alike.
Now when I’m working the register (which is not as much fun as I had hoped) I am supposed to put the items into a Plastic Bag.
No judgement here. I reuse plastic bags myself. Customers who walk with canes need the handles to safely carry their items.
I started out by putting the items into the bag but customers would yell, “I don’t need a bag!”
What to do, what to do?
SO I started asking each customer, “Would you like a bag?”
This too, insults people. “YES, I want a bag!”
Others feel guilty. “Yes, please, if it’s okay. I do reuse the bags. I need them to clean up after my dog. I don’t waste the bags.”
Then I hear from the other side of the spectrum. “NO, I don’t want a bag. They are polluting our oceans. Don’t you care about the environment?”
Hey buddy, I just work here.
If customers are purchasing over five items, I just start putting them into the bag. “NO, I don’t need a bag!” Then I watch them juggle the items while walking out the door, sometimes dropping them as they go. Feeling guilty.
Rumor has it, we will be converting to stronger, thicker bags and charging five cents each for them. I’m not sure what the upside is to this, but hey, I just work here. There will still be plastic bags. I’m guessing because the bags are stronger, they can be reused more often and cut down on the discarded thin bags.
The company is also taking advantage of the situation by selling thick, reusable decorated bags for ninety-nine cents each. But if you’re like me, I forget to put the bags into the car before shopping, or sometimes stop off to shop without planning ahead. So I’ll be buying more bags.
Are you offended by plastic bags? What is your solution?