The two-edged sword of banning plastic bags

Ban plastic bagsAs more and more communities and countries pass a ban on single use plastic bags – over 50 so far in California alone – high-end small retailers find themselves placed in sometimes awkward positions. Charging top prices for luxury products such as fine jewelry, the thought of adding a 5 or 10 cent fee because a customer doesn’t have a reusable bag for their purchase seems ludicrous.

Case in point is a story last fall of a jeweler in Aptos, California (one of this writer’s favorite towns) who sells fine jewelry for thousands of dollars and, because of a local law, must charge customers 10 cents for a shopping bag to carry their precious gems home in. As in many other California towns, grocery stores, pharmacies and other retailers are no longer allowed to use plastic shopping bags and must charge customers for paper ones.

Factory Direct Promo Custom Wine Tote

A handsome reusable wine tote from Factory Direct Promos

“I won’t ask 10 cents for a bag when somebody spends $10,000. That’s petty,” said Bill Hoffman, owner of Aptos Jewelers, who asked the county to exempt him from the 10-cent rule, which went into effect in March. The rule does not allow retailers to give away bags and build the charge into prices.

Tim Goncharoff, a Santa Cruz County official who wrote the rule, said Mr. Hoffman’s request for exemption had been denied on the grounds that complying would not create a hardship and that many other businesses had found a way to meet the requirement. Retailers risk a warning and then a fine of up to $500 if they don’t comply.

Mr. Goncharoff said the rules were intended to make people think about the wastefulness of single-use products.

Although the plastic industry is fighting back against the ban, some retailers are embracing it, using a little creativity to turn lemons into lemonade.

This is just one stylish example of what reusable retail bags can be

This is just oneexample of how stylish reusable retail bags can be

Putting business logos on promotional items has long been a solid business practice. Companies such as Factory Direct Promos offer a variety of stylish reusable bags that easily could fill the growing need by retailers and help them strut their stuff in an ever-so-green fashion. It’s well-known that change can be distressing, particularly when something as long-standing and tried-and-true as giving customers shopping bags is challenged. But disgruntled retailers – and the plastics industry itself – seems to be missing the real opportunity of this green trend.

With change comes opportunity and in retail, where cultural change is moving steadily away from plastic to reusable, retailers would do well to remember that since customers vote with their dollars, give them something they’ll appreciate. A stylish reusable shopping bag with a cool looking business logo on it will not only encourage customers to reuse the bag, it could as easily encourage them to be regular clientele.

It seems only logical for retailers to embrace a change that could bring them repeat business, don’t you think?


3 Responses

  1. “I won’t ask 10 cents for a bag when somebody spends $10,000.00 That’s petty,” said Bill Hoffman, owner of Aptos Jewelers,

    People who spend $10,000 on a piece of jewellery do not have a problem being charged 10 cents, and if they do is because the don’t care about the harmful effects of plastic bags to humans and nature.

    If what it takes is ten cents for them to start becoming aware, Mr. Hoffman should feel proud to be an avenue for change with his discerning clientele.

    I got to ask; why is Mr Hoffman putting a $10,000 piece of jewelery in a 10 cent plastic bag?

    Bravo Mr. Goncharoff for making people like Mr. Hoffman start to think about the wastefulness of single-use products.

  2. Excellent!…it’s great that retailers cannot give away bags and build the charge into prices as it really does force consumers to think about this issue. As for Mr Hoffman: 1) Somebody who is willing to spend $10k on fine jewellery isn’t going to change their mind because of a $0.10 plastic bag fee; 2) the same rule applies across the county so again it is unlikely to effect the demand for his goods; and 3) if he is so concerned about the effect on his customers, although he can’t pay for the bag, he could offset the cost of it to his customers in other ways at the point of sale, e.g. by offering free confectionery.

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