What’s Your Policy on Rejected Shopping Bags?


It almost happened again. I was in Kohl’s and purchased a handful of items — not enough to warrant packing them into a plastic shopping bag — so as the clerk reached below the counter, I stopped her and let her know that giving me a bag wasn’t necessary.

There it was, the startled, uncertain look of interrupted habit.  What should she do? Force me to take a bag because that is what she’s supposed to do? She was in process, after all. It’s hard to switch gears once you’re moving. Or stop mid-grab and respect my wishes as a landfill-conscious consumer?

To her credit, it was “cease and desist.” Some associates don’t get it. When I ask them not to put my items into a bag, to my horror they actually stuff the bag into the trash can. That can get really awkward. But to this woman’s credit, she put the bag back onto the packing handles.

But this interaction raises the question I’ve asked here before. What’s your policy toward shopping bags? Is your policy to have every customer’s purchased place into a bag automatically whether that purchase requires a bag or not? Or do you allow (or even encourage) the sales associates to ask customers if they want a bag in the first place?

I wonder if anyone has done a survey on the percentage of consumers who are given bags they don’t want? Or what percentage of consumers would accept (readily or reluctantly) not having a bag if given the option? I don’t know if anyone would pay for such a survey, but I for one would like to see the results.

Written by Heidi Tolliver-Walker

Heidi Tolliver-Walker has been a commercial and digital printing industry analyst, feature writer, columnist, editor, and author for nearly 20 years. She is known for her meticulous research and no-nonsense perspective. In addition to having written thousands of industry articles for top industry publications, she and Richard Romano have been the face of the well-respected industry research firm The Industry Measure (TrendWatch Graphic Arts) for many years. In her more than 13-year tenure with the firm, she has written countless reports on digital printing, 1:1 (personalized) printing, Web-to-print, personalized URLs, and other hot industry applications. She is also a long-time contributing editor and columnist for Printing News, for which she writes two monthly columns, including "Personal Effects," which features monthly analysis of 1:1 (personalized) printing case studies. She is also the author of three titles for the National Association of Printing Leadership: Designer's Printing Companion, Ink & Color: A Printer's Guide, and Diversifying Via Value-Added Services. As a small, niche publisher (Strong Tower Publishing), she is active in utilizing these technologies in her own business, as well.


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