Sunday, January 31, 2010

Single or Double

I had a little run-in today at Whole Foods over bags.  I simply couldn’t convince the check-out clerk that the customer was right.

I’m usually pretty good about bringing in my reusable bags, but in a hurry today I left them in the car.

As we stood in line to check out, I thought about running back out to the car but decided just to let the clerk pack my groceries in paper bags.

As he started to load them into a doubled paper bag, I politely requested single bags.  But instead of heeding my requests, he proceeded to give me the lecture about how double bags are stronger.

Then he went on to say that if he were to use a single bag, he would simply pack it lighter, necessitating more bags.  To which I responded, “Not if I was packing the bags!”

He then went on to add that I could bring the paper bags back the next time I came to shop.  To which I said, “Next time I will definitely bring my reusable bags.”

I’ve had this exchange quite a few times with check-out clerks, but never have they refused to do as I asked. 

My son, who was along, was probably mortified that I seemed so recalcitrant about something like paper bags.  His opinion was definitely that the clerk ought to be able to give me whatever he wanted to.  And here I thought the customer was always right in situations like this.


Blogger Cyndy said...

Way back when I was a "professional" grocery store cashier and bagger, my philosophy was to always treat the customer as if they were right. I've noticed that a lot of grocery cashiers do not seem to have this attitude so much anymore. It's almost as if they were barristas at Starbucks or something.

On the other hand, it is not possible for any one individual to have as much experience as they have with bagging up groceries and knowing how much weight is safe to put in each bag, unless they were cashiers once themselves. These cashiers are doing this activity all day long day in and day out and if they have any pride whatsoever in what they do for a living they get good at it. The ultimate humiliation comes when a bag breaks because it was packed too heavy, and the cashier always gets blamed, no matter what, even if they did it to accomodate a customer's request. It's such a menial job that things like being able to control whether or not your colleagues and supervisors are going to laugh at you all day long because you packed a bag too heavy and then it broke all over the place and made a big mess become very important. But even more important, at least when I was cashiering, was to provide polite unargumentive service to all customers and not worry about who was right.

10:39 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Cyndy -- Sometimes I think I must be the only person in the world who is concerned about wasting paper -- even if it is possible to return the bags. It just seems so rich-American to double-bag instead of supporting the bottom of the bag so it doesn't break! At least, for heaven's sake, double-bag only for the heaviest items, leaving the light things in single bags.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

I'm surprised he didn't just do as you asked, but I guess he thought he was looking out for you. Maybe he was having a bad day!

7:46 AM  
Blogger Merle Sneed said...

This is why you should stop trading with Whole Foods and just shop where profit is king. Just kidding.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Steve -- I think the clerk was new and over-zealous. He hadn't yet picked up on the WF attitude toward its customers, despite what the clerk thinks of them!

Merle -- What is Ace's attitude toward the customer's opinion?

11:53 AM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

Personally I do prefer fewer, yet stronger bags.I do see the baggers point regarding using more bags if packed too lightly, and I am seriously concerned with wasting paper. So much so that we ask customers if they even need a bag for single bottles of wine at the wine shop. Many prefer no bags so they walk out with their purchase bag-free. We also sell reusable wine totes.
We even have a few customers who bring back their paper bags to be reused over and over again.

Often it is not convenient to support the bottoms of the bags when juggling handbag, keys and groceries. I've had my share of broken bags so I would appreciate someone looking out for me in that respect. Actually the handles on the bags seem to be the worst offenders.
Luckily I keep quite a supply of reusables in both cars and try to keep my environmental damage to a minimum. For whatever it's worth.

2:10 PM  
Blogger soubriquet said...

Here in Britain, it's rare to see paper bags being used. Safeway used to do it in the seventies...
So the polyethylene bag is king. Ireland introduced a bag tax, and dramatically reduced the number of wasted bags, supermarkets here sell heavy duty bags, you can get a discount on your groceries for re-using. But when I was a kid, a selection of sturdy bags accompanied us on shopping trips. My dad always took one of his old wartime bags, stencilled S/Sgt 7911643 Carter D.W.... (that had seen some adventures), he was the only one of us strong enough to carry it when full.
So there's the question why don't we all carry decent durable canvas bags, which will still do the job fifty years from now?

4:53 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

With the new bag tax in the District, they'd definitely listen. Otherwise, they'd charge you twice and nobody would put up with that.

When I worked as a cashier, we have to learn how to properly bag. I'm not so sure that's the case anymore as I see my soap end up with ice cream and crackers. Very odd.

I prefer to bag my own.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Gewels -- I always have plenty of reusable bags in my car. However, I don't always remember to take them in with me.

Soubriquet -- Welcome! I'm surprised the UK is still using environmentally -hostile plastic bags.

Kristin -- I actually applaud DC for charging for bags. You bet people won't want double bags if they have to pay twice!

9:58 PM  
Blogger bulletholes said...

There just might be a policy in place that encourages double-bags.
There may have been more than one instance of a customer with a single bag having the bag break and lose a nice jar of Olives or Maple Syrup, and the store is obliged to replace it.
And that may be why the clerk seemed insistent, short of you throwing a fit. Just sit back and enjoy the ride Barbara!

3:18 PM  

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