Should We Lose the Bags?

Josie Leavitt -- March 28th, 2014

It is time to reorder bags. I find myself wondering if we should restock the ubiquitous shopping bag or not. Our bags are recycled kraft paper with soy based ink, so they’re about as eco-friendly as a bag can be, but the minimums per style are often huge. Yes, they are great advertisements for the store, but if no one uses one,I find myself wondering about the viability of keeping them.

It’s funny because I almost always want a bag when I’m shopping. My car tends towards messy and I usually park and walk, so I need to carry my purchases. But, the first place I shop tends to be the bag I use for my whole outing. I can hear folks yelling, “Bring your own bag.” I try to. I have bags literally looped on the front door knob, and even in the car, but I seem to never get myself together enough to actually have them with me when I need them.

Most of my customers are not like me. They come in, often with their Flying Pig tote bags (we give them away as premiums when folks spend $75 or more at one time, which happens a lot) or other reusable bags which they happily fill with books. More than likely, customers say no to a paper bag. I’m sure I’ve brought this up before, but some folks spend more time deciding if they want a bag than they do picking out their books. So, I find myself on the bubble about bags. If 90% of my customers don’t want bags, why do I keep paying for them?

I’m curious about how other stores, and customers, feel about bags. Are they obsolete or still a necessary part of doing business? Should we reorder, or not?

6 thoughts on “Should We Lose the Bags?

  1. Christine

    This is just a weird fetish of mine but if I’m visiting/on vacation, then I want a store bag even if I have a tote bag with me. I like that local shopping bag (if it’s not generic) as a reminder of my holiday and I always re-use them. If I’m shopping at my local store, I generally have a shopping bag with me although I often buy more than one bag can handle so then I still need a store bag. (And I always think that I’ll just need one tote bag because I’m always only going to buy a couple of things.)
    Maybe, rather than asking if a customer wants their purchase bagged, just prepare to hand over the items unless they ask for them to be bagged. You’ll probably always need some bags on hand even if you wind up charging a nominal amount for them.

  2. Alex

    A growing number of our customers are declining paper bags when offered (we don’t do plastic), but the majority of multi-book purchasers still want them. We’ve also recently started offering California Bookstore Day totes for sale, and those have been popular.

  3. James S.

    It just seems silly to keep paying for something that isn’t being used much. I work in a library and we used to pay for the generic “thank you” plastic bags that also really were only used when it rained. We just have everyone bring in their grocery bags and we reuse them. They’re free and serve the same purpose (and people are glad to get them out of their homes and at least being reused).

  4. yam

    Our county now requires that stores charge 5 cents for each bag, plastic or paper. It’s enough of a charge that people try to bring their own. Spouse was like you, not ever able to remember to bring bags, but after a few times forgetting and having to fork over the 5 cents per bag, it’s become ingrained. Some places even give a 5-cent refund if you bring your own bag.

  5. Lori

    My bookstore is located in a city where plastic bags are now illegal, and we are required to charge 10 cents per paper bag. I find that a lot of folks bring their own bags, and when the weather is nice (which is much of the time – we’re in California), people don’t want a bag unless they’re buying a lot of magazines. That being said, we sell about 500 paper bags a month, and that triples in December. But I say, if 90% of your customers don’t want them, maybe you should just have some generic paper bags for those that do, and stop paying for the other ones?

  6. Del

    We still use plastic bags at Dark Delicacies but it won’t be long before they will be outlawed here in Burbank. Do we go to paperbags? They are costly. Do we go cloth bags we can sell for a couple of bucks? Do we go with a higher price point cloth bag? What’s the best construction? What’s the best price point or points? So far we have looked at a lot but bought nothing. We’ll probably end up using platic until we can’t and are forced to make a change.

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