Would You Like a Bag?

Josie Leavitt -- January 12th, 2010

Would you like a bag? It’s a simple question. One that I must ask countless times a day. Maybe it’s because I live in Vermont and we’re supposed to be eco-friendly up here, so folks seem to take an inordinately long time to answer the question. I can see their thought process: I shouldn’t get a bag, it’s wasteful. I only have two books, I can just carry them out and put them in the car. My car’s a wreck. But it’s a nice bag, and it’s recycled paper. I shouldn’t get a bag. Oh, but I’d re-use this one. I can recycle this one. And on and on it goes. In the meantime I have customers in line waiting to get rung up who know how they feel about bags.

The bag issue is starting to loom large at our store. We are currently out of most of our bags and are deciding what/if to reorder. Yes, all of our bags are made from recycled paper with a minimum 30-40% post consumer content, so I feel good about that. But does every purchase automatically warrant the offering of a bag? Invariably, when I neglect to offer a bag, they want one, and when I do offer a bag, more and more, an Envirosax or some similar folds-up-to-nothing-bag that holds 100 pounds gets flung out of purse in a strident flourish, making me feel foolish for even offering. Sometimes, I can see someone really struggling about the bag issue. I tell them, "It’s okay to want a bag, really, it is." Bag guilt shouldn’t happen.

The great thing about bags is they are advertising for your store. Ours is a destination store in a tiny downtown (two streets). The parading of our name about town is minimal, so we don’t get a ton of pop from folks seeing the bag. What does provide great advertising are our lovely canvas tote bags with our logos. Again, these are eco-friendly, made from recycled cotton with soy-based ink from a women-owned company in New Hampshire. These totes show up everywhere. We’ve had folks send of pictures of their bag (similiar to what kids do with Flat Stanleys) from Russia, Greece, and South Africia. My painfully shy mom uses her in Connecticut and regularly gets stopped by another shopper wanting to discuss the Flying Pig.

We give our tote bags away as a premium. You spend $75 at once, you get a free tote. We buy in bulk, so it’s not expensive for us to do that and people will often spend up to $75 just to get the tote, so this works. I see them every day at the market, which pleases me everytime.

So, back to the bag discussion. We must continue to offer bags, obviously. Just as we’ve done recently with our gift wrap, we’ll keep making it as green as possible and only hope that folks have made their bag decisions before they come to the front of the line. And if they take one of our bags, at least they can feel good about it.

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