Once upon a time there was a store whose name was “Whole Foods”. I don’t know if it doubled in size from a previous store whose name was “Half Foods” – but that isn’t germane to our story. They sell nice products (under the catchall name of “organic”), at eye-opening prices. That’s fine since that’s their thing and no one is compelled to shop there who doesn’t want what they have to offer.
Well, we have two such markets on this side of town here in Las Vegas. And what they offer to me is the opportunity to buy a variety of specialty flours that I incorporate in making the dog biscuits I bake for Gracie. These flours whether oat, or brown rice or barley can be found in their bulk food section.
I prefer buying things on a bulk basis because it allows me to control the quantity I purchase and the only packaging that is involved is that thin little plastic bag which contains the product you’ve decided to buy. And, of course, there is the little tag on which you write down the product’s number so that you can check out with it.
Now the problem with bulk buying is that a person needs to be careful and moderately co-ordinated, making sure that the plastic bag is fully open when the product is dispensed. Otherwise, Geronimo – it doesn’t take much to cause the nice lady on the store intercom to announce to all the shoppers – “We need a cleanup in Bulk Foods”. And there you are, with garbanzo flour all over your shoes, looking around innocently to see who could be the possible cause of such mayhem.
There is a second problem with the bulk food section at Whole Foods and other stores which offer this convenience. That is finding the tags and then finding the pen which is supposed to be near them so that you can write down the product code. Apparently, since banks stopped supplying those at the little stations where they allowed customers to get deposit and withdrawal slips, pen thieves everywhere have turned to grocery stores’ bulk food sections for their supply of writing implements.
Well, since I always buy the same flours at Whole Foods I solved this problem by simply emptying the contents of my purchases into the appropriate receptacle at home, re-using the bag to pick up dog “poo” at the park and saving the tags on which I had inscribed the correct number for my next visit to the store, thus making the landfill free of yet one more bulk food tag – at least for several more reuses.
I really am all about environmental friendliness.
So a few weeks ago, when I was picking up my latest stash of flours, I was standing behind a lady who had a large purchase and had brought in three re-usable grocery bags to accommodate it. The checker beamed at her, “Well, good for you. You have a three bag credit of $.30.” (I didn’t know that they offered a bag credit but was delighted that they did). She then told her that her total came to $157.49.
So when it was my turn to pay for my two little one pound bags of flour, I asked the checker, “You know, I don’t need a bag for those. I’ll take them as they are. So would I be entitled to receive a bag credit for my purchase?” I said this in my usual friendly and sincere manner.
She responded, “No. In order to get the bag credit you have to bring in a bag.”
Her response was delivered in the sort of light-headed but friendly way that I have generally seen from the far above-average staff that Whole Foods employs. There was no snarling, no heavy sighing and then the delivery of a response which is infected with a tone of “Oh, my God. Why do I always have to get the retarded people in my checkout line?” which is what I often see from the “help” at other stores.
So with this information I decided to pursue the subject a bit further. After all, ten cents on a four dollar purchase is a 2.5% savings – which is better than having a money market account – especially since the return is immediate.
“May I ask why Whole Foods offers a bag discount?”
She politely responded, “That’s to help the environment by reducing the number of bags that go into landfills and the store saves money by not having to provide a bag.”
Good, sound reasoning. I liked it.
So I said, “Well, by not using a bag to take home my purchase, simply taking these two little packages as is, are we not accomplishing both of the goals you just cited – and, therefore, shouldn’t I still be entitled to the bag credit?”
I had thrown a fly in the ointment. (Actually, I think those products can be found in the personal care section). But after a moment, this young lady recovered and said, “Well that’s just store policy.”
So after paying for my purchase I was picking up my two one pound bags of flour and was going to leave when I decided to have her place them in a bag for me, which she did. After all, by not receiving the bag credit I effectively had purchased a bag – and I wanted it. (It’s a nice heavy paper bag and I’m sure I will find many uses for it before I consign it to the compost bin).
Well, only a fool, an idiot or an Obama voter is going to repeat a mistake they have previously made, so on my next visit to Whole Foods about ten days later, I was prepared. I came armed with two reusable bags. I thought about bringing in a grocery cart in which to let them rest while I manipulated my two one pound flour purchases into their bags. But then I decided to open one bag, put the other one inside it and let them sit on the floor as I dispensed the goods.
This worked out nicely. I reached in my coat pocket and removed my product coded tags, twisted each around the appropriate bag, placed both of these in the re-usable bag and sauntered over to checkout – delighted that I had not caused anyone to have to use the intercom system.
When I got to the checkout counter, I first placed the still-folded re-usable bag on it, I removed my two one pound packages and held them back and then shoved the other re-usable bag forward, placing the dividing bar at the end of my order. Thus, the checker was confronted first with my re-usable bags before seeing my purchase.
In order to avoid a hassle, I began by telling her that I had a bad back and the reason I had brought in two bags was that I was following my doctor’s advice that I should only carry things where the weight was balanced on both sides of my body. That made sense to her and she expedited my checkout, placing one bag of flour in each of these bags and giving me a $.20 bag credit.
So the way I look at it, I made up for the bag credit I was denied on the previous trip – and I’m still ahead by one very nice heavy paper bag that I know will get multiple uses before I finally consign it to the compost bin.
On the way out of the store, I noticed that Whole Foods invites its customers to offer suggestions and comments. I was going to offer mine that customers who do not request a bag but take their purchase home in the original packaging be given a bag credit. But I couldn’t find a pen.