Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bag Attitude

A few days ago, I went to a Dierbergs grocery store. It was not my local Dierbergs store. I try to avoid my local Dierbergs store when I can, because my local Dierbergs store, though filled with friendly people, stocks a ridiculously limited selection of bruised and moldy produce.

(My local Schnucks has a terrible produce section too, actually. I am convinced, in fact, that both area chains send their worst produce to my neighborhood on purpose, so as to reserve the shiniest apples and least-green potatoes for their stores in places like Chesterfield and Ladue. But that's a topic for another post.)

Anyway, this was not my neighborhood Downscale Dierbergs for the Hoi Polloi, but a fancy schmancy We Have Non-Wilty Onions sort of Dierbergs store out in West County.

Outside this store, plastered neatly to the glass between the automatic doors, there is a little sign that reads: DID YOU REMEMBER TO BRING YOUR REUSABLE BAGS? On this sign is a picture of the Dierbergs brand resuable grocery bags that are available for purchase for one dollar apiece inside the store.

When I first noticed it, several weeks ago, I thought this was a kind and clever little sign. My husband and I always remember to bring our reusable shopping bags in to the grocery store now that carrying them has become a habit, but in our early days of using them, we would often forget and leave them in the car.

It's the sort of thing that makes you think that the Dierbergs grocery chain might really be taking this whole reusable bag trend seriously. And why shouldn't they? I mean, not only are reusable shopping bags vastly better for the environment than either the paper or plastic disposable kind, but they also save stores money.

Well, tell that to the checkers and baggers at Fancy Dierbergs.

I've already become accustomed to dramatic sighs and rolled eyes from disaffected checkers when I respond to "Paper or plastic?" with "Neither, thanks! I brought my own."

And baggers! Well. Nearly every time I pull the reusable bags out of the cart, it's like I'm telling a world-class pianist to play a concerto on my son's toy xylophone, or asking a master architect to design a house for me with crayons. I'd swear the slight once caused a particularly affronted bagger to put a bunch of bananas in with two cans of tomato sauce on purpose.

And the last time I went to Fancy Dierbergs was the worst time there so far. Not only did the checker roll her eyes and sigh when my husband cheerfully replied, "Neither!" Not only did the bagger look askance at us, and then cast a rather wicked glare toward our bananas before dolefully shaking out the first of our eco-friendly bags.

No, this was not the end of our punishment for showing off as environmental goody two-shoes. Once the checker finished scanning our groceries, she completely, purposefully ignored the pile of still-unused resusable bags that the bagger had not filled yet, and put all of the rest of our groceries in disposable plastic bags, leaving half our reusables empty on the counter.

Lest my gentle reader think this anti-eco-bag attitude is unique to the workers at one local grocery chain, only two days later, when we were at that Target of St. Louis Targets, The Mecca-Target — Target of South City — where, incidentally, they also sell their own brand of reusable shopping bags — our checker, upon realizing that we had brought reusable bags, refused to bag our items entirely, and demanded that my husband bag them himself.

Seriously, people. Is it that hard to put things in a slightly different kind of bag? Of a sort your own store sells in a deliberate attempt to get more people to use them?

Clearly some sort of campaign is needed to get cashiers and baggers outside of Trader Joe's and Whole Paycheck on track with this whole saving-the-planet-and-your-store's-bottom-line business.

I imagine the surest way to fix this problem is to make reusable shopping bags so entirely commonplace, so totally unremarkable, that not even the surliest teen temp store employee would bat an eye upon seeing a customer pull them out. If everyone starts using reusables, then checkers and baggers everywhere will be forced to stop silently accusing me of being a pain-in-the-ass hippie with their eyes when I whip my eco-totes out at the register.

Therefore, I am issuing this public call: if you haven't jumped on the reusable grocery bag bandwagon yet, I urge you, for my sake, please, to purchase a set immediately and use them on your very next shopping trip.

The ego you could help save may well be mine.

(But the planet you will help save will be your own. )


Anonymous said...

I always feel weird bringing in my reusable bags that usually say another store (competitor) on them and worry about the day that someone denies bagging my groceries. Luckily someone has already had to deal with this! Usually I go to savealot where you bag your own stuff anyway, so not a big deal when i'm there...

SusanIsk said...

This is why I love shopping at Trader Joe's (other than the inexpensive food - dinners for $3, fancy cheese for cheap, the best frozen veggies around for $1.99), I actually feel guilty when I forget my bags and have to use one of their paper bags (no plastic, of course).

Jaelithe said...

I like shopping at Trader Joe's too, but some things are significantly cheaper at Dierbergs. And I actually buy about a third of my groceries at Target, which is nearly always cheapest of the three for dry goods (including organic).

I keep track of what prices are at each store, and shop accordingly. (Feeding three people adds up much more quickly than feeding one person. As a sale shopper I personally consider two bucks to be way too much to pay for a bag of veggies, unless we're talking organic asparagus or something.)

I would almost certainly shop at TJ's more often, though, if they had a store closer to my house. The nearest one is 20-30 minutes away, depending on traffic. When I can make it out to West County to go to Fancy Dierbergs I nearly always also go to Trader Joe's, but if I can't spare the time it doesn't get done.

People in North County have really limited local food shopping options, unfortunately.

Unknown said...

That is horrible! I have never had any issues at my Schnucks and I am in Ballwin/West County. I bring all 10 of my bags every time and have never (that I have noticed) gotten attitude, but maybe I am too busy dealing with the kids to notice.....oh, well. I usually put my groceries on the belt according to frozen, fresh, fruit, meat, etc. so it seems that is how they get bagged since that is how they get scanned.

Jaelithe said...

We do the sorting the groceries on the conveyor trick too (actually my husband has a very elaborate system of grocery sorting meant to optimize not only bagging, but also order on the receipt to make it easier for him to record food and non-food categories in his budget software. Yes, I'm serious). But if the bagger gets there late, that doesn't help; it makes no difference what order you put the groceries in on the conveyor when they've all been tossed in a pile at the end of the counter. I think this is what had happened in the banana incident. Although really, I am fairly certain there was some malice involved there.

I would seriously just bag all of our own food, except people seem annoyed when you do this at places you are not supposed to, like you think they can't do their jobs. And well, maybe they are right about that in my case. I did my time in retail as a college student and I'm quite adept at bagging, thank you very much. Heh.

Anonymous said...

So much word on this. Interestingly enough, I usually have the best luck at Schnucks, although Target has been getting better.

Dierbergs is, by far, the biggest nuisance. This old guy kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to carry my milk so I could fit everything in my bags. Milk has a flipping handle. It's designed to be carried alone. It doesn't need a bag, let alone two plastic bags, to be transported from one place to another.

It also irritates me when the baggers will not fill my reusable bags. They're sturdy, dudes. They can handle a bigger load than plastic and I'm not carrying them far. If I say load them up, load them up.

I guess I just don't get the attitude? It's like Rush Limbaugh desperately clinging to incandescent bulbs...why?

Farrell said...

Hmmm...I have not yet had that problem. Usually grocers and baggers exclaim, "Cool! I've never seen these before!" upon me revealing my stylish eco-bags.

Jaelithe said...

Hmm. Maybe my bags just need to be more stylin'. Got pics, Farrell?

Anonymous said...

Good golly, the problems you've had. I've luckily never had a problem with my reusable bags at the Arsenal Schnucks, and I don't believe my mom has had any with hers at the Lake St. Louis Schnucks.

Now, that said, it seems I have a bagger-repellant on my person; because the person in front of me in line always has someone to bag his/her groceries, and then when it's my turn, that bagger is nowhere to be found. So perhaps I've never had a problem simply because I'm always bagging my own freaking groceries.

(Also: I remember a few years ago, Trader Joe's entered you in a raffle everytime you shopped there and used reusable bags. That was awesome.)

Anonymous said...

We shop at our co-op for most of our food, but will go to the Teeter (Dierberg's equivalent) literally next door to get anything extra. At the co-op, you get the stink-eye for not bringing your own bags, but at the Teeter you get looked at funny if you do. I'm more just amused by the difference in attitude between two places located so close to each other.

Also, I haven't had much trouble with folks packing my reusable bags wrong. Then again, I bag my groceries most of the time (which I also compulsively optimally sort). I feel weird just standing there doing nothing while the cashier rings everything up.

(Also also, hey. I should call you sometime or otherwise communicate in ways that are not just leaving infrequent comments on your blog.)

Anonymous said...

Never had a problem at our Schnucks or Dierbergs over here on the other side of the river, even when my bags have the other store's name on them! Illinois is really looking better all the time - no smoking in any public places and good grocery baggers.

Kim said...

I have been a bad person for not using reusable bags. Please to not judge. But I do reuse the plastic as trash bags in my bathrooms and for picking up the gifts my doggies leave me.

I will start the reusable bag trend tonight when I go to the store to buy non CFL bulbs (again, no judging but they don't work right in our DR light with the dimmer switch). So does buying non-CFLs but using a reusable bag even things out?

Jaelithe said...

Yay! A convert! My plan is working. Bwa ha ha.

I have CFLs in most of my house, but I have an incandescent in my lamp with a dimmer switch too, Kim. Can't be helped when you have a dimmer. I'm hoping for someone to invent a cheap LED bulb or something that will work in a dimmer fixture.

hibikir said...

You must have found the wrong west county dierbergs out there. I've had no issues with reusing bags in the one near me.

You won't see me near a TJ unless it's an emergency though: Maybe it makes sense to people that don't cook, but for us, 90% of the nearby store is just useless. Crappy fresh vegetables beat the best frozen ones every time.

Anonymous said...

>Nearly every time I pull the reusable bags out of the cart, it's like I'm telling a world-class pianist to play a concerto on my son's toy xylophone...

:-) Same experience here.

Although now I'm using bags that are the same size and shape as the plastic bags (Breezy Bags at ). I've been loading them onto the bagging racks before the bagger even shows up. I take all five of them and make it easy for the prima donna baggers.

About having them when you need them, these Breezy Bags squish down reeaaly small...enough to put in your purse.

EllenO said...

Love this post! Can we post it at Let me know if you ever want to do a giveaway with your readers. Rock on, eco-momma :)

Anonymous said...

I can't believe nobody has mentioned the skillful way you worked 'bananas' and 'dolefully' into the same sentence. Well played.

Anonymous said...

By the way -- they DO have compact fluorescents that can be dimmed now. Sweet! Amazon has them. Also, Lowes carries 3-way CFLs.

Unknown said...

I donate a small amount to environmental, historical, and wildlife groups, and I select the canvas totes all the time for the free gift.

When I go shopping, I pull one or two out (it's just me) and take them in. I feel great because I make two statements: one that helps the environment and one that supports the groups in which I believe - i.e. World Wildlife Fund, American Rivers, National Historic Trust, etc.

I am a vegetarian, so any store I frequent has to have great produce.