Wednesday, August 25, 2010


I had a strange interaction with a customer the other day. After ringing her purchase through I asked, as is customary in the retail industry, if she would like a bag to carry her books. She replied without hesitation that she would indeed and that it would be great if I could double up the bags because she had two infants at home. Of course I proceeded to do so and wished her a pleasant evening, but internally I was questioning the correlation between the plastic bags and the two babies. Why waste money on an expensive stroller when a perfectly serviceable plastic bag can be acquired for free with a small purchase at your local bookseller, perhaps? I'm not really sure. I didn't ask and I never quite figured it out.

As funny (or as horrifying) as the image of a person towing their child down Clement St. in a plastic bag may be, the interaction brought to mind the myriad of responses I've heard to the question of 'bag or no bag?' after being hired at Green Apple nearly three years ago. Aside from the most common answer, the simplest 'yes' or 'no' preceding a thank you, I've come accustomed to hearing either one of two things following that step of the interaction. If the need or desire for a bag is not present, the response is often followed by some vaguely proselytizing phrase regarding the importance of conservation for the sake of our fragile environment. If the desire is indeed there, the environmental championship is often replaced by some excuse regarding necessity. Fact.

Now let's be clear. I'm not trying to pass any particular judgement on these interactions or place myself on any sort of soapbox. I'm just observing a trend that I witness on a near daily basis. I wonder if perhaps as a long time resident of San Francisco an inflated sense of moral high water has rubbed off on me. I've certainly noticed myself tune in more and more on unnecessary packaging. On my last visit to New York City I was annoyed that a plastic bag was proffered with literally EVERY purchase (c'mon man, they're called pocket books for a reason!), but the issue is much more complex than that. With crises like the gulf spill, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and corporate overproduction of just about everything useless, it's hard to commend or condemn little decisions like accepting the offer of a bag or replacing old light bulbs. It's a situation that requires a massive amount of patience, research, and in the end for us ultimately either a lot of hard work or destruction. Big concepts, sometimes frustrating to be so often reminded of, but I'm sure you know what I mean.

Recommended reading:
Endgame by Derrick Jensen
The Prize by Daniel Yergin
The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith
MAD Magazine

1 comment:

Spiros said...

I have noticed that in the past few years, since the passing of anti-plastic bag legislation by the Board of Supes, there has been a strong reluctance on the part of our customers to take plastic bags. I have even had to pursuade people to accept them when it as been raining. I think this is a positive development.