Nanny State Nonsense, Part 2
Last week I wrote about the post-Independence Day shock I received when coming face-to-face with the latest in a long streak of over-regulation courtesy of the fine folks in Glendale City government. Namely, that as of July 1, retailers in the Jewel City are no longer allowed to provide plastic bags to customers.
I’m old enough to remember when grocery stores began making the switch from traditional paper bags (the kind we made school book covers from) to ridiculously thin plastic ones. At first, checkers would offer a choice, thus giving birth to the cliché, “paper or plastic?” Eventually plastic was the default option, requiring shoppers who preferred the sturdier paper bags to ask for them. But I always had the feeling that if you asked for paper, somewhere in a remote Sierra Club outpost a red light and klaxon would sound the alarm. Even so, I always secretly admired customers who showed their capitalistic chutzpa by requesting a paper bag inside of a plastic bag for their groceries; aka “double bagging.” Boo ya and take that, you environmental Gestapos!
So now that plastic bags are verboten, why can’t stores just go back to giving us paper bags like they all did once-upon-a-better-country? I suspect it’s because this new reality provides an opportunity to turn bags into yet another profit center – by either selling reusable cloth bags or charging for the paper version. Ah, but here’s the problem; Google “unsanitary reusable grocery bags” and you’ll be horrified at the hundreds of available articles discussing how filthy and unsafe reusable cloth grocery bags can be if not washed after each use. Seriously? And how much water and energy will that waste? Don’t you just know that eventually there will be a law requiring that only government-approved, sanitized reusable bags be allowed into stores? All it will take is for one child to become deathly ill from E. coli courtesy of the T-bone steak his mommy brought home in her environmentalist-approved, earth-friendly, all-natural free-trade fabric, reusable bag, printed with soy-based ink and handmade by living-wage-earning Third World indigenous peoples working for a start-up company made possible by a micro-loan from a progressive activist foundation in Marin County. A bag crawling with bacteria and other assorted pathogens. Yummo!
On the other hand, I’m sure some enterprising entrepreneur is already working on disposable liners to solve the health concerns endemic with reusable bags. Oh wait, these would probably look almost exactly like … plastic bags. Never mind.
Being in advertising, I also can’t help but wonder how store managers like seeing bags with competitors’ logos parading out from their stores all day long. So, here’s a suggestion, Supermarketers: why not offer frequent shopper/rewards club members free reusable bags with your store branding? You’ve already pestered us into signing up for these clubs. So reward us, already. Give us something useful, like a half dozen or so free reusable bags. It would sure beat getting a nickel off a tub of low-fat cottage cheese on Fridays.
In the meantime, I for one will try to shop whenever possible only at stores (there are still a few locally) who provide free paper bags. Just like the good ol’ days.
One last thought: as I finish this column, one of the top Southern California news stories is about the determined efforts of an elite group of do-gooders to have cement fire rings removed from all beaches in Los Angeles and Orange counties. The fire pits have been a tradition for generations of beach-going Californians and tourists and have been one of most treasured So Cal experiences. But a tiny group of nattering nanny types want to take away this privilege used by so many in the pursuit of an admittedly imperceptible improvement in air quality. Shame on them. What they’re trying to do is worthy of being scooped up in a plastic bag.
I’ll see you ’round town.