Here in Wales we have to pay for carrier bags – one of the visible signs of the Welsh Assembly’s vast and all-encompassing powers. Quite why they didn’t seek to redress problems in the Welsh Economy and the numerous challenges we face with matters such as NHS waiting times, random distribution of some cancer medication and the appalling condition of some of our schools, I’m not quite sure. I’m guessing plastic bags fell into the category of “quick wins” – although I expect there is some EU Directive written by an MEP in a first class Eurostar carriage somewhere that dictates the immediate implementation of such a scheme.
No doubt we should also all be knitting our clothes, tanning leather for our own shoes and returning to wattle and daub for housing (medieval since you ask) by 2020 – and since much of the population will be in the 60+ age group by then, this will certainly present some marketing challenges for M&S’s Christmas party range in that year.
Now environmentally, I’m all in favour of doing my bit, but whilst there is no doubt we are helping the Green movement, there seems to have been a notable casualty. Customer service.
Whilst, in the halycon days of the past, shop assistants used to pack your shopping for you, nowadays you are left to hold up the queue whilst you fish for a glamorous “bag for life” (whose life? trust me, none of these bags will ever need to be carbon-dated) or, in my case, one of the Ocado bags they should have had back. Then you hold the queue up further by having to pack your own shopping.
By this stage, Caitlin and Ieuan are prodding the confectionery displays so thoughtfully left at the till point and I’m hissing “don’t touch” whilst the queue ponders the ineffectiveness of my parenting style. The shop assistants in question are usually staring into space or pondering their nail polish.
Surely this is an opportunity for shopkeepers to secure customer loyalty by helping a bit more? Even in supermarkets offering to “help you pack your bag” usually means the checkout operator will pack roughly 3 items out of the mountain of 50 and leave you (and your children) to panic pack the rest so that everything is thoroughly squashed by the time you get home.
I have worked in numerous retail outlets and, believe me, there can be nothing more thankless than facing the Great British public on a daily basis. I can fully understand that you’d get so cheesed off at being treated like a lackey or never acknowledged that your attitude might slip.
But these are tough financial times for businesses. Why waste a simple opportunity to stand out from your rivals?