31 Comments

  1. Yes, the free, little crumply plastic bags do hold less than either the square-assembled paper bags or the big reusable kind, formerly usually canvas but nowadays some sturdy artificial material, and either purchased for $0.99 from the supermarket or “free gift” from some charitable donation campaign.

    After a period when the giveaway bags at the register or self-checkout were banned in Chicago, they are again available but are supposed to be accounted. At the self-checkout stands there is a question inquiring how many of those bags you are using. Even if it’s 0, you need to click to enter that response.

  2. I’m so sick of plastic bags! I could start my own Plastic Bag Store. I bring them to WallyWorld for ‘recycling’, but I often think they just dump ’em in their own trash . . . a version of ‘recycling’, I guess, but not what one would want.

  3. Those $0.99 cloth sacks they sell hold a ton, and don’t back up in your recycling, and can be used for other stuff. Plus the store gives you a nickel back each time you use them. Hint hint. (Can’t believe Arlo lets the store give him plastic.)

  4. In addition to plastic bags being smaller than the old paper sacks, many grocery baggers don’t pack them anywhere near their own limited capacity (I’ve hauled off multiple bags with one or two items in them at times). This seems to be the gag in panel 4.

  5. “many grocery baggers don’t pack them anywhere near their own limited capacity”

    In my experience, they tend to try to group similar items into the same bags, so when you show up and want to buy 1 of those, 1 of those, and 1 of those, you may wind up with three bags. Then again, I often won’t even let them put single items in a bag.

  6. Once at my local grocery store they had a sale on bread – two loaves for a reduced price. The loaves were individually in their own plastic bags and those two bags were then put into another plastic bag to make the discounted special. At checkout the bag-boy put them into yet another plastic bag – all by themselves. So I had four plastic bags for something that could have been done with just one.

  7. Grandpa said when he was young he could go to the store with $2 and come home with steak, chicken, milk and desserts. Can’t do that now. They’ve got those d**n security cameras everywhere.

  8. I’m surprised that nobody has objected to Arlo’s $10 estimate (maybe I’m just more of a geezer than he is).
    As a kid, our “paper bag” price tag was very close to $5 per bag. Decades later (but before plastic took over completely), it was up to about $20-$25. I can’t report a current rate for those mini plastic bags, because they are not used in Germany. We only rarely use paper bags (you have to pay for them, and they are not very strong). Instead, we have a large collection of re-usable fabric bags, mostly freebies from a local bank, or purchased (cheap) from various supermarkets. The rate per bag depends on the shopper, not the cashier, because German cashiers are not responsible for bagging anything: the customer has to do it.

  9. In the UK you also bag your own stuff, and you cannot get free plastic bags any more, something that caused an instant decline in bag use of around 85% (down from about 7.6bn to 1.3bn).

    That’s what you might call checkout bags. Strong “bags for life” are on sale for 10p; they don’t last forever, but when one rips or the handles come off, you can swap it for a new one if you can be bothered.

    There are also the little flimsy bags that Arlo and Janis seem to be using, which sit about on rolls near fruit and veg sections so people can put 6 loose apples in one convenient bag. But often people don’t bother these days… I buy things like three carrots or a couple of parsnips or four apples loose, and just line them up together on the conveyor belt so the checkerouterer can handle them easily, just as I do if buying five tins of soup. If I do go for lots of a veggie item I do stick them in a mini-bag. They are also useful to reuse at home.

  10. Once when I forgot my reusable bags (and Chicago hadn’t imposed the bag charge) I bought two items, one of which was a little tray of ground beef. I wasn’t paying attention to the bagger, and when I paid and turned to pick up my bags, he had TRIPLE bagged the meat, and double bagged the already -encased-in-plastic other item (I forget now what it was). So 5 bag for two items.

    So the next time I forgot my bags, I remembered to ask that they single-bag everything. I had to stop them from putting a single item in each bag. le sigh

    I really miss my string bags – they could hold a ton but took up hardly any space.

  11. Grocery stores really did (intentionally) move to smaller bags. The intent was psychology… they wanted to convince the shoppers that they were getting more for their money in THEIR stores, which doesn’t really work if all the stores make the change more-or-less identically. So the paper bags of today are smaller than the paper bags of my youth, and the plastic bags that weren’t in my youth but took over somewhere along the way are even smaller.

    I suppose it’s so that the store can still sell you plastic bags to line your garbage pails with, since the checkout bags are all barely wastebasket size (but are, at least, reasonably waterproof, which the old paper bags did not have, and when they get wet… an inevitability in most of the places I’ve lived… they come apart in spectacular fashion, releasing contents in all directions.

  12. I’ve never seen supermarket bags this size. These are closer to “pick up after your dog” bags.

  13. Two different supermarkets in my area stock Baltimore Ravens canvas bags (Baltimore is more than 200 miles away).

    It doesn’t appear anybody’s ever bought one (both supermarkets also sell other designs, but none featuring the four NFL teams that are closer), which makes me wonder what they were thinking.

    Also, apparently the supermarket managers bought the bags on their own: these are two unrelated chains, so this can’t be a misguided Corporate decision.

  14. Brings back memories of my first year in grad school. My roommate and I decided on a budget of $10 each for groceries (which included making our lunches), so there was some sharp shopping needed — and a few in-store arguments that undoubtedly amused the other shoppers.

  15. On the other hand, Americans are much stronger now.

    When I was a kid, two people working together could barely lift a $20 bag of groceries.

    Now just about anyone can pick up a $20 bag of groceries — in one hand!

  16. MY first year in college, I also had a strict food budget, and then my dorm mate Conrad would just steal my food.

    (I got some of my own back, though: one of the first stories I sold after graduation involved the mysterious death of moocher. When my cousin read it, she wrote to me “You killed off Conrad, didn’t you?”)

    But I digress.

  17. James Pollock is right – smaller bags (or smaller carts) make one think that they are buying more – “look my cart is full!” or “look how many bags I have” This never made sense to me – my reaction would be “gee, I bought too much”

  18. I have been saving the store plastic bags (and paper bags) for decades. Robert always asks why (as do organizing books, which have actually said “have you ever been to a store that did not have bags available – so don’t save them”) I keep the bags. I have told him about how there is movement to get rid of free bags. Also we use the plastic bags for lots of things – including when we used to craft shows (and hopefully will do them again) they are recycled to hold what we sell, garbage bags for the bathrooms and bedroom, and just plain schlepping stuff around.

    The next county now requires stores to charge 5 cents a bag for the normal plastic bags. I bring my bags from home. However, we ran into a terribly annoying and illegal situation. We were at a large regional shopping mall, in our county – just this side of the line, but definitely in our county. I bought something or other and the clerk asked if we wanted a bag – since we were going to be walking around in the mall, in and out of other stores I said yes and she was charging me for the bag. My first thought was – oh, that’s right the county has them charging. I then remembered that we were in our county, not the one charging and complained. I got a bunch of bull carp – “Our main office is in the other county, so we are required to charge for bags.” By that logic a store chain headquartered in say,Chicago, would not have to charge for the bag in the next county? I took the item without the bag.

    Then there are stores (anywhere) that give one a bag if needed or not. Today I went to the supermarket and bought soda on sale. I used the self checkout and purposely picked a line that was not the one the employee in charge of the self-checkouts was located at as I did not want her help. Sure enough, she comes over and starts bagging the soda. I thanked her and told her I don’t need it bagged – and she got annoyed with me. If she had bagged them it would have cost the store for 5 bags – this way it cost them nothing in packing for the soda. Normally I am packing while Robert is scanning so this does not happen, but he is pain with a bad back this past week and I was out alone.

  19. In the UK d’OGPU bags are generally opaque and black, blue or purple – so everyone doesn’t have to see the contents – rather than the see-through baglets used in supermarkets for you to bag up your seven tomatoes so the checker can check them.

  20. “‘Our main office is in the other county, so we are required to charge for bags.’ By that logic a store chain headquartered in say,Chicago, would not have to charge for the bag in the next county?”

    I suspect a misunderstanding over who is doing the requiring.
    Management of the stores is required by law to charge in county A. So they (management) require the staff to charge for bags, regardless of county. They only have to train employees one way, employees can move from store to store without requiring retraining, and they avoid liability if an employee from outside county A forgets to charge for a bag when a regulator happens to be paying attention.

    The employees aren’t required by law to charge you, they are required by management of the store to charge you. And you walk away without a bag you didn’t really need, which was what the regulators were going for.

  21. When I was still a productive member of society, I would use the plastic bags each workday morning to bring in my lunch/snacks bag and the sodas that I would put in the galley refrigerator to drink through the day.

    The bags aren’t really that well constructed and most can’t be used more than a few times. A small hole will develop in the bottom from some side part pulling loose. I learned not to use them when this had happened, as the soda cans would find that hole, work to enlarge it, then execute an escape plan out in the parking lot.

  22. Which is the EXACT reason I never use them as p**p bags (not the parking lot escape part, but a hole being there in the first place).

  23. Kilby: That was my reaction, too. My parents married in 1953 and I remember my mom saying that groceries averaged about $5/bag for a long time. I’ve mentioned that to checkers at Whole Foods, who think it’s hilarious.

  24. Andrea – the Walmart that opened first in our county went into a store that had gone out of business as they were having problems coming into the area. The aisles are maybe half the width of the normal Walmart aisles. Some aisles have support posts for the roof in them – and the carts don’t pass them. One has to turn around/backup and go through a different aisle to the other end of the blocked aisle.

  25. James Pollock – due to the particular store I am not sure that they have other stores and was surprised to hear that management was elsewhere. I knew that what they said was not true. I attribute it more to the store trying to get an extra 5 cents a bag in income than it actually being a mistake. While they are in a large scale mall, they are a “dollar” type store and this particular one I have not seen elsewhere and it is terribly junky – but I found gun firing ear plugs in sealed packages and I needed spares as I use mine to go to the movies as the movies are too loud, and had been concerned that I would forget to bring them to a reenacting event as sometimes I end up filling in with the unit artillery if they are short a man.

  26. Oh, and walking in the mall without the item in a bag is a problem as I walked around with the packages in my hand and was stopped by security several times.

  27. Phil Smith III – I guess it depended on where one shopped. I have no idea what the groceries cost as I was too young – and it was never mentioned afterwards. But we did not shop in a supermarket.

    There was a grocery on the corner across the street, same side of the avenue as where we lived. Canned, bottled, packaged, and the like were born there. (I learned about saving money there – My mom asked the grocer if something was “on sale”. When we left I asked here “isn’t everything in the store for sale?” Her reply was an explanation of the difference between “for sale” – as in we are selling it – and “on sale” -as in the price is less right now .)

    The store after the grocer was the produce store – fruit and vegetables were purchased there.

    Next was the kosher butcher – meat purchased there.

    And then the fish store – luckily mom did not shop there often – mostly for Jewish holidays. The fish in the window with the cigar in its mouth scared the heck out of me.

    Later, around when we moved a (small compared to now) supermarket opened across the avenue and towards the next street from these stores .

    I am guessing that the bag from the meat store held items that cost more than the grocer or the produce store. Not sure about fish prices.

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