Sunday, 1 January 2012

To pay or not to pay, that is the question in the bag!

Ok, I know this is a rant so forgive me in advance, but my niggle that has irritated me like a small stone in the bottom of my shoe has just blown up into a rock with thorns on!

I have had a very pleasant day on New Year’s Day, after seeing the remake of the girl with the dragon tattoo in the cinema, when my husband said he wanted to buy a newspaper.

We went into the WH Smiths concession in the Milton Keynes Xscape and I found a magazine I wanted to buy (Mojo this month has New Order and Bowie in it – pure joy). I took it to the counter and happily paid the £4.50 to the man behind the counter and put the change into my purse.

Then came the moment that has been building for years. I asked for a bag to put my expensive magazine in. He said it would cost me a penny. Now you may not think that is much and in today’s society when there are adverts begging us to save dogs for Christmas and water for children at £3 a pop. It is true that a penny does not count for much.

But hold on a minute. I am a consumer who is keeping their trade going. I have bought a rather pricy magazine in comparison to the other items on sale and yet he still wanted to charge me a penny! Outrageous! I actually got a refund and loudly exclaimed that I would buy the magazine elsewhere where I will be given a bag for free.

Now if you think this is extreme, let us look at the facts.
There is a much bigger WH Smith’s just across the road, probably not even 300 yards away. They too will ask you for 1p for a bag, but here is the irony, you can make a fuss and sometimes (depending on the staff on duty) they will give you one for free. And why would anyone buy a bag when you have to walk past the “self-service” counters to get out the
shop where the bags are free? Yes this is inside the same store!

I do not know if this is only relevant to WH Smiths stores in Milton Keynes. I have had some
wonderful service from the WHSmiths in Stevenage. I asked them and they said their customers had made such a fuss they just give the bags away now. I wonder why as a company their policy is so hap-hazard?

Smiths do not even bother to try to make it out to be anything other than greed and more money for their company.
TK Maxx on the other hand state that they give the charge for their bags to charity. However there are no signs in the shops to say how much each year from each store has been raised from this nor which charities they support or how a charity could be considered for their generous donations.

Is this worse than WHSmiths? I will leave you to make your own mind up on that one.

As a consumer it is our rights to not be taken advantage of in this way. If it is about being greener, then the shops should provide paper or bio-degradable bags instead of making profit and not addressing the green issue at all! I believe this is their way of “blaming” the consumer rather than looking at their own practices.

We are not talking about the large supermarkets who do give bags out for free, but most people do take re-usable ones now. That is because we know and plan when we are doing a big shop. But if the shops on our high street want our money they need to understand, we buy ­spontaneously and have already paid for the privilege to shop (how much does it cost to park your car in the
centre now?!)

We are also being squeezed by the cost of living, the house market is at a standstill, there is a record amount of unemployed and things are generally grim.

So shop keepers of Great Britain, I implore you, please give us a carrier bag for our impulse purchases without making us to feel guilty about it. Thank you.

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