Posts Tagged ‘’

Unintended Consequences

September 11, 2013

The plastic bag ban went into effect in Seattle a little over a year ago.  I’ve read a number of articles on the unintended consequences of the ban. They include people “borrowing” the plastic small baskets from stores to take their items home and then “forgetting” to return them; people using their reusable bags to shoplift; an increase in small item shoplifting (easier to stuff in a pocket than hassle with a bag); and of course, the spread of E. coli in germy reusable bags.

This is my own personal account of how – and WHY – the bag ban has changed my shopping habits and it is NOT good for retailers.

Plastic bagFirst, I HATE plastic bags.  No, not for “environmental reasons” The lack of body has meant that the bag doesn’t stand up, all my purchases fall out,  roll around in the trunk or under the seat in my car.   I always asked for paper bags when grocery shopping and use them to hold my recycling paper, bottles and cans at home.  The built in recycling bin in my kitchen cabinets exactly holds a grocery store paper bag.  So I’m not lamenting the loss of flimsy, annoying plastic bags.  The mandatory 5 cent charge for paper bags doesn’t bother me either.

So why have I, a former retailer and dedicated shopper, moved to nearly 90% on line shopping as a result of the plastic bag ban?

RememberBags368x552It’s the way I’m treated because I refuse to become a slave to reusable bags.  The question used to be “Plastic or paper?”  It indicated I, the consumer, had a choice and the retailer we there to serve me by giving me whichever I preferred.  Now I’m frowned upon, “You didn’t bring your bags with you today?”  I feel like the kid who forgot her homework!  The scorn of “You don’t have your own bags?” is so great that I’m going out of my way to shop in cities who have not yet adopted these pointless bans.

Yes, I’m out and about, I think “Oh, I need XYZ at home.  I’ll stop while I’m out.”  Then I think, well I better stop while I’m near my dry cleaners, hair salon – places NOT in my own neighborhood – because they won’t hassle me about needing a bag.  If my usual route that day doesn’t take me by a “no bag drama” municipality and I don’t have to have whatever it is TODAY, I’ll pop on the Amazon app on my phone and order whatever I need JUST TO AVOID THE BAG ISSUE!

I thought I was alone.  I confided this to a couple of friends at a party recently and learned, I’m not the only one!  Person after person, no, let me rephrase that – retail customer after retail customer said they were doing more shopping on line because the whole bag thing was just “too much hassle”.  One of my friends said they recently were at a drug store with 18 items and the cashier said “Didn’t you bring a bag?”  My friend said no and felt he needed to explain, he had only stopped in for one thing and then saw the other items and thought, why not, I’m here,  The clerk then said “So do you think you need a bag or not?”  Seriously – 18 items?!?  Does anyone with a brain think he’s going to carry all that in his arms and then what, dump it in the front seat of his car, find it all later after it’s rolled around during the drive home and then gather it all up in his arms again, juggle the keys to open the front door? Impulse purchases are the lifeblood of any retail store.  Unique displays are created to encourage such buying.  Having a cart full of purchases for every customer is a retailers dream!  Bags were intended to eliminate the hassles and encourage shopping!

Store closingSo to all the City Councils who have voted for these bans for whatever reasons, did you accomplish your goals?  What about the bigger – long term goals for your cities?  Do you have a thriving retail community providing jobs and oh yes, tax revenue for your community?  UPS HomeHave you helped the environment when now, instead of a simple bag I’m using a box and packing materials because I ordered on line instead?  How’s my “footprint” with that a big delivery truck  coming to my house daily – sometimes several times a day – just so I can avoid the negative customer experience at the checkout stand?

Retailers – what can YOU do to woo me back?  I realize the City has mandated you charge me 5 cents for a paper bag.  I don’t care.  It’s not about the 5 cents!!!!  It’s about the way you ask me about the bag!  Go back to the same TONE you used when the question was “Paper or plastic?”  Instead it’s “Paper or your own?”  Say it with a smile, not a head shake.   It’s been over a year now, we are used to the 5 cent charge.  Ignore it and go back to making me feel “served” rather than scorned and I’ll gladly bring all my business to you.  In the meantime, I have to go grab those Amazon boxes just dropped off at my front door.

Delivering Smiles

July 31, 2013

Consider this my open love letter to

How did I ever live without you?  With a simple internet connection, you put the world at my fingertips.  My favorite brand of suntan lotion that I used the last of in Aruba was on my doorstep when we arrived home.  I don’t know a traditional retailer that carries it – or my pen/stylus “finger” I’m so attached to.  A couple of personal care items I used to drive all over town to find arrived yesterday.  Ditto for a cute pair of Kate Spade shoes (they own Zappos).

Anything I need, any time of the day or night, I can find and order there.  No more wasting time driving all over town.  Saving money on gas too.   With the mobile app I can order items on my shopping list while getting a pedicure.  Yes, I have done that!  As a Prime member, we get free 2 day shipping – what’s not to love?  Hassle-free returns too (in case the shoes don’t work with my outfit).

white-collar-posterAlso as a Prime Member, we can stream more free videos than we could ever possibly watch.  We got hooked on Downton Abbey and Sherlock for free using this service.  We weren’t even home.   We hooked the laptop to the TV and watched them while in Utah. We downloaded a season of White Collar to our new “anniversary tablet” and had our own in flight entertainment on the way home from Aruba.   This portability fits our lifestyle.

John uses the reviews to help him make purchasing decisions.  He goes immediately to the negative reviews to learn what others found lacking in a product to insure what he buys will meet his needs.

The option to create a “wish list” makes it easier to shop for those who have everything. Instant delivery of gift cards let’s us send timely gifts to family and friends.

As a former retailer, some may find my love of on line shopping to be sacrilegious. I still love to shop, but I look to retailers to introduce me to new things, to spark my creativity and imagination. I’ll buy the first 2 pairs of beach towel clips from the brick and mortar store where I first saw them but I’ll buy 2 more sets on Amazon where I can find the full line of patterns and colors.

Thank you for saving me time, gas and money.  For continuing to expand, adding more jobs to our market and for delivering smiles to our door, one box at a time!

Picture Worth a Thousand Words

August 8, 2012

Major companies spend a fortune on graphics and photos.   The work of a talented photographer can make all the difference whether you are trying to sell a house, a product, services or even get a date.

Professional photographers can be expensive but doing it yourself may not be the best answer for your business.  This article from the Wall Street Journal points out very clearly that you may not even know how much bad photos are costing you in terms of lost opportunities.

Do the photos on your website, your Facebook or other social media sites represent you, your business, your products and services well?  Even if you just sell products on eBay, a great photo can make all the difference.

Check with your suppliers.  Before you settle for a photo you take yourself, ask your suppliers if they have commercially done photos available for use on your website.  As one of their outlets, typically they will make these available at no cost because they want their products represented well.

Some businesses sell an ever changing inventory of products – some limited inventory and relatively low cost.  In these scenarios, hiring a professional photographer may be prohibitive.  For small items, consider investing in a table top photo studio.  Kits with backgrounds, lights and tripod for your point and shoot camera are available for a small, (under $50) one-time investment.  Check stores such as and

Take a photography class.  Food photographer, Clare Barboza offers workshops in Seattle and other cities across the country on natural light food photography. If you have a restaurant, catering business, sell baked goods, wines, flowers or gourmet food products, a specialty class can be a great investment.

Buy stock photos.  If you are just trying to convey a concept such as a service like accounting or housekeeping, you may not need a personal photo.  Often you can buy a stock photo to use on your website. has a wide variety.  We did a “bulk purchase” where we could download a number of photos over a period of time for a flat rate and many of those photos appear in this blog.

Contact your local Chamber of Commerce or other small business groups in your area.  They will likely know a local photographer you can work with.  Sometimes they even offer low cost “head shots” at one of their meetings.  In these cases, a photographer sets up the background and lighting to  shoot business appropriate digital photos you can use on your website and social media professional pages.

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Be sure what it says about you and your business HELPS rather than HURTS your professional image.



%d bloggers like this: