The other day, I went to my neighborhood supermarket and entered by the door that wasn't the main one. There were none of those little hand baskets there, so I walked back to the main entrance and got one there. Later, I found the store manager and made a suggestion that they place the baskets at both entrances.
It turns out that he fully agreed, but there was a reason none were there.
First, a short background. There's a new law in Los Angeles (and I suspect a few other cities around the country) that grocery stores charge now for paper bags. It's a conservation effort, hoping to get people into the habit of bringing their own reusable canvas sacks.
Okay, that brings us back to the present.
It's a perfectly good piece of conservation. The problem is -- as the manager told me -- that what's happening is customers are taking the hand baskets. They don't have their own canvas sacks, and they don't want to pay the few cents for paper bags. So, instead, they grab the hand baskets and stick them in their cars. After all, once they get home, they need some way to get the food from theirs cars to their kitchens.
As a result, the manager said that the store keeps running out of the hand baskets. He expected a new shipment in any day.
Boy, howdy, talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences. Maybe because they're small and plastic, people think the baskets are cheap and fair game to steal. Maybe people don't care one way or the other, but know they have to transport their groceries. (Never mind the added costs of a few cents on top their normal bill which would give them all the carrying bags they need.) I'm not sure what the solution is, nor is the manager. Perhaps they'll design the baskets similar to how some places do grocery carts, with sensors built in that emit a piercing signal if they cross a line surrounding the store.
I don't know. But it does seem a surprising problem. And I expect an annoying ones for grocery stores.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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