Roger Marolt: A funny green tint to this environmental move
I had a small bottle of ground cumin, a quart and a pint of ice cream — different flavors of course — three boxes of breakfast cereal, a jar of raspberry jam and a half dozen plain bagels. And, no, these are not the ingredients for a five-minute dessert recipe I found in Readers Digest.
I went for the spice my wife needed for dinner and came back with a few other things I thought maybe we needed so that the trip to the grocery store didn’t feel like a first-world waste of gas solely for the indulgence into Betty Crocker’s version of ethnic food.
I drove to the local grocery store to save time and justified paying the convenience store, year-round tourist-season prices there by telling myself the shorter drive was better for the environment. Never mind my car’s engine roaring up the hill to get there would burn more fuel than a marshmallow roasting on a Base Village fire pit, I’d make up for it by putting it in neutral and coasting back home.
The checker rang up my items. I always pay with a credit card up there because actually counting out the cash required to cover the tab takes a long time and adds to the mental pain of shopping locally and feeling like a sucker.
The chip reader buzzed and I pulled my card out. The checker smiled and said “thank you” … and my groceries sat. I looked at him. He looked at me. I blinked first. I sighed and went to the end of the counter and started to open a bag to pack my groceries into. My mind flashed back to when I did this for a living at Tom’s Market. Ah, the good old days. Would I really want to be 12 again?
“Ah, ah, ah” the checker sing-songed while windshield-wipering his finger at me. (He actually didn’t say it like that or wag his finger, but I know he wanted to.) What he told me is that bags now cost 20 cents.
It was an outrage! It is like paying an airline 50-bucks to check your luggage and then mid-flight telling you the tiny bag of miniature pretzels they are handing out will cost you a quarter. The nerve! Obviously a man of my stature does not care about 20 cents. I can pull that kind of money from the cushions of my sofa. It’s the principle! Besides, I didn’t have any cash with me.
I thought about putting my credit card back in the reader and daring him to charge me for the bag, but there was a long line of customers waiting and I didn’t want to prolong their pain in anticipating what their own bills would be, so I proudly said in my mind “I don’t need no stinking bags” and hoped the checker could read my ugly countenance, if not my heart. I did suggest that it would be a good idea to inform future customers of the bag charge before the fat register sings, to which he smiled and shrugged his shoulders, so I don’t think he got the message.
Like a real life Tetris puzzle I precisely fitted the loose items in my arms crossed over my belly and then hunch-backed it out of the store and through the parking lot, stutter-stepping gingerly over the potholes as I felt the groceries slipping. I got to the car and realized I had locked it, something I normally don’t do. My mind must have subconsciously known I was in a bad part of The Village.
Whatever. The immediate problem was how to get the keys out of my pocket before I lost my grip and everything ended up underneath other people’s cars. Anticipating that inevitability, I knelt down and let everything roll onto the pavement in a controlled sort of avalanche. I felt as stupid as the whole thing certainly appeared to anyone who might have been watching. Please don’t Instagram it, unless you are a verified influencer and can use it to organize a peaceful rally against this injustice.
Driving home it occurred to me, there actually is no bag tax in Snowmass Village! The store did this on their own! Good for the environment! And yet, the skeptical hitchhiker riding on my shoulder whispered in my ear, “this is only a way to ding their customers for a few more pennies. They’re free-riding the green movement. They aren’t donating the proceeds to worthy environmental causes or education. Wouldn’t it seem more sincere if they gave a small discount to reward customers for bringing their own reusable bags, like they do at Whole Foods?”
The moral of the story? Don’t pick up imaginary hitchhikers. They’ll talk your ear off and only make you madder.
Roger Marolt thinks people in the grocery business should understand that a carrot works better than sticking it to your customers. Email at email@example.com.
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