So many cashiers want to be generous and helpful when they insist I take a plastic bag, so I want to be nice in return. And very, very firm.
Consequently, I decided to write this post to share the actual lines I use when I refuse plastic bags.
Look, I'm not morally opposed to plastic. There are useful plastic items in my home. But I am opposed to the thoughtless use of plastic when there are easy ways to avoid it. Plastic is petroleum-based. It doesn't biodegrade. It gives off harmful chemicals.
My normal approach when I'm shopping is to say hi to the cashier and as soon as he/she touches the item I'm buying, I say clearly, "I don't need a bag." Clear diction is important because I'm introducing a new idea into the standard shopper/cashier interaction. Most of the time, this line works, especially if I am obviously holding a cloth bag.
However. . .
1. To the market standholder looking at my cloth bag of lettuce dripping water:
"It's just water - it'll dry. I really don't want a plastic bag, thank you."
2. To the cashier who is bagging my groceries in my cloth bags and wants to put my dish soap in a separate plastic bag:
"I really don't want a plastic bag. It won't leak. If it does, I'll take the blame. Thank you for taking such care with my groceries."
3. To the cashier without a bagger:
"I brought my own bags - I'm happy to do the bagging."
4. To the cashier who starts to explain all the ways he/she reuses the plastic bags at home so that I will understand the golden opportunity I am refusing:
"I have way more plastic bags at home than I can use. I'm overflowing with plastic bags."
If the cashier keeps going, I will extend myself and say,
"I'm trying to cut down on the amount of plastic I use."
5. To the thrift store cashier who looks nervously at the pile of purchases I want to carry in my arms:
"I've got a bag in the car."
6. To the cashier who absentmindedly put my items in a plastic bag already,
"I really don't want a bag. Will you be able to use this one again? [as I remove my items from the bag and push the bag back towards the cashier]
If the cashier seems to be scooting the (barely used!) bag towards a trash can, I will scoop it up and say,
"I'm sorry - I didn't realize you were going to throw it away; I'll take it home and use it."
I'll leave you with this anecdote: my husband bought a pair of shoes at the mall recently. I was standing nearby as he paid for them. I was keeping the puppies (children) under control. My husband clearly told the cashier he didn't need a bag - it was one shoe box and we knew we were walking the puppies directly out to the car and going home.
At the very end of the transaction, just as he was about to hand the shoe box to my husband, the cashier suddenly threw the box in a store bag, muttering "just in case." We were dumbfounded. We collected the bag in silence and walked away.
Then we began to giggle and invent the scenarios to go with "just in case" the whole way out to the car. Probably there was a bug in the box - the bag could keep it in. Probably the roof would fall in. Maybe the cashier earned commission on the bags he issued. Or maybe he was just using the bag instead of a "paid" sticker and was worried that we would lose our receipt between the cash register and the door.
There are rare occasions when it's just easier to take the bag - I'm really not a preacher or a perfectionist.
Do you have more stock answers (or pet peeves) to add to the bag issue?