I was happy to see that my supermarket now gives customers the option to have their online orders delivered “bag free”. Like many people I thoroughly detest plastic carrier bags, so this came as great news.
I was (far too) excited when my first bag-less delivery arrived, and remarked on it to the deliver driver. He told me the reason; by law from 5th October this year, retailers in England must charge customers 5p for a plastic bag (the rest of the UK is already at it). Some shops, such as Marks & Spencers already charge 5p for a large bag, but it will be a new concept for many customers and checkout staff.
The topic doesn’t currently garner much online conversation, but we can expect this to change.
Reading a little deeper I discovered that the 5p charge isn’t quite as straightforward as it seems.
There are lots of exceptions whereby the retailer is still obliged to provide a free plastic bag – for example if a customer buys “food sold in containers that could leak”. But it doesn’t end there. If one “non-exempt” item goes into the same bag (say an apple), the cashier must charge 5p.
This write up in the Independent makes a great point – these rules are likely to lead to plenty of arguments at the checkout. This already the part of the shopping experience people we enjoy the least.
Currently there’s just a little murmur of chat (see influencer table), but expect to see more conversation quickly bubbling up on social media from 5th October. Those few minutes directly after a negative experience with an organisation are absolutely ripe for slightly emotional outpourings online.
But flip this on its head, and retailers can tap into the potential torrent of frustration to understand what’s causing the biggest headaches. Are there reoccurring themes? Are some brands getting proportionally more complaints than others? And, more constructively, how are different brands dealing with the conversation?
In Part 2 of this post, we’ll see if our hypothesis was correct and try to address the questions outlined above.