A little Word of Mouth

When the 5p plastic bag charge came in force in November I was in two minds.

It could cut down on waste but being the unorganised shopper that I am, I rarely remember to bring a bag (actually I now keep 2 bags in my rucksack but forget they are there) and I could imagine my groceries going sky high with several 5p bags adding up.

The first day the charge came in I was in Currys, the electrical shop, in Huddersfield. Perusing (my big word for the week) the aisles for yet another set of headphones and close enough to the till to overhear a conversation.

An elderly man was at the till buying an item, he paid and was handed back his small item, minus one bag. The gentleman seemed a little put out and asked why he didn’t get a bag. The young shop assistant told the man he needed to ask for a bag because they were 8p.


Yep. It was the first day the charges came into force and this elderly man didn’t know about the new charge for carrier bags. Surely this shop could have been a little flexible, I mean, they’re getting 3p extra on every bag sold. One free bag with an explaination isn’t going to send the planet into an immediate spiral downwards.

Let’s face it, elderly men are not known for being shop savvy, many are used to leaving the shopping to their wives. My dad (I think he’s ok with me telling you about his funny antics) once went into Ann Summers for a pair of gloves for my mum. The staff were lovely to him and he came out a little while later not understanding why a shop that sells women’s ‘things’ doesn’t sell gloves – not the kind he wanted anyway!

The point is, this gentleman could have been given a bit more help and understanding, but he left I’m sure, not fully understanding what the 8p was for or why he was being asked for it, and I’m pretty certain the next time he wants a pack of batteries he’ll be buying elsewhere.

Yesterday I was in TK Maxx buying a candle. As usual, no bag and for one candle I could have managed, but I knew I was going to other shops so I handed over my candle and asked for a carrier bag as well. 5p was added and I put my card in the machine. The assistant found the smallest bag in the store and was putting the candle in it, when I asked for a larger bag. I was refused.

Apparently your 5p only buys you the smallest bag needed for the item you buy. A larger bag would be too big for my one item, so I wouldn’t be allowed the larger normal sized bag.

I was faced with a dilemma, do I just accept it and buy a second bag in the next store – making me spend 10p and have an extra tiny bag I couldn’t use again (my bags get used as bin liners) or do I save my purse and environment by refusing to buy the bag?

I said I didn’t want the bag, but was told it was too late, I’d already bought the bag. I know this is going to sound ridiculous and petty, but I then insisted I be refunded 5p for the bag.

I went to the pound store a few shops down and bought a couple of things and a normal sized bag, putting the candle in the pound land bag and advertising for them instead, because that’s the other thing about the plastic bag, it’s advertising.

It went further than that though, I told someone on the bus and we laughed at the stupidity of it all, then after the supermarket in the taxi home, I told the taxi driver and we had another laugh. This morning I managed to laugh with two others about it, and now I’m telling you, and while you might not be laughing, I still am. I also suspect the next time I’m in TK Maxx with just one small item, I just might leave it.

Arriving home last week from my week away I opened my front door to find a little package. I tore off the brown paper and found a Christmas card from a friend and a smaller package wrapped in peach tissue paper, with a peach ribbon and in the centre of the ribbon a small charm with a heart on it. Oooooo, this was looking good. After the tissue paper there was an even smaller organza bag and inside that a bronzed safety pin with five little knitting stitch markers, plus a free gift of a 2015 stitch marker.

She had me at the tissue paper.

It was a Christmas present from a friend, but wrapped by what I assume is a small seller. Charmed Knitting, I went to the website and although I have a lot of stitch markers, I found some more I might buy. I went on her Facebook page and liked it, then I posted the photo on her page and shared it with friends who also knit.

I’ve told about the same number of people about Charmed Knitting as I have about TK Maxx.

In all honesty, I didn’t need the organza bag, and the charm on the ribbon I considered a free gift, so the actual free gift inside was like “oh, another free gift”, but it got me, for one moment thinking how cool it would be to collect stitch markers. Already I was not just thinking, but looking for my next purchase.

There is a man who paints lace bobbins and has a bobbin a month club, wouldn’t it be cool to have a stitch marker of the month club?

Word of mouth, some say, is the most valuable form of advertising you can get. Advertising and repeat customer service can be very expensive, or as cheap as a bit of tissue paper and a bit of ribbon. Just a though!

Published by bettyvirago

Betty Virago is an award winning textile designer. Based in Yorkshire, England, and known for her Northern Folk dolls and the Quilts of Hope project.

2 thoughts on “A little Word of Mouth

  1. I don’t see the point of tiny bags now we have to pay for them, when you think about it, they just went into the bin when you got home. I’ve seen people crocheting plastic bags and ironing them into fabric, but I wonder if there is another use other than that?
    I’ve no idea why the shop charges that much for a bag, I’m sure there is a reason. Some shops I notice have been donating the 5p to charity, I wonder whether the 3p extra does that, although I doubt it.


  2. Never understood the point of tiny plastic carrier bags… and now even more an issue when we pay for them…kind of feel its out of order to give those tiny tiny bags now. Why were they charging 8p instead of the 5p?


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