When is a bag not a bag?

Filed in Blog by on November 17, 2011 15 Comments
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Wanted: This man has been caught stealing nectar points from Sainsbury's

Wanted: This man has been caught stealing nectar points from Sainsbury's

The other day I was having a natter with a friend of mine when he mentioned an interesting story about reusing his shopping bags in his local Sainsbury’s the other week.

Naturally my ears pricked up for some juicy recycling gossip…

Steve was going through the self scan checkout when he was asked how many bags he had reused. In case you’re not aware, Sainsbury’s have a fantastic policy of rewarding their Nectar Card customers with one point for every reused bag.

It’s a win-win – the environment can breathe a sigh of relief, customers get more points on their card and Sainburys don’t have to fork out for new plastic bags.

What’s not to love?

Steve totted up his bags – one carrier bag and three vegetable bags. Like us, Steve reuses his own veggie bags as well as carrier bags.

He typed in ‘4’.

No sooner had his points been registered than he was approached by a member of staff:

“I saw that” she said.

“Umm, saw what?” asked Steve

“You typed “4” but you’ve only used one bag”.

After being told that he had been seen typing in “4” for the number of bags reused, Steve calmly pointed out that he had indeed used four: one for his general shopping and three for the different veggies he had bought.

The assistant stated that he couldn’t have points for the veggie bags as they weren’t bags!

Steve then pointed out that the machine had asked him “Did you use any of your own bags”? As he had brought all the bags with him from home then yes he had used four bags on this occasion.

The assistant held her ground and said that they were not bags and in future he shouldn’t claim points for them or everyone else would be claiming points.

Steve pointed out that the machine had asked him a question to which he had responded correctly and if that was the case then they needed to change the way the machine asked the question.

Well I’ve had a browse of the official Sainsbury’s and Nectar website and found the following information:

On their Nectar points site it says

“Collect points in store or online on groceries, fuel, home delivery items, and much more.. You’ll also pick up 1 point for every bag you reuse in store and 1 point for every 1 litre of fuel purchased.”

1 point for any bag you reuse, says Nectar

1 point for any bag you reuse, says Nectar

On their main website in the ‘responsibility’ secion under the “Sustainable and Innovative packaging” part, Sainsbury’s claim their progress to date includes
“Customers are offered a Nectar point each time they reuse a bag

"Customers are offered a nectar point each time they reuse a bag"

"Customers are offered a nectar point each time they reuse a bag"

Ambiguous isn’t it? Nowhere does it actually mention ‘carrier bag’, it just says ‘bag’. So in this instance I think Steve is right and he should continue claiming his points. What do you think – Do you think Sainsbury should be rewarding customers for reusing fruit and vegetable bags too?

At this moment in time the machine is still asking the same question and Steve is still claiming a point for each bag he uses (of any variety) but is also waiting to be apprehended by Sainsbury security 😉

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (15)

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  1. I dont see why Sainsbury’s should get funny about this; as by bringing his own bags for veggies he is saving them money on theirs. If im honest, I think he should take this further up. If Sainsburys were taking their green commitments seriously then the points should be handed over for any bag that is replaced by one of your own. And if you carry your items without a bag, you should be rewarded too! Otherwise its just a marketing ploy, or another load of greenwash!!

  2. Sandy says:

    we here in wales dont get green clubcard point, for reusing our bags, because we have to pay for carrier bags, when over the border in England we get points, so if I shop here, i dont get points if I go to Shrewsbury we do, srange is’nt it. I have been using my own bags for donkeys years .

  3. CarSue says:

    Give him the points dammit! I was recently harrassed by the attendant as I rang up my own groceries because of the following “error:” The only way to purchase organic apples at my grocery is in a plastic bag (they come about 15 in a bag). So I take them home, dump in the veggie bin, and reuse the bag for loose produce or bulk goods on my next trip (after one mix up a few years ago, I now put a big sticker over the original bar code on the bag, lest it accidentally be scanned). Anyway, on this trip, I’m trying to purchase some bulk oatmeal and some artichokes, in 2 respective reused bags, when the attendant comes up to look over my order, thinking I am trying to steal apples! She actually brought a manager over to investigate! I pointed out how absurd it was, given that the bag of apples would have run me $4, and I was trying to ring up $8 worth of artichokes. How could I “steal” by paying double?! I couldn’t believe how uptight the attendant was, even suggesting that I shouldn’t be reusing bags because of “confusion.” After she walked away, I told the manager that I had every intention of reusing my bags in the future.

    I’m glad your friend continues to reuse his bags, and good for him for claiming the points he deserves!

  4. Nick Palmer says:

    I think Rachel needs to have a word with Sainsburys. Any poly bag reused is one less new one required. As veggie bags are smaller, it could be argued, if they were being picky, that the machine could issue fewer points for smaller bags but that would be rather petty.

  5. Something fishy is going on here. Ive been sharing inspirational post all day and when I went to post this one it WILL NOT LET ME. Seriously no matter how many times I try nothing. Hmmm

  6. Poppy 2 says:

    Obviously self scanning can be a problem and I’m sure some shoppers are less than truthful. When going through staffed tills, I have had 3 points at Sainsburys and Tesco for the large own bags I use on some occasions, but just 1 on others. Looks like they need to clarify things so we all know where we are.

  7. Matt 'ecoworrier' Russell says:

    I agree with Steve, indeed the Sainsbury’s that I use (Dunstable & Hemel) appear to agree too … I usually use the normal checkout and get asked “How Many Bags Did you use” … I don’t use ANY “plastic” bags – they are just not big enuff – but an assortment of “cold” bags, strong fabric supermarket bags (Asda, Hyper-U and Sainsburys) and Ikea blue bags … and always get the number of points for the number of bags – indeed I feel a little cheated when I use the BIG Ikea bags as it can take almost half a trolley of tins and cereal boxes … sounds like at the very least this “jobs worth” needs training in customer relations!

  8. Karin says:

    I think we all know they mean carrier bags.

  9. Alyson says:

    I put in 3 at the self service checkout for my trolley cos that’s what I’m given if I’m at the checkout. And I’m being nice! My trolley is easily 4 carrier bags worth. It’s a big one. And, no, I don’t put shopping in a bag and then put the bag in my trolley as I’ve seen some people do. Defeats the object.

  10. Julie Day says:

    A bag is a bag. If it said carrier bag, then they would be right but as it only says bag, then I feel that he is in the right. Take it up further.

  11. Antonio Pachowko says:

    I think it is the old problem of supermarkets being poor at communication skills. If they refuse to accept it
    (as they are trained to do) tell them that you will be involving trading standards and that they will be sorting this issue out. They will soon back down.

  12. still no fee or points here, but we do have a barrel full of recycled bags–indeed last week i found hundreds of free plastic carrier bags across entire neighborhoods as the winds played with an overturned barrel–i collected as many as i could from trees and bushes, lawns and porches to return them..
    i do re-use my veggie bags, the green grocer looks slightly puzzled, but we are known for our large cloth bags, and they notice when we do forget them
    points or no points…any sustainable effort should be rewarded by more ‘courteous’ staff…a short and sweet note is in order for the ladies who watch over the store’s interest…maybe they will read this post? hint-hint..

  13. Jane says:

    There still appear to be some people who feel that you cannot or it is ‘cheeky’ to use another supermarket’s carrier bags in a supermarket – shoppers and staff. A frightening situation.

    I use whatever I have – usually cloth and nothing to do with any supermarket but there may be a couple of plastic supermarket ones that have crept into the house rolled up in the bottom being sent out on a reuse mission to salve my guilty conscience. I often use bags that are bigger than an ordinary size carrier and they aren’t ever counted as more than one bag.

    Just as you get shoppers who take bags totally unnecessarily – you also still get staff who don’t ask. I always try and thank those that ask as I do try very hard not to take any.

    Supermarkets need to constantly remind their staff that they are supposed to be trying to cut down the number of bags used. It irritates me when the bag is ready and waiting. There definitely seems to be a generation of young people who have not grasped this. Who hasn’t managed to show their children this? Can universities, schools and colleges work better with Local Authorities in showing that everybody needs to reduce and stop waste? Is there info for students when they leave home?

  14. Andrea says:

    So if I put some shopping into my handbag that wouldn’t be counted because it’s not a carrier bag…but it still means I haven’t used a new plastic carrier bag. Seems to me they are just finding ways out of what they have promised.

  15. Hamish says:

    I thought this article would be about something different – my approach. A bag is not a bag if I don’t actually use it. I re-use my rucksack, shove my meal deal in there. Technically I neither used their carrier bags nor re-used one, I simply used a bag that I use for everything. In many cases, I have been known to “need” to re-use 5 ‘bags’ for a single chocolate bar. Anything to keep the nectar balance ticking along nicely!

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