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An Open Letter to Bottom Dollar Foods
The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press ^ | June 14, 2012 | Daniel Clark

Posted on 06/16/2012 2:46:47 PM PDT by Daniel Clark

An Open Letter to Bottom Dollar Foods

by Daniel Clark

When Bottom Dollar Foods arrived in Pittsburgh, it immediately became my favorite grocery store. A discount supermarket that carries name brand items in addition to its store brands, it has also got reasonably-priced meats and excellent produce. Disappointingly, my shopping days at Bottom Dollar may be numbered, however, if my recent experience there turns out to be the start of a trend.

As I was about to check out, I noticed that the 5-cent plastic shopping bags that normally hang near the registers were missing. The cashier informed me that the store had run out of them, at which time I noticed that other shoppers were packing their groceries in cardboard boxes, or else buying those allegedly planet-saving cloth handbags, which are of little use if you’ve got a whole cartload of items. I decided on option number three, which was to put back all my groceries and walk away.

I do not for a second believe that this came about by happenstance. Never in my life had I been in a supermarket that ran out of plastic bags, until after those bags were declared to be evil by those who presume the authority to make such determinations. If you are test-marketing their absence to see if your customers are willing to undergo a degree of third-worldification in exchange for feeding their conceit that they’re “saving the planet,” then count this letter as an emphatic “no” vote.

I realize that the city of Los Angeles has just banned the use of plastic grocery bags, but Pittsburgh is not Los Angeles, and I really couldn’t give a flying organic raspberry whether or not Julia Louis-Dreyfus approves of my shopping habits. There may be those who look to their supermarket for personal validation, but I, for one, would rather have a convenient way to carry home all the things that I’ve bought. That may not be very ego-inflating, but at least it’s practical.

President Obama’s regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, has a word for what you’re doing. He calls it a “nudge.” Nudging is when you try to exercise control over somebody else’s behavior by positioning your preferred outcome as his least inconvenient option. A store that had innocently run out of plastic bags would have warned its customers of that fact as soon as they entered the building. Telling us only at the register, once we’d already filled our carts, was a classic, textbook example of a nudge.

When Sunstein is the one doing the nudging, he thinks of himself as the “choice architect” of the people he nudges. You are not my “choice architect.” I’m your customer, not your subject for social experimentation. As long as we both understood that arrangement, everything between us had been fine.

At the risk of bruising your self-esteem, Bottom Dollar Foods is not exactly avant-garde. The soy milk and whole grains crowd will never give you any more than patronizing approval of your politically correct efforts. Then, they’ll be off to their local Smug-Mart to buy their sustainable, free-range, rainforest-approved, glacier-saving, cannabis-flavored peanut butter, and laugh behind your back while calling you things like “bourgeois” and “gauche.”

Louis-Dreyfus claims that once plastic bags are outlawed, 90 percent of the customers will start bringing their own containers with them when they go shopping. I find that highly improbable, and suspect instead that a boom in grocery store construction is about to take place a few miles outside of L.A. city limits. Let’s just assume, however, that she’s right. Are you prepared to lose 10 percent of your customers?

Mind you, she’s talking about places where consumers’ only options are to tolerate this inconvenience or leave town. In a city that size, that’s often not a realistic choice at all. In the Soviet Union, where people had no choice either, they were willing to stand in line for hours just to get toilet paper that could scour the finish off a car, but that doesn’t mean they were content with the situation.

Here, we have no citywide ban. If I can’t count on bagging my groceries at your store like a normal member of Western civilization, I will not have to resign myself to carrying them in a giant basket balanced on top of my head. I’ll simply go to another supermarket, a couple minutes away, and walk out carrying all the bags I need.

That’s the problem when you start nudging people. They won’t necessarily move in the direction you’d hoped.

-- Daniel Clark is a writer from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is the author and editor of a web publication called The Shinbone: The Frontier of the Free Press, where he also publishes a seasonal sports digest as The College Football Czar.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Food; Politics; Society
KEYWORDS: nudge; plasticbags; sunstein
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1 posted on 06/16/2012 2:46:53 PM PDT by Daniel Clark
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To: Daniel Clark
Buy your regular super market items then when at the register remove all extraneous packaging and leave it on the belt. Tell them next time you're going to charge them.

2 posted on 06/16/2012 2:51:33 PM PDT by I see my hands (It's time to.. KICK OUT THE JAMS, MOTHER FREEPERS!)
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To: Daniel Clark
I decided on option number three, which was to put back all my groceries and walk away.

Yeah, well THEY would have been putting back all the groceries as I would have just walked away. The more they try to control our actions the more those of us who still believe in freedom should be exercising our liberties.

3 posted on 06/16/2012 2:58:14 PM PDT by Bullish
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To: Daniel Clark
Uh, Bottom Dollar is an ultra-low end supermarket. They don't even have plastic bags in my area. They have bins of repurposed cardboard packing boxes by the front - you can use those, or just brings bags with you. There isn't some great conspiracy here - BJ's has used recycled shipping boxes instead of plastic bags for years in order to save money. The profit margin in food stores is razor thin as is - for low-end budget stores like Bottom Dollar, it's even tighter, and thus they have to think of unconventional ways to cut expenses. What's wrong with just using the cardboard boxes?
4 posted on 06/16/2012 2:59:15 PM PDT by JerseyanExile
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To: JerseyanExile

He was willing to BUY the bags as he always has in the past. You’re fine to use the cardboard. Which, BTW, means it won’t be recycled as it always is by the store.

I think he’s right to resist the ‘nudge’.


5 posted on 06/16/2012 3:08:57 PM PDT by Balding_Eagle (Liberals, at their core, are aggressive & dangerous to everyone around them,)
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To: JerseyanExile

I have a supply of several thousands of plastic bags. I started hanging onto them when I heard talk about the government outlawing them......At least I will have a supply to take with me to the grocery store for a while-—LOL!


6 posted on 06/16/2012 3:11:27 PM PDT by basil
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To: JerseyanExile

Because I don’t want to. How’s that grab ya?

I suppose you ride your bicycle to the store and if not why not?

If I have to save bags you have to save gas.

How do like them apples?


7 posted on 06/16/2012 3:28:27 PM PDT by Eaker (When somebody hands you your arse, don't give it back saying "This needs a little more tenderizing.")
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To: Balding_Eagle

Why assume that it is a “nudge”, caused by some vast green conspiracy? If they were making money off of the bags, I very much doubt that they would stop selling them. If they stopped carrying them in his store, chances are that they weren’t selling enough for the practice to be cost effective. You have to accept that by going to budget stores like this instead of regular ones, there will be tradeoffs, like a lack of rainchecks and minimal weekly sales. Or a lack of plastic bags.


8 posted on 06/16/2012 3:40:45 PM PDT by JerseyanExile
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To: Daniel Clark

Excellent article.

What Obama is doing isn’t a nudge.

It’s not a push.

It’s shoving.
While telling us to shove it.


9 posted on 06/16/2012 3:44:21 PM PDT by Freddd (No PA Engineers)
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To: Daniel Clark

Excellent article.

What Obama is doing isn’t a nudge.

It’s not a push.

It’s shoving.
While telling u.s. citizens to shove it.


10 posted on 06/16/2012 3:48:59 PM PDT by Freddd (No PA Engineers)
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To: Bullish

I like I see my hands suggestion. I sure as hell wouldn’t put their groceries back. If I did, they would all be misfiled. However, I would hate to create additional work for the clerks.


11 posted on 06/16/2012 4:04:37 PM PDT by richardtavor
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To: Daniel Clark

Big downside to reusable bags: http://uanews.org/node/32521


12 posted on 06/16/2012 4:10:03 PM PDT by carriage_hill (All libs & most dems think that life is just a sponge bath, with a happy ending.)
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To: Daniel Clark

They probably ran out of the 5 cent bags.

I go to a store like that - rock bottom cheap - you bag/box your own groceries - bring a bag, find a box on the shelf, buy one or load loose groceries into a clothes basket and cooler in the car (I see a lot of people do that)

These guys work on low margins - no meat cutters, deli, no baggers...no extra expense of giving out free bags (they cost money)

I went there the other day and everything went up 20 cents or more - ugh.(they held the prices as long as they could)


13 posted on 06/16/2012 4:18:59 PM PDT by libertarian27 (Check my profile page for the FReeper Online Cookbook 2011)
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To: Daniel Clark

I wouldn’t eat food from a place called Bottom Dollar. You get what you paid for, and that’s a pay that says “not fit for human consumption”. They very well might have just run out of the bags. Our dollar stores (where I like to buy DVDs, such a fun random selection) do weird unprofessional stuff like that all the time, I’ve seen them with only 1 door unlocked, no manned registers, they’re very easily confused.


14 posted on 06/16/2012 4:23:50 PM PDT by discostu (Listen, do you smell something?)
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To: Daniel Clark

I agree with those who think this is a cost-cutting move, rather than some sort of a green conspiracy. I also think it’s hilarious to complain about a supermarket trying to “nudge”/manipulate consumer choices. EVERYTHING about any supermarket is designed to manipulate your choices - from overall layout to product placement to lighting to signage, and so on.


15 posted on 06/16/2012 4:37:50 PM PDT by Conscience of a Conservative
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To: Daniel Clark

Vitamin Cottage has been doing that: No bags. Their attitude is condescending and rude. If you don’t have a bag or box they snap at a bin of their boxes and scoff. I haven’t been back in several years now but their parking lot is never busy. Liberal bulsh*t never sells.


16 posted on 06/16/2012 4:41:27 PM PDT by CodeToad (Homosexuals are homophobes. They insist on being called 'gay' instead.)
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To: discostu
I wouldn’t eat food from a place called Bottom Dollar.

Why not? All the packaged foods are the same as in the regular full service markets. A Perdue chicken is the same chicken as in the more expensive ones - just $1.00/lb cheaper. I just checked the 'Bottom Dollar' flyer - they have Hellman's mayonnaise for $3.77 - the other guys are $4.99 - I know where I would shop.

17 posted on 06/16/2012 4:44:44 PM PDT by libertarian27 (Check my profile page for the FReeper Online Cookbook 2011)
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To: libertarian27

I doubt that highly. Probably the stuff at the discount store has been in storage longer and is closer to code, or is even from a different batch and recipe, possibly even less product. We know from stuff that’s come out about WalMart that those are all favorite ways of meeting WalMart’s price demands, including in their grocery section. You don’t make 25% of the price disappear by magic, that means 25% of the cost had to go away too.


18 posted on 06/16/2012 5:00:22 PM PDT by discostu (Listen, do you smell something?)
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To: discostu
Deep discount stores make money by buying large lots from wholesalers, closeouts and such. They get the same merchandise but pay a lot less. We have a chain in Ohio, Marc's, where a bag of pistachios costs 4.99. In the standard grocery store down the block it costs 11.99. No they're not rotten either.

Packaged meat and canned goods, petfood etc are all brand name, slightly to greatly cheaper, and in case you didn't know, they have sell-by dates, so you know they are current stock. Vegetables are fresh--no way to hide overaged veggies.

The only downside is they don't pay credit card companies--cash or check only. And longer lines and less elaborate checkout areas. If you have the time to spend an extra ten minutes in line, you can save a bundle. They even have free plastic bags.

19 posted on 06/16/2012 5:24:01 PM PDT by hinckley buzzard
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To: Daniel Clark
Never in my life had I been in a supermarket that ran out of plastic bags

I worked as a cashier in a grocery store back in college, and once in a while we did run out of one type of bag or another. Usually it was because somebody in management had been slow ordering more, or because the trucks got delayed for some reason. Once they got shipped to the wrong address. I don't think it occurred to anyone to warn people as they came in, we just improvised and apologized as best we could, with the cashiers and baggers taking the brunt of it if and when people got upset about it.

Just giving the perspective from the other side of things.
20 posted on 06/16/2012 5:24:43 PM PDT by Ellendra ("It's astounding how often people mistake their own stupidity for a lack of fairness." --Thunt)
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