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January 19, 2013

The Reusable Bag You’ll Never See.

Photo: Amy Cushing

“Oh, wow, she has one! Look!” exclaims the grocery clerk.

He lifts the bag from the counter as if it’s a delicate piece of rice paper that will crumble with his touch. He stares in amazement at the words and drawings decorating the outside.

“That one’s the best,” he chortles, pointing to one of the many phrases on the tote.

“I like that too!” spouts the female cashier who’s stretching her neck to get a view of the bag as she rings up my purchases.

Another nearby cashier joins the circle. She sighs as she comments, “It’s a shame they discontinued it.”

They all surround the reusable shopping bag as the clerk rests it on the end of the counter for all to see. They laugh and point and laugh some more.

I wait, with no hurry in mind, distracted by my four-year-old who is trying to scale the checkout counter in the next lane. My groceries, long since tallied, sit on the counter awaiting to take up residence in the infamous carryall.

The cashier looks up from the distraction as I’m attempting to corral my son. “Oh, goodness, sorry!  It’s been a while since we’ve seen this bag. Let’s get you on your way.”

This is a common occurrence whenever I toss my favorite Whole Foods Market tote on the conveyor belt. I suddenly become a grocery rock star.

Why such a fuss over a seemingly innocuous satchel? Well, it’s no longer available. Apparently, it’s been removed from service because someone complained about the clever quotes dotting the outer cover. Amusing phrases like:

Photo: Amy Cushing

“Grow a pear and support local farming”

“What a friend we have in cheeses”

“Recyclers rock my world”

“Ask me about my quinoa”

“Some like it raw”

“Braised and confused”

“Just beet it”

“Soy to the world”

And, my favorite:

“My compost brings all the flowers to the yard”

How can you not laugh at that?

I haven’t been able to find out which phrase in particular was the pot-stirrer, but I suspect it was one of the first two I mentioned, which, in their gutsy way, are hilariously awesome. It’s unfortunate that others didn’t enjoy what was clearly an attempt at fun.

Another quote says, “Well-behaved grocers rarely make history.”

True.

And it’s sad that Whole Foods felt compelled to recall the bag and quell to pressure from those lacking a sense of humor. While Whole Foods may be more commercial these days, they were once trailblazers and do still make huge efforts to provide an alternative to conventional grocery chains.

All the more reason I’m surprised people complained, since it’s typically shoppers who think outside the box that peruse their aisles. I, for one, appreciate their efforts in attempting to change the industry. They are far from perfect, but at least they are a reliable and accessible alternative in an arena littered with grocers who put public health at the bottom of their list.

All the more reason Whole Foods should have kept the reusable bag in production.

I suppose this is a reflection of our society, where many people in our midst feel uncomfortable with what’s different or disparate from the norm—whatever that is. It’s unfortunate that some cannot see beyond their own white picket fence to realize it’s the peculiar, the atypical, the exceptional, really, that make our world vibrant and a place worth exploring.

Without innovators and free-thinkers, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s those who challenge society that help make it a better place for all of us.

Instead of fighting a battle against a reusable tote, maybe the offended should channel their energies into actually making a difference in our world rather than creating a campaign to remove an item intent to provide a laugh or two. And maybe Whole Foods shouldn’t have caved to their pressure.

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

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