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Feb 1, 2010 12:11 PM

Reusable tote bag frustration

A couple of threads lately have talked about how to find/wash reusable tote bags to use at grocery stores, retailers, etc. and I think that's FABULOUS on everyone's part, I've been doing it for years. Nowadays they're darn cheap, too, and available everywhere.

For me, the problem is not finding them, but USING them. Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and one local market are the only places I have found that using these bags is easy and convenient. Most of the large grocery stores in my area have the bagging station right by the checkout, and they have no easy way for the cashiers to pack things in my reusable bags. I usually tell them I'm happy to pack things myself, but at some checkouts there isn't really anyplace to put the stuff where I can get to it! . Walmart and other stores that have the carousel-type bagging stations are the worst. It irks me to no end that they have reusable bags for sale for 99 cents, right in front of the checkout, and still make it so inconvenient for everyone to use them.

I hope my neck of the woods is the exception, not the norm.

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  1. i've also used them for a few years. responses are better now. but they've run the gamut from checkers trying to scan them, to baggers trying to bag them in plastic, to putting items in plastic and then in the totes and one poor soul looking panicked and telling me she didn't know how to bag in them. that and teasing for using bags with another store's logo.

    the actual bagging has been less of a problem and most baggers now seem up to the task. the stores with carousels just handle it by handing a bag to me to put in the cart as it's filled.

    1. Our store (Wegmans) does a good job of using the bags we bring in, but I do think it slows the checkers down. Having moved here after living in Germany for three years, I'm used to bagging my own groceries and would honestly prefer to do it myself (but that seems to really throw the checkers off).

      1. I've had no trouble using the reusable totes even at places like Target where they have the carousel and I'm using the big Ikea bags. They just put them on top of the carousel after they're filled.

        1. I haven't had a problem with this, although I do get weird looks sometimes when I say I have my own bags. This has gotten less frequent within the past year or so, and once at Old Navy the guy ringing me up actually gave me 20% for "trying to use less plastic!"

          I do find that when I put my own bags on the counter/say I have my own bags, 90% of checkers lose the ability to put items into bags. I am capable of bagging my own groceries, but often I am futzing with my wallet/finding my debit card/using the card machine/etc, and I have to do all that and then stand in the way of the next people in line as I bag my groceries and the checker watches me. Has anyone else had this problem?

          18 Replies
          1. re: rds246

            "have to do all that and then stand in the way of the next people in line as I bag my groceries and the checker watches me. Has anyone else had this problem?"

            YES, in SPADES! Not only do I want to use my reusable bags, I usually want to bag my own groceries, and I'm always feeling rushed. I don't drive, so I shop with a folding grocery cart (like old ladies use ;) and if I cannot pack it myself, things end up getting squished, or I don't have room for all my purchases. I try to turn on the charm so the cashier and folks behind me in line stop staring and tapping their feet, but most often this is a futile effort.

            Rather than try to apologize to these folks for THEIR bad behavior, I have started just letting them bag everything in those infernal plastic bags and toss them in a grocery cart, then find a bench near the exit and pack my reusable bags to my liking. I then put the plastic bags in the recycle container (if they have one).

            Grrrr. Trivial to some, I'm sure, but a major thorn in my side!

            1. re: southern_expat

              I have not had a problem using my bags, for the most part at the major grocery stores.

              At small stores and drug stores, it's a PITA. I prefer to bag my own groceries too - I even took a class, believe it or not, waaaay back in the day.

              I've witnessed the bagger put in three bags of bagels, egg cartons on top and then canned goods, in my own bags. Is this how they're taught to load groceries?? Honest to God. . .I did the same thing as you. Take it aside and repack. Sheesh!

              1. re: southern_expat

                Don't know if this applies, but we shop at the same grocery store most of the time and have come to know a couple of cashiers fairly well; so if the casher has a bagger, s/he'll turn around and say "they bring their own bags" or "they like to do the bagging" - so no real problems there. I paid my way through school cashiering and bagging, and I have on rare occasions pushed a bagger aside, saying "I *really* like to bag."

                We use a mix of Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and the local grocery everywhere - one person from TJ's commented on a foreign bag in their store, and I replied that I use theirs in other stores, so turnabout fair play. It's not like they can throw you out for using some other store's bag.

                1. re: harrie

                  harrie - That's so funny. I have Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and the local grocery store ones, and I'm obsessive about using the one from the store I'm going to. The other day I was in TJ's, and I was driving a different car and so only had my local chain store bag. I apologetically said to the cashier that my car was in the shop, etc. And she said, "No problem at all! At least you brought one!" And the local store bag had been given to me by the manager of my local chain when he saw me in line with a TJ's bag once!

                  1. re: cackalackie

                    LOL! I used to be the same way about only using a TJs bag in TJs, etc. Now I'm OK with using the TJs' bags elsewhere, but I do prefer non-store-branded bags, which I find hard to find. I just want a reusable bag without a particular store's branding on it.

                    But I got the absolute BEST resusable bag from the Red Cross when I donated blood back in November. Really big and strong. I even asked for another one for Christmas, but alas, my mother checked and they were out of them (saying "everyone loved those bags!")

                    However, I do have to say the best reusable store bag I've been given (free) was at my local liquor store last month. I was in buying about 6 bottles of wine (and a 22 oz. bottle of Guinness for some stew I was making that night for dinner). The guy asked "instead of a box, would you like this reusable bag?" Yes, it has their name, but I've been going there for about 15 years, and I like them, so I don't mind that it's branded with their name. But the best part is that it's partitioned into 6 compartments for the wine bottles and has a slightly hard bottom so the bottles stay upright and don't rattle against each other. Love that bag! I plan on buying another one from them as I usually buy wine by the case, but in mixed lots. Yeah, they've got boxes, but these bags are way easier to carry.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      Trader Joe's sells their own partitioned wine bags. They are maroon in color. I use one to hold the different color yarns and my crocheting projects.

                      1. re: LindaWhit

                        I don't know if these will work for you, but I love them. I have a couple that I have abused for 2+ years by overloading and walking 6 blocks home. Maybe a little expensive but I love AND no store logo.


                        1. re: corneygirl

                          Not bad! A friend who travels for her work said she was just at a Wegmans, and the checkout person gave her a free Wegmans tomato bag. I also love their other two - peapod and grapes!


                          THESE are store bags I wouldn't mind using, as they're pretty stylish! But alas - I'm still waiting for the Wegmans in Massachusetts (another year or so, I think).

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            There's quite a variety of design and price for shopping totes at

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I like the fleur-de-lis bags....but luckily, the several bags I have now are still holding up (2 old Trader Joe's bags and one I got from the Red Cross that's extra deep and wide). So I'll be sticking with them until they go kaput. But thanks for the site - will keep it in mind!

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                Took a look at the f-d-l bags out of curiosity - and noticed on that seller's home page that they're having a special: a free tote bag when you buy two tee-shirts or onesies. Just so you know, in case you are in the market for these clothes.

                                1. re: greygarious

                                  If I'm in the market for onesies, sumpin's happened that I'm unaware of. ;-)

                            2. re: LindaWhit

                              Definitely cute enough to break my logo-free rule!

                            3. re: corneygirl

                              Love my Chico Bags... so easy to carry around and I just plop them on the conveyor belt (unfolded) and people have no problem using them.

                              1. re: Dommy

                                I still LOVE my Chico bags and they are going nice and strong. But if I were to replace them, I would instead get a Baggu Bag. They fold up nicely and have nice wide handles so you can put them over your shoulder. I have only one now, but I use it all the time for the farmers market, where I really have to carry around the produce for a while...



                            4. re: LindaWhit

                              My favorite wine Re-usable wine bag is this canvas one from Saucy Saks.


                              Most reusable wine bags are too short and the bottles still clank around. Or they are too narrow to put in wine + big bottles of beer. I love this ones because it is nice and tall. The canvas is nice and thick so it protects the bottles. 4 bottles of wine as well as four big bottom bottles of beer/champagne can fit and washes beautifully! It's a picnic essential for us (especially since we can also stuff in a nice baguette as well!)



                        2. re: southern_expat

                          I haven't tried this approach, but maybe it would work for you if you ask the bagger to unload your cart onto the belt, while YOU do the bagging.

                        3. re: rds246

                          A lot of times the checker assumes that because you have your own bags you have your own particular way you want stuff bagged...'ll be happy to do it yourself. i am NOT a very good bagger and i wish they'd just do it for me! When they do, they usually do it just fine, but you have to jump on them about using the insulated bags for COLD things!

                        4. My experience with reusable bags here on the south end of the Denver area has been entirely positive. I shop in a mixture of large chain stores, smaller regional chains and independents and no one has ever batted an eye at my bags. Several of them give me a 5 or 10 cent credit for each bag I bring in.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: mandycat

                            Same story here in the DC 'burbs. Checkers are pretty accustomed to reusable bags. I place my bags in front of my items so they can see them coming and adjust accordingly. Sometimes I have to urge the checker or bagger to stuff more items in to a bag; they tend to be leery of overfilling.

                            I don't have an interest in bagging my own items so no personal experience there.