Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best Buy, Worst Packaging

It May Not Be Easy Being Green, But You At Least Have to Try
I was only too happy to take advantage last week of an offer to buy $50 worth of iTunes gift cards from Best Buy for around 42 bucks, with free shipping to boot.
Despite the recent tsunami of bad PR that BB suffered because it didn't fulfill some holiday gift orders, I hit the send button and my cards showed up today, just five days after I placed my order.
So thanks, all you blue-shirted minions toiling away in a Findlay, Ohio, warehouse to dispatch my booty. But no thanks for sending two gift cards in a 5 x 9 inch box, complete with bubble wrapping and seven copies of an ad urging me to buy a new smartphone and in return receive, wait for it, a Best Buy gift card!
And all of this packaging meant paying more to UPS to get the gift cards to me. Of course, that's not my concern. I just want cut-rate music. But now I have to dutifully break down a box and ensure it and the excessive collateral that came inside make it to the recycling bin.
I'm down with that. Still, I wonder how many people really are. I can imagine that a fair bit of this crap gets thrown away with the regular trash and finds a permanent home in an overcrowded landfill.
It doesn't have to be that way. It can't be too hard for Best Buy to also use best practices to be a steward of the environment. It might even prompt more people to shop in the stores, even those you royally pisssed off when their flatscreen didn't make it to the door last week.


Laura said...

No pictures?

S.L.White said...

"Would You Like A Bag?"

I've always thought was the most annoying question asked when buying an item or making a purchase. I did not know this question would become archaic and now I would be interviewing the checkout person: "can I have a bag"?
Yes, if I want to pay for it.

As a native New Yorker, I take many opportunities to leave the city. On a trip to D.C. last summer, I stopped in CVS to purchase a brand of iced tea that is only sold in the Mid-Atlantic states and in the Southeast (for some reason it is not sold in N.Y.) So, to my satisfaction this particular store did have the item I wanted, and I was glad to wrap my 4 hour drive to D.C. in a sweet tea rhapsody as soon as I bought all the bottles on the shelf- about 30 bottles exactly.

When I reached the checkout, I paid for them, was handed my receipt and told "Have a nice day ma'am." Then I heard "NEXT CUSTOMER." I, perplexed, responded, " can I have some bags for my items please?"
The checkout person said, "sure, that will be 25 cents per bag".
Needless to say, I was appalled. I was not use to paying for a plastic shopping bag in New York City and I wasn't going to start then. I beckoned my significant other to come inside and help me box the bottles up and load them into the car.
I was also wondering "why I must pay for bags after I just spent $50.00," was beyond me. I suppose it wasn't enough to separate my glass bottles from my other trash and put the bottles in clear blue bags when I got back home...

On February 8, The New York Times ran an article, "Should Plastic Bags Be Banned"?

As I read it, I got flashbacks of my D.C. experience. Apparently, there are some states in the Southwest, West Coast and countries in Europe and East Asia that have enacted this Bag-ban policy. According to the article, the viewpoint of some is that plastic bags create "plastic soup" - (the accumulation of tiny plastic nodules in the oceans) and that while the average European uses as many as 500 plastic bags each year, many of them are only used once. Maybe this has some validity to it, but I for one in the U.S. use and reuse my plastic shopping bags from the supermarket as garbage bags, laundry bags for my suitcase when I travel and a host of other things. Thanks Fairway, Pathmark and Walmart!!

One point also made in the article is that the real problem is "irresponsible littering and a lack of awareness as to the value of plastic bags" - true indeed. Hey, one very windy day I was eating my lunch outside and the plastic bag my food was in flew away and got caught in a tree. "Aaggh"! I sprung into action to get it out of the tree.. trees are so beautiful and do I need to add to the litter on New York City streets? - No. Anyway, I was raised to appreciate the beauty in nature. This tree was high up but low enough that I had to stretch and reach - a man helped me get the bag too, and I told him, " Thanks so much. I hate to see plastic bags stuck in trees". He said, "Yeah, me too....".

I don't know what the outcome would be if New Yorkers had to start paying for a plastic bag in the drugstore.... I don't think it would be well received, in addition to the high cost of living. Some New Yorkers do bring their own empty grocery bags to the supermarket with them, but that's by choice, not force. When we shop at wholesalers like BJ's or Costco's we bring our bags, but the idea there is that we're buying in bulk, so no bags are necessary. Maybe we as NYers can do more of our part to discard of litter properly so that we aren't forced to pay for a plastic bag to carry general items from CVS. Then maybe you can sit outside on a nice day and drink your sweet tea in rhapsody.