Plastic Bags

“If it’s possible, I’d like to just put these things inside my bag and save the plastic.”

I said this to the clerk at the Atlantic-Pacific Target.

I had heard that this was the single most profitable Target in America. I had been in the store a half-dozen times since moving to New York, and each time my purchases had been double-bagged. If this was the most profitable Target in America, the sheer number of plastic bags the store must go through depressed me.

I understand the basic economic principle – or rather, I vaguely remember my graduate economics instruct trying to make me understand the basic economic principle – that says that one single person, economically speaking, does not make a difference.

One person driving a hybrid car (my professor’s example) will not make a positive impact on the environment. A critical mass is needed to leverage change and create impact.

Clearly, in the busiest Target in America, I cannot save the earth by saving a few plastic bags. My economics professor in grad school taught me this. My optimistic integrity however, says otherwise.

And so I asked the girl working the register if she could please save the plastic bags and let me put my purchases down inside my own shoulder bag.

“Okay,” said the girl.

As she scanned each item and placed it on the counter in front of me, I began loading my bag with my purchases. I had been careful to only purchase what would fit inside my bag. She finished scanning my things, so I inserted my check card into the card reader and waited as the machine prompted me through Target’s normal check card purchase questions:

“Please enter your pin.” it said.

“xxxx” I typed.

“Your total is $34.76. Is this okay?” it asked.

“Yes.”

“Would you like cash back?” it asked.

“No.”

“Thank you.”

At which point I reached for the last of my purchases; a box of crackers, a pair of pantyhose and a pair of gel shoe insoles, to see that while I had scanned my check card, the girl at the counter had bagged the items for me.

“If it’s alright, I can just put those down in my bag” I said.

“Oh. Well, here you go.”

“I was just trying to save some plastic. Can I at least give you one of the bags back?”

“Sure,” she said.

She took the second plastic bag from me, and she threw it in the trash. Defeated, I turned and walked away.

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