MY WEEKEND: Why can’t supermarkets give free bags like before?

Call me a cheapskate, but that extra 20 or 30 bob you had not budgeted for could go towards buying something else. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Walk into a shop, spend your hard-earned money and then you’re asked to pay for a bag

The way things are going, it is only a matter of time before hotels start asking customers to carry their own plates and spoons if they plan to dine at the premises.

I say this because since plastic bags were banned last year, it is as if businesses in Kenya also banned customer service.

Nowadays, when you buy anything, be it in a supermarket, market, clothes or shoe store, you leave with your purchase feeling unappreciated and as if you have been fleeced. After all, besides buying whatever you wanted, you are forced to buy a packing bag.

Call me a cheapskate, but that extra 20 or 30 bob you had not budgeted for could go towards buying something else. Before the ban, these businesses had set aside money to buy plastic bags, branded ones for that matter, in which to put their customers’ purchases.

Now that was customer care, even if chances are that the cost was embedded in the price of the goods one bought. Where, may I ask, did this budgeted-for cash for free branded paper bags go?

Last week, I passed by a shoe store to, obviously, buy a pair of shoes. As I paid at the counter, the cashier asked me whether I had a bag because they were no longer giving them for free. I had the choice of either buying the Sh20 one – a tiny, transparent flimsy-looking bag, or the Sh30 one, which was thicker, but came in an unattractive muddy brown colour.

I was astounded to say the least, because this is one of the biggest shoe stores in Kenya. The last time I was here, and it was after the plastic bag ban, which I fully support, the shoes I had bought had been handed to me in a bag. A bag I was not charged for. I am not a complainer, but I felt so unappreciated, I complained, even though it was wasted energy because it didn’t get me a free bag.

I don’t think I am the only Kenyan who has been feeling short-changed because I have spotted quite a number of people either stuffing whatever they buy in their already full handbags, or choosing to carry the goods in their hands.

You are probably thinking that I should just shut up and start carrying a bag with me whenever I go shopping – I do, in fact, I have quite a number of recyclable bags at home.

The misgiving I have is walking into a supermarket, restaurant, shoe store or any other establishment where I will leave my hard-earned money, only to be welcomed by a notice on the wall telling me that they expect me, the customer, to carry my own packing bag. Either that, or pay for it. Even after spending money in their premises. Talk of non-existent customer service!

It might be a significant cost-cutting measure for businesses, but I feel that by playing Mr Scrooge with packing bags, they are denying themselves the free advertisement they got whenever they gave customers free branded bags. Nowadays, you see people walking out of, say, Tuskys Supermarket with a bagful of goods in a bag written “I love Paris”, “Simba Cement”, “Marilyn Monroe” or “Best Lady Cosmetics”. Or perhaps a rival supermarket’s branded bag.

Pray, how does this benefit your brand?; Twitter: @cnjerius. The writer is the editor, MyNetwork, in the Daily Nation




Your article reminded me of a senior civil servant in the early 1990s who would not be seen dead walking in the streets of Nairobi. What would people think of him? He would drive with his driver and bodyguard from Jogoo House to Uchumi House, a distance of only about 100 metres in the official limousine. He would often be late for meetings as he was held up in the traffic. Eng Henry Kanyua

Carol you are very right. The “what others think about me” syndrome has been the undoing of many, especially the your generation. They will go to any length to impress their peers. They end up depressed and heartbroken. No wonder suicides and murders have increased. Thuo


Your article sums up what society suffers from; I live in a neighbourhood where residents reason like your colleague. But matatus and boda boda are modes of transport like any other. Let’s all be ourselves and practical. Ruth


I read your article and I felt like I did not get you. Why buy a car then If you cannot use it all the time? Don’t you feel funny queing for a mathree. An NMG editor in a Matatu! That’s a big joke! I once tried to do that, and God, I still remember the day to date. The flury of questions from colleagues and friends as to where my car was, was unbearable! Anyway, you have a right to choose how you want to live! Bye.w George

Your articles are usually very informative, something to look forward to every Sunday. Rodney