Regular Life

Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

“Hey, could you grab a Wal-Mart bag for me? I need something to put our shoes in for the trip.”

“Look at that Wal-Mart bag caught in that tree over there.”

These or similar phrases are not uncommon in our area. Whether or not you frequent Wal-Mart, I’m sure a clear image of that type of bag formed in your head, and you no doubt have seen them clinging to fences like a litterbug’s windsock. Similar to the way “Coke” has become synonymous for “soda,” or “pop,” the phrase “Wal-Mart bag” means any plastic grocery bag with handles.

It does in the American south, anyway.

Like me, perhaps you have tried to get everything in one trip by grabbing upwards of six bags with each hand, the bread bearing the brunt of your misguided machismo (or feminismo, as the case may be). Once you’ve managed your feat and emptied the bags, what do you do with them? Craft fair vendors have created tubular fabric bags, with an elastic-lined top, for storing the wispy, wad-able wonders. We have one that we have stuffed to bulging with “Wal-Mart bags” from a variety of stores including Super Target, Tom Thumb, and Albertson’s. A valuable tool for bagging poopy diapers earlier in our parental era, they still play a role in our home.

Perhaps those of you shaking your heads answer “paper,” on the rare occasion that a cashier asks your bagging preference. I’ve never seen studies on which is worse, cutting down trees for paper bags, or producing more trash with plastic bags. I know most brown paper bags are made at least partially from recycled paper, but ultimately a tree was involved. Because plastic manufacture includes petroleum products, plastic bags carry their own drawbacks besides just the litter and landfill factors. (A fascinating book I just finished, set several centuries in the future, sees mankind no longer burning petroleum for fuel, but still using it to make plastic.)

Wal-Mart, retail leader of the free world, announced recently that it will begin selling a “a recycled, reusable, washable shopping sack” for $1. It will hold at least twice the amount of today’s common plastic bag, and customers may return it to the store for recycling once it has worn too thin for use.*

If the store you frequent offered these bags, would you purchase and use them? Is this another Wal-Mart ploy to earn brownie points with those who would love to see the company shrivel and fade away?

* Source: An October 10 story in the Morning News of Northwest Arkansas.

9 Responses to Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

  1. As you stated, Wal-Mart bags were great for poopie diapers. I always keep a few in my vehicle to hold my golf shoes following those soggy rounds of golf as well. And you’ll struggle to find any other type of bag in our small bathroom trash cans as well. They’re pretty handy.

    I had an idea for the holders a few years back, but of course I didn’t do anything with it. Like you suggested, you always see those “craft fair” bags for holding Wal-Mart bags. They’re always cheesy looking, and they’re decorated like they belong in a country kitchen. They’re designed to be hung from a door knob, but who would want that hanging in their kitchen? But….what if you sold nicer looking ones regionally, with your favorite college or Pro football team? Then people might be more likely to be willing to at least hang them somewhere in semi-plain view.

    I’m sure the licensing fee would probably be prohibitive, but with my luck someone will be on Oprah next year talking about how they made their millions on a tiny $1.99 item being sold at Wal-Mart.

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  2. I use those bags for multitudes of things.. especially to put my shoes in, when going on a trip (in my suitcase).

    The problem with the $1 bags is you have to remember to take them WITH you to Wal-Mart, or Target….

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  3. I’ve never heard of “plastic” bags being called “Wal-Mart” bags before. Not unless they actually came from Wal-Mart. To me they’ve always just been, you know, plastic bags.

    Where we do most of our shopping, they sell large plastic bins for a few bucks, and we re-use those whenever I take the boys grocery shopping. Once you’ve paid for the bins, the cashier places a couple stickers on them that say “Bin Paid For” to differentiate between your own and those inside the store for sale. Ha! Such wit! It makes the check-out process a LOT faster for me too, since I can sort the stuff into the bins way easier than a whole myriad of plastic bags.

    But of course, we still have more plastic bags in our house than I know what to do with. Stashed into a hard plastic container tucked inside our kitchen pantry. The overflow just gets tossed in the garbage.

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  4. They’re just “plastic bags” or “grocery bags” in our house, but we certainly have alot of them. They do, as Charles said, line our bathroom trash cans and our diaper pail. They get used to shuffle the recycling from the kitchen down to the recycling bins. And they serve as doggie-poo bags in a pinch. Quite useful really, but they still pile up faster than we can use them. Occasionally, we recycle a load of them. And Moonshot will some times get paper bags and reuse them or offer one to the cats as a toy. Hours of enjoyment playing kitty-tag inside a paper bag.

    So…did you, in fact, get a new bag?

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  5. All – I guess living in Bentonville (W-M’s headquarters) for six years tends to make a person Wal-Mart centric. There’s literally no other discount store within 30 miles (although I think that has changed now), and the remaining grocery stores are cutting corners so much you don’t feel safe buying food there. Sad, but true.

    I also took to calling sparrows “Wal-Mart parking lot birds,” because they were constantly underfoot when we were going into/out of the store. Symptom of the surroundings.

    Ah yes, lining the various small wastebaskets with these bags is the only way to go.

    Charles – A good idea. Go for it before someone else does.

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  6. Charles – here’s inspiration for you. This guy invented something called “Dishrags.” Goes over your satellite dish. A guy I used to work for knows him and tipped me off to it a few years ago.

    Article about his success.

    Dishrags Website

    Buy online

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  7. “Grocery bags” or “plastic bags” here too. We use them for kitchen garbage and old diapers as well. I don’t believe we produce an indecent amount of garbage, but with the diaper factor, we sometimes run out of plastic bags.

    I’d get the reusable bags (most of the stores around here – grocery stores, shops, etc. – offer them), but the problem is that we’d then have to buy plastic bags (from Glad or whatever) to throw away our garbage anyway, so what’s the point? I tried to look for recycled plastic bags to buy to replace the “wal-mart” bags, but couldn’t find any available at the grocery store. So we’re back to square one. *shrug*

    Oh, and Ikea has a nice little plastic pail designed to mount inside a cupboard to store all those bags. It has holes all over so you can grab a bag from the top or the bottom of the bunch, as you like. Costs about 2 bucks, I think.

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  8. Darn Ikea! Foiled again by a better mousetrap. Oh well, I may make a prototype up just so I’ll never be able to say, “If I had only….(insert day late dollar short story here.)

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  9. Mark…Dish Rags. Who’dathunkit? I have a can’t miss idea for golf, but I wouldn’t even know where to start, or how to know if someone would be close to beating me to it. Laser range finders and GPS systems are selling like hotcakes for getting yardages. There are advantages to both. When someone comes out with a single device that does both, it will fly off the shelves. Size restrictions may be limiting, but I figure even if it is a little bigger than the current units, it would be desirable. Instead of $400 for one or the other, sell a combined unit for $600.00. Sounds high, but people would spend it I think.

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