Bag ban costs grocer

City Market in Carbondale has seen few returns of stolen handheld grocery baskets despite its pleas after having shoppers walk out with hundreds since voters approved a plastic bag ban there in April.

“They have received a few back — not many,” said City Market corporate spokeswoman Kelli McGannon.

The thefts are an unintended consequence of the community’s decision to prohibit the use of plastic grocery bags and require that 20 cents be charged for each paper bag customers use. Similar measures have been implemented in other communities in the region, including Aspen and Telluride.

City Market also has a location in Aspen but hasn’t seen basket thefts resulting from the ban there.

“It tends to be a larger problem there in Carbondale,” McGannon said. “… We don’t know what creates the difference.”

McGannon declined to say how much the baskets cost the grocer, saying that’s proprietary information.

City Market has gotten little response since McGannon said in a recent story in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent that the store would happily take baskets back, no questions asked.

She said she thinks people taking them may simply have forgotten to bring reusable bags, and City Market doesn’t consider the missing baskets a criminal matter.

“We don’t think there’s any ill intent,” she said.

The store also sells reusable bags for $1 apiece.

Clark’s Market, which has stores in locations including Aspen and Telluride, hasn’t seen a problem of basket thefts, said store president Tom Clark Jr.

However, he said people aren’t allowed to walk out the doors with the baskets. A customer coming to a register unloads a basket, which is then put into a stack.

“There’s not really an opportunity to put groceries back into that,” he said.

Clark said he thinks Aspen’s recently implemented ban has been working out well at the Clark’s Market there.

“It’s been really well-received. There were a few people caught by surprise, but basically people know the deal now and it’s been working out real well for us.”

He said the “vast majority” are using reusable rather than paper bags.

McGannon said it will be interesting to see how things go during the winter ski tourism season, when visitors not familiar with the ban shop in affected stores.

Mitzi Rapkin, a city of Aspen spokeswoman, said the city has “bag banks” around town, including City Hall, where people can pick up free reusable bags. She said she thinks some hotels also make them available to guests.

She said the city hasn’t had complaints about the ban, which is going well.

Clark said Clark’s Market saves money by not buying plastic bags, but paper ones are heavier to ship in, so financially the ban is probably a wash.

Still, “I think it’s nice not to see plastic bags everywhere,” he said.

McGannon said City Market averages an extra eight seconds per transaction to comply with the ban in ways such as dealing with paper bag sales.

But she added, “We’re happy to support what it is people want. We think we’ve executed it well.”


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