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Wal-Mart’s on the cutting edge of cutting costs

Submitted by on Tuesday, 12 January 2010 2 Comments

It’s early yet, but give Wal-Mart credit for the public relations coup of the year so far.

Last week, the retailer began charging 15 cents for regular bags and 50 cents for oversized ones in three Northern California stores, The Sacramento Bee reported.

“Does this put Wal-Mart on the cutting edge of California’s environmental consciousness?” one Web site asks.

No. It merely puts Wal-Mart on the leading edge when it comes to recognizing an opportunity to cost shift when it sees one.

The idea of charging for bags is not new. Bills that would ban grocers from giving away disposable bags have bumped around the California Legislature for two years. At 25 cents per bag that past versions of the bill would have allowed, Wal-Mart’s 15 cents isĀ  a bargain.

The legislation is actually a sweet deal for retailers. The government tells them they have to charge customers for something they’ve been getting for free – an item, by the way, that costs retailers $1,500 to $3,000 a month – plus the retailers would get a kickback on the fee so they could “educate” consumers.

Wal-Mart jumps the gun on the proposal, racking up points for being green in the process, and laughs all the way to the bank.

The chain’s actually been all about being green for a few years. In 2007, it began selling reusable bags for $1, according to treehugger.com. Wal-Mart also kindly offered to let customers return the bags to the stores once they wore out.

Brilliant. It set the precedent for charging customers what they’ve been getting for free, with bonus points for getting the bag back in the end so the company can make more money by recycling it.

If Wal-Mart – or any other retailer – truly were interested in green policies, they’d give away reusable bags for a set period of time. When that time’s elapsed, they’d simply quit providing one-use bags but still replace recyclable ones.

That approach, though, wouldn’t be nearly as beneficial to a company’s bottom line.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Sandra Foyt said:

    Companies are in the business of making a profit. I’m just happy that, in this case, Walmart’s profit-making plans benefit the environment. Wish there were more ways to inspire businesses to go green!

  • Debra said:

    I have absolutely no problem with companies making a profit. I wish I made a little more of one myself! I just take issue with a reporter posing the question, is Wal-Mart at the cutting edge when there’s more to it than that.