By YOURI KEMP
Tribune Business Reporter
Super Value's principal yesterday admitted "there are disgruntled customers" over the 25 cent per plastic bag charge, adding that the transition had "not been accepted as I had hoped".
Rupert Roberts, pictured, told Tribune Business: "I would say that it wasn't accepted the way that I had hoped. There are disgruntled customers. They thought that that if plastic was banned it should have been banned suddenly, and not be sold.
"I think that some of the public is very confused about it and they will think it out. But one thing they are asking for is boxes, and they are buying the tote bag; the re-usable bags. They are really buying them. I was shocked. There is a big resistance to paying 25 cents for a plastic bag."
Revealing how he feels about being forced to charge customers for using the single-use plastic bags, which will be totally banned as of June 30, Mr Roberts said: "I don't like it. They could have just forgotten that and let it come to an end in six months, Because we can't import it would end.
"But the purpose of the charge is to send a message to the public that we have to stop this, and that message is getting through to the public very clear and plain. But they are disgruntled about it when they have to pay 25 cents. They don't like it and they fill that bag as full as it can hold. Instead of buying two they take the chance if one would break."
Expressing optimism that Super Value and his customers will overcome these initial issues, Mr Roberts added: "I think with our help we are encouraging them on how to do it. Last week we had a meeting with the managers on how to handle it, and the managers have gone on to deal with the head cashiers and then to the cashiers.
"Now this week we are meeting with our 350 cashiers. This morning we met with the first shift, and at 3pm we will meet with the second shift. We are learning what the customers are saying, getting their feelings, but so far from the morning meeting they are resisting paying and they don't think they should pay us or the government shouldn't have forced us to make them pay. Which is natural, but I think it would have gone over better if they took another approach."
Mr Roberts said Super Value's stock of reusable tote bags was selling quickly, and added: "This morning we sold out of all of our refrigerated bags - all 3,000. We had 60,000 of the reusable tote bags in, and this morning we ordered another 65,000, so we are assuming it is catching on and the public is going to be using re-usable bags.
"What worries me is if a customer is taking home meat or chicken, and they have drainage in the bag, not washing the bag and bringing it back to the store - that's a concern. But we're selling the refrigerated bag. It's a tote bag but it's refrigerated, and you can put your meats in that, and your milk and all of your perishables in that, and it is easily wiped out or easily washed out."
Mr Roberts clarified earlier comments he made to Tribune Business, when he said "when the plastics are out of the way, we'll be using compostable and we should go back to free bags". He explained: "I understand that government is making us charge for compostable bags when we go from plastic bags to compostable bags.
"We still have to charge the customer 25 cents. To me it's still plastic, to plastic, to plastic, just that one disintegrates faster than the other. But we will have to charge for compostable bags."