LONSBERRY: Wegmans Can Shove Its Nickel

Wegmans can shove its nickel.

               As New York state arbitrarily bans single-use grocery bags, the resident grocery store has decided to go it one better.

               Wegmans will eliminate the bags a month early, and charge people a nickel for each paper grocery bag they use. As part of the plastic-bag ban, the state tried to bribe counties by allowing them to put a five-cent tax on every paper bag. Most counties said that was ridiculous, and vowed to impose no such tax.

               But Wegmans, with no aversion to hitting people’s pockets hard, is all in on the nickel.

               And if counties don’t take it, Wegmans is still going to collect it, and – pause for dramatic affect – give it to food banks.

               That’s right.

               A grocery company owned by billionaires is going to charge you a nickel a bag so it can give food to poor people.

               I know, the generosity chokes me up, too. There ought to be a plaque in this for somebody.

               Here’s a question: Will those food banks then use that money to buy food from Wegmans?

               At retail?

               I’m asking for a friend, who’s trying to remember where the closest Tops is.

               It’s bad enough when the state tries to run your life, but when the freaking grocery store decides to be your daddy, well, that kind of rubs you the wrong way.

               What the social engineers on Brooks Avenue want to do is encourage you to buy their reusable Petri dishes, er, multi-use plastic bags, and put your groceries in those.

               Tangent: I wonder what the mark-up is on reusable plastic grocery bags?

               And if you don’t use their reusable bags, you have to pay their paper-bag tax. Period. No exceptions. They won’t leave out any boxes for you to load them into yourself. And if you bring in your own single-use plastic bags – which you can buy online for two cents apiece – they won’t let you use them.

               Because at Wegmans we’re known for our customer service.

               And if you’re one of those people who just wants to walk in, pay for overpriced groceries and walk out, without giving any thought to carrying some filthy rag-tag reusable bag with you, well, you’re going to have to pay.

               Or see if IGA is still a thing.

               A long time ago, back a Wegmans generation or two, they used to give you grocery bags for free. They figured that when you bought your Wegman-autographed can of peas, the price covered the bag and you were good to go. If you didn’t wrinkle it too bad, you could take it home and make a book cover out of it for your algebra text.

               People wore saddle shoes back then.

               But times have changed.

               And you better learn that double bagging isn’t just a rude reference to an ugly date, and that it’ll cost you ten cents.

               And that, if it’s ok, I’d rather the grocery monolith not be deciding where this massive pile of our money goes, thank you very much. Knowing that most upstate New York counties had declined to impose the five-cent tax, and by offering up food banks as its intended beneficiaries, Wegmans gets to 1. Screw us 2. Set social policy and 3. Come off smelling like a rose.

               Currently, food banks in New York are funded at or near adequate levels – as evidenced by the fact that they typically are stable and growing, finding ever more ways to distribute food to ever more people. While some food cupboards are small, volunteer-run activities put on by churches and service groups, most food banks in New York are massive non-profit corporations with money coming in from every direction.

               And that’s a good thing.

               But for one company to arbitrarily decide that that system will now be the beneficiary of money that was conceived of initially as being best dispersed by elected officials according to local needs, is bull crap.

               Wegmans’ job is selling groceries, not setting social policy.

               Consequently, every New York county with a Wegmans should impose the five-cent paper-bag tax, and take that money out of Wegmans hands and put it in the hands of elected officials. What they do with it, on behalf of the people, is the business of that community.

               But I didn’t vote for Wegmans, and I don’t want it taxing me.

               And if it’s not a tax, if it’s a charge, I’m going to find a grocery store that won’t hose me for being a paper-bag customer.

Bob Lonsberry

Bob Lonsberry

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