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Weird Austin Bag Ban in Texas' Capital City

Updated on March 17, 2014
How empty will your basket be?
How empty will your basket be?

Posted: 7:51 p.m. March 15, 2014
By Teresa | I Bet You Didn't Know

Heard about the Austin Bag Ban? Well if you're thinking about traveling to the capital of Texas -- Austin for those who don't know -- then you'll want to read this. Please be informed that there is a bag ban in the city of Austin. If you go to the grocery store, like H-E-B, Walmart or other, you will need to bring your own bags to bag whatever you buy. Either that, or you'll be offered the option by the cashier to pay anywhere from 10 cents to as high as 27 per plastic bag to bag all of your items. Or you have the option to buy reusable bags anywhere from 99 cents to over $1 per bag, which provide more space, however, not a whole lot if you have items that are boxes.

NOTICE: Keep in mind the price is PER bag, not per checkout session. So if you need 10 plastic bags, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1.00 to 2.70 for 10 bags (at 10 to 27 cents a piece). If you end up buying the reusable bags, then you can expect to pay anywhere from $9.90 to well over $10 for 10 reusable bags (at 99 cents or more a piece). Some people might say it's just 10 cents or 27 cents. It's no big deal. Well, when you've been paying zero for decades, any amount more than free sounds like a rip-off. And when you have plenty of groceries to be bagged, and that extra expense adds up, you will have a different perspective -- especially when you can put that money towards something far more important like for Austin's public transportation which is no less than one dollar, or gas that isn't cheap these days to put in your vehicle's tank. So if you're going to pay them for each bag, then you need to either bag it yourself or keep your eye on the bagger to ensure they are putting as much groceries in each bag as possible. Before the bag ban, most of the time they didn't fill up the bag. So they aren't likely to worry about that now -- especially since you'll be the one paying for the bags. I'd highly recommend bagging your own items if you're going to be paying for bags, that way you can ensure they don't sell you more bags than you really need. As a matter of fact, tell them to "pack it tight" -- but still keep your eye on them. That 10 to 27 cents per plastic bag (and 99 cents and higher per reusable bag) can add up really fast if you're not paying attention.

Also, you can (like I've seen many people do) carry your purchased items out of the store without a bag. A lot of people tend to place their items back in the basket and take it to their vehicle to just dump in their trunk. No other city around Austin, TX has this bag ban. Some people go to surrounding cities to shop (Pflugerville, Round Rock, Cedar Park, etc.) because the ban is not in those cities, which pushes the money outside of Austin and to those cities instead of Austin when people spend their money in other cities. The city of Austin loses money in that way, too. Yes, there are stores that do not charge for bags in Austin. For example, you can go to the Dollar Tree, or Whole Foods and restaurants in Austin that do not charge you for bags. They have been generous to still offer free bags that now comply with the city ordinance. You would think that Walmart and H-E-B would not charge for the bags, but they are ridiculously charging its customers for plastic bags -- that is, if the customers want their items bagged with their bags for sale. The plastic bags go for 10 to 27 cents per bag, while the reusable bags go from 99 cents and over $1 per bag. If you do not have any bags of your own, and you choose to not buy the bags at the cash register, then what H-E-B will do is sticker your items to be as "proof" that you paid for the items as if the receipt isn't sufficient. It's a circular H-E-B branded sticker that they slap on each of your items so no employee will think you stole it. Sad, but true. So you have a lot of people walking out of the store with un-bagged and some stickered items. Sometimes they do not sticker all items.

So if you travel to Austin, do not think that people have stolen the items they are walking out of the store with unbagged. They are likely just another resident or visitor of Austin who has chosen to not pay for bags or carry bags for any items they purchase. It will look weird when you first see it and experience it firsthand, but it's like they say over there, "Keep Austin Weird".

My Personal View on the Austin Bag Ban

Now for my personal view on this bag ban in Austin, Texas because I am entitled to have one -- just as you are. You may or may not agree with me and that is perfectly fine with me. I won't be the one paying for a bag nor will I be the one carrying empty bags around for the bagger at the checkout counter.

I'm an impulsive buyer. Sorry but I don't like carrying around things when I'm out and about. If I decide I want something, then I'll buy it. And if I decide to go grocery shopping and they try to get me to pay 10 cents to over $1 for some bags, guess what I'm going to do? I'm going to tell them NEVER MIND! And they can have the honors of taking all my grocery items off the belt and back on the shelves as I walk out the store because I won't be putting the food back. Hey is it going to be a crime now to forget your bags?! If you're going to ban something such as this, then you need to make a ready replacement that won't affect consumer shopping. Period. So if you are going to ban bags, then make sure you provide an alternative that won't affect consumer shopping and I'm not talking about an alternative that costs consumers extra money.

Bloody and Uncleaned Bags

Buying reusable bags means you have to what? Clean them! Why you need to clean them? For one, people buy meat. And at times, blood drips from the packaged meat, which then creates a very unsanitary bag and environment when those same bags are brought back into the store uncleaned by the consumer. Think of other items that drip some sort of substance that is not a dried food item. Same thing. So not only is a person having to pay for the bag, but they are also required to clean it as to not spread germs and diseases. How many people do you know that cleaned their reusable bags they owned before the ban was thought of?! You don't need to think long and hard about it. It's simple. You probably can't think of anyone who has cleaned their reusable bags. So now you'll have to spend the extra expense in cleaning supplies and then retailers will need to spend the extra expense in ensuring their store is clean after some consumers bring in and put their dirty and infected bags on the belts and in the bagging area. Additionally, their employees will likely touch these unclean bags. Germs will be further passed on with the money, and before you know it people will be getting sick left to right. And why? All because of some reusable bags that now the ban is expecting people to properly clean before bringing them to the stores.

Plenty of shopping bags available to buy before you go to a store, or pay 10 to 27 cents per plastic bag at the register, or carry out your items un-bagged.
Plenty of shopping bags available to buy before you go to a store, or pay 10 to 27 cents per plastic bag at the register, or carry out your items un-bagged.

Remember to Clean Your Reusable Bags

What makes Austin think for even a second that people are going to remember to clean their reusable bags after each time it's being used? That's going to be more water being used which means an increase in water bill and electricity overall. And people are going to say this isn't worth it. People are likely to shop less in stores and shop more online. That's what's going to happen. But sales won't be as high for retailers anymore for the city of Austin. And when people don't buy in stores or buy less than what they did before this ban, then the city doesn't make as much money as it did before. All because those who pushed for a bag ban got it passed and didn't provide a free alternative to consumers. I don't think Austin thought the bag ban through.

If they don't care about how much consumer shopping was generated because of the free convenience of bags, why should anyone else? After all those bags didn't require consumers like you and I to clean them. I could easily dispose of them after use. No worries about germs and having to ensure I cleaned them properly, just they're gone and left to the professionals to recycle. Now, Austin wants to turn a lazy person into a professional cleaner of reusable bags before bringing them into the store so that no diseases are passed to employees and other consumers? Is that what's next on the agenda?

While in Austin, will you carry your own shopping bags, spend 10 cents to over $1 per bag charged by the retailers, or neither?

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The Austin Bag Ban is Not Good

Forcing consumers to bring their own bags or buy reusable ones or pay up to 27 cents per plastic bag (and over $1 per reusable bag) has a negative effect on the way consumers used to shop before the ban was put into play. There's no way you can work around that negative effect. The way I see it from a consumer-standpoint, it's not my store that's going to lose revenue. On top of that, what about all those people in Austin who ride their public transportation (e.g. bus, train, dillos, etc.)? What about those who don't have vehicles? So now, Austin, wants such people to walk around with bulging pockets of bags or pay 10 to over $1 per bag at the store? Are you serious? You have a lot of females who carry purses, so they may not mind so much adding some plastics bags or reusable bags into their purses. But how many males do you know walk around with a bag? You will witness seeing some people bring in their bags into the store and stuffing their bags with the groceries or merchandise (while shopping around the store) instead of using a basket. It looks like they are stealing.

Bag Ban Another Expense

On top of paying high taxes, a person would need to now figure in another expense into their budget. Because you who pushed for the ban thought only of yourselves and not of everyone else who aren't like you. Is this how you go about pushing your beliefs on someone, by creating a ban?! And then expect people to pay up if they don't adhere?! Is that what the world is coming to now? Well at least over there in Austin.

No thanks, this ban will without a doubt do more harm than any real good. I won't be carrying around bags for "just in case" I feel like going shopping. And I also won't be paying 10 to 27 cents (or any amount) per bag just because I am choosing to not carry extra things (bags) on me while I'm out and about. It's the retailers' loss that does in fact impact how much a city makes, not mine because -- trust me -- if I really NEED something I'll have it shipped to me. But the city of Austin will lose money the less people spend shopping in their stores and this ban without a doubt will cause the city to lose money especially on impulsive consumer spending. And for people who buy in bulk? Well I don't know if Costco and other similar stores in Austin are charging its customers for bags.

I Carry No Bag or Purse

Next thing you'll hear is people stealing other people's reusable bags because they don't want to pay for them. Look, I'm an impulsive buyer and this plastic bag ban with no FREE alternative, is without a doubt going to cause retailers to lose a lot more regarding consumer spending. Guaranteed! Not to forget the expense they'll need to ensure their store is cleaner than it was before because people will, without a doubt, be bringing in their unclean bags. Remember, this includes bags that they put meat in that at times drips blood; creating a very unsanitary bag and environment when those same bags are brought back into the store uncleaned. There's now way to work around that. And people will put items in their unclean bags and this ban creates a number of problems that will get costly.

How has the bag ban changed your shopping habits in Austin?

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How Is Austin's Bag Ban Good OVERALL?

I never understood that when something is said to be "good" for you that it costs the most, just like with "healthy" foods. It's healthy for you (so "they" say), but you need to pay more for it. That's the idea that's pushed out onto consumers. But the alleged "bad" stuff is less, if not free. Example, plastic bags are said to be bad for the environment. But it didn't cost consumers anything when they'd go shopping; they got their items bagged in these bags at no extra cost to them. But here comes Austin's self-righteous folks going nutty over plastic bags and how they hurt the environment. These self-righteous folks pushed for a bag ban, that resulted in consumers (who shop within the Austin city limits) to be charged for the bags if they refuse to accept ways of the pushers (those who pushed for the bag ban).

How Many Bags would be Sufficient to Bring?

People go into business to make money and if they have all those "last minute" items they push in the front of the stores for impulsive buyers, then they lose and the city loses that money, too. Well you cannot put a number on impulsive buyers. In other words, you can't say okay one bag or five bags is going to be enough for your impulsive shopping. The concept behind impulsive spending is you never know just how much a person will buy in any given moment. Well, Austin's bag bag surely puts a cap on it. So you who pushed for this bag ban in the capital of Texas with no free alternative to consumers, how many bags should I, an impulsive shopper, bring to the store? Hm? What would be a safe number? And what size of the items should I stick to, to ensure it fits in the bags brought? Hm? Tell me. What's a reasonable number of bags I need to fit into my pockets? Or perhaps I should start bringing a backpack?! And you know how stores are with people with big bags in stores. They scrutinize and monitor people with big bags because you want to make sure they are not stealing something. See? Again this ban that provided no free alternative to consumers will open up a world of problems and it WILL be a costly one. You, pushers, didn't think this one through. You thought only of yourselves. And this will be the cost of selfishness! This bag ban, causes people to have to measure and make sure they bring enough bags to cover the items they want to buy or else they will need to put items back or pay the extra money for bags to fit the items in however many that is. And if a person is shopping on a budget like a lot of people do, the extra money for bags when they thought they had enough will just be a burden and items will be required to take off the receipt and items put back. This equates to a loss of revenue and time for the retailer. And loss of time for the consumer having to stand there while the employee removes each "extra" item that won't fit in the bags one originally brought and can't afford to pay for other bags because it's not in their budget. That 10 and 27 cents per plastic bag (and over $1 per reusable bag) can add up real quickly especially if you're going grocery shopping. Such a problem never existed when bags were unlimited and free.

Who the Bag Ban Really Helps

The only advantage to this is not of the city nor for the retailers, but the advantage is for the consumer. What might that be? Austin's bag ban can help people, who shop in Austin's city limits, to budget their money better. But retailers and the city of Austin as a whole, can most certainly kiss profiting from impulsive shopping good-bye (in addition to the already loss in cashflow overall).

Their bag ban that provides no free alternative, decreases sales because nobody's going to pay an extra 10 to 27 cents for each plastic bag to cover an impulsive buy. And definitely not 99 cents or more for a reusable bag for an impulsive buy. Defeats the purpose in so many ways. Especially, for those who shop based on a budget. How many people are good at measuring space in a bag to the items they wish to buy?! Consumers didn't have to worry about that before. However, now they do with this bag ban that offers no free alternative to an endless supply of free plastic bags, like it used to be before the ban was put into play.

Retailers and the city of Austin as a whole will lose money until they come up with a free alternative for consumers to continue shopping as they did before -- that is before the ban kicked in March 1st of last year. That is, if they don't want to see a decrease in sales. Mark my words this day.

Not Against Eco-Friendly Things

I know you might think I'm against eco-friendly things, but I'm not. I'm just not going to force my beliefs onto others and expect them to pay up when they don't adhere to what I believe or stand for. You selfish people who pushed for this bag ban in Austin, Texas, need to provide a free alternative or this will produce more problems than the city can bare. And I'm talking about financially and health-wise. This will cause people to think about what they need and will buy based on need alone and when you get people into that mindset you lose money from people who buy based on not only needs but desires as well. You can't have it both ways with this bag ban. When the ban was not a reality, you truly could have your cake and eat it, too.

The Only Solution to Ensure Revenue is Not Lost

The only way to keep things as they were before the bag ban -- while still protecting the environment -- is to make sure you implement a free alternative that replaces the plastic bags that will not require consumers to pay extra money to buy. Additionally, a solution that won't cost consumers (and employees) extra time to maintain. After all, it is the consumers money you need to continue to grow a city and our money you need to bring in revenue for business. All of this I'm mentioning that goes against a free alternative, means loss of revenue for the city and some businesses. When you lose time, you are losing money. Provide the residents and visitors of Austin, Texas a free alternative like Whole Foods, restaurants and Dollar Tree and the city as a whole will not suffer a loss as a result of the bag ban.

Some H-E-B stores in Austin have ordered more smaller baskets since the bag ban.
Some H-E-B stores in Austin have ordered more smaller baskets since the bag ban.

H-E-B Stores Now Have Half-Size Push Baskets

Retailers and the city has already lost money from me. Sorry, but I'm an impulsive shopper. Just how I've been for years. I spend more money on impulsive buying than I do based on need. I'm quite sure there are many more people like me whose money a lot of Austin businesses and the city will be reduced a great deal. Not 100% loss in sales per person, but they can slash it by at least 50% per person. The average shopper, they'll still lose money. I've given ways of how and why it will happen; and has been happening. I see more people in their stores with the smaller baskets than I had prior to that bag ban. That should tell you something all by itself. H-E-B even got "half" sized baskets in now. Because consumer shopping has changed as a result of the bag ban in their city. Instead of H-E-B just not charging their customers, they chose to spend money on smaller baskets to adjust to their loss. Isn't that silly?

Asking Too Much of Consumers

I don't care how you want to look at it. The city and some businesses charging folks for bags will lose more money until they implement a free alternative to no plastic bags. Gas prices aren't cheap, taxes are going up, people already think they don't have enough time to do things. And now Austin's requiring consumers to add another thing to their to-do list and another expense to take care of it, and then to have to sit down and measure to ensure they have enough bags and enough space for the items they wish to buy. People just aren't going to make the time to do it. Even people who have time won't make time to do it. Why? Because that's just not how people are in general. Think about it? How many people grow their own food, sew their own clothes, etc.? How many people are DIY'ers. This bag ban will not change that about people ever. The Austin bag ban without a free alternative will do more harm than any real good for Austin and some of the businesses within that city. Guaranteed.

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    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 3 years ago from Missouri

      I no longer live in Texas, but if I did, I would drive the extra miles to the nearest non-bag-ban city to do my shopping, rather than shop in a city that had the ban. There is already too much to take care of in my life, and keeping up with bags and making sure I have enough with me just is not something I want to deal with.

      I hope the ban is overturned.

    • profile image

      Jamie 3 years ago

      I absolutely agree with your entire post. I live in Austin and I definitely buy less than I would previously. I have relatives and friends in Fort Worth, and they collect their plastic grocery bags (all that were not used on leaky food items) and they give them to me when I visit them or they visit me. I also go shop in Buda because it really isn't that far.