What the choice of paper bags says about a grocery store


There are several grocery stores within walking distance of my house, but I typically only visit two of them: a big generic chain store, and a Trader Joe’s. Among the many differences between these two stores is the type of paper bags they use. At Trader Joe’s, the bags have sturdy handles and are generally quite durable, while the generic chain uses what I assume are cheaper bags with no handles at all.

Cost considerations aside, I believe these bag choices speak volumes about the positioning of the two stores and their target customers. For instance, I imagine that the typical Trader Joe’s shopper is more likely to:

– Walk to the store, rather than drive.

– Use the handles on the bag to get their groceries home, instead of just tossing the bags into the trunk of a car.

– Reuse the bag in a meaningful way, such as storing items to recycle or food scraps to put in compost.

Accordingly, it makes sense that Trader Joe’s provides high-quality bags that are easy to carry and will likely hold up during repeat usage. On the other hand, that generic chain store can’t even be bothered to give you carrying handles, relegating the bag to a single use — or less, if it tears on the way home.

Granted, the type of paper bags that a store provides is only one detail in the context of the overall shopping experience. But like other seemingly small details, the decision to skimp on this element — e.g. deciding not to bother with carrying handles — can speak volumes about how a store perceives its customers, and in turn, the kind of customers it will attract.