Waitrose supermarket token

Started by Galapagos, August 07, 2009, 11:42:14 AM

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The supermarket Waitrose, here in the UK, now gives you a plastic token if you do use your own bag for your shopping instead of Waitrose's plastic bags. At the store exit, there are three transparent bins, each allocated to a different charity. You are free to deposit your token in any of these bins.

At the end of the month, each Waitrose store divides up one thousand pounds between the 3 charities, in direct proportion to the number of tokens they have received. Research shows that shoppers tend to deposit their token in the bin that already contains the most tokens.

I don't deposit my tokens in any bin, as I dislike being patronised. Furthermore, when I bring my own bag and refuse a plastic bag, I am saving energy, as plastic is a by-product of oil. But wait a minute - what does Waitrose then do? They give me this token, roughly 25mm in diameter and also made of plastic. What's the point of that? This token could instead be spun out to make perhaps another quarter of a bag.

From now on, I shall continue to take my own bag to Waitrose but refuse their tokens. I won't bother explaining it to the women at the checkout. What's the point?

The image below shows the "obverse" of a Waitrose token. The "reverse" is blank.


The part about those boxes or containers being transparent is a bit odd indeed. Not displaying the content before the boxes are opened at the end of the month would indeed make more sense. But as for the tokens being plastic, well, if most or all customers actually dispose of them at the exit, they can be used again and again. Probably more often than a plastic bag is used. :)

Over here we have a different method of "educating" customers. If you go to anything *except* a supermarket, you will often get one of those tiny bags, supposed to be short-lived, and those are free. In many cases the cashier will even put your purchases in the bag for you. Now at supermarkets you hardly ever get free bags, and of course nobody except you will bag your purchases. ;) Instead, you can buy plastic bags - which are actually fairly big and stable - at 10 to 15 ct each. Bring your own bag, and you won't need those ...



One of my former bosses used to say: "nothing is ever easy" It applies here as well.

First of all, those little white shopping bags used to be a real and serious problem, one of the largest in the field of pollution. They have now been banned in many countries, sometimes by legislation, sometimes by education. By bringing your own bag you contribute to part of the solution.

The token scheme is a valid commercial ploy. It shows customers that Waitrose thinks about the environment. Your point that supermarkets are there to provide a distribution service only is too narrow, I think. Shops want, need the trust of their customers. Trust begets loyalty and loyalty begets going to the same shop on automatic pilot. They like that.

The tokens are a mechanism to let customers think they're in control. People like thinking that. As the thousand pounds are divided in relation to the division of tokens, the cost of the scheme are fixed and one token more or less (yours, for instance) will not change the amount or even the division of the amount. All you have done is refusing the tiny amount of apparent control the marketeers gave you.

If you don't take your token, it will not mean that less tokens will be produced either. They have probably already been produced. The tokens can be used until doomsday. The most nefarious aspect of the white plastic bags was that they were not re-used at all.

Ironically, maybe the best you can do is keep a few tokens for trading with other collectors. That way, they'll be kept out of the garbage heap for longer. Another irony is that white plastic bag making used to be a good, profitable third world industry.

How about this alternative: the supermarket we like to go to will "sell" you carton boxes for €1. They are sturdy affairs, but when they start falling apart you get a new one for free on handing in the old one. Of course, they are clearly marked with the name of the supermarket. I keep one of those boxes in the car, another at home, so we are never without.

An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.


I'd be surprised if there are more than two collectors in the world who want a boring Waitrose token. Inevitably civilisations rise and fall, and the signs are that the human race will be feeling a lot of Malthusian stress in the 2020s and 2030s. So whatever decisions I make in my life, it's only a drop in the ocean against the torrent of consumption, waste and effluence that is engrained into our way of life. I'm as much a part of the problem as any one else. Only Mother Nature and a lack of resources will stop us in our tracks eventually. We'll overcome some of the difficulties but be engulfed by others. Nothing lasts for ever - not even species like ours.