Grocery store makes its bags more embarrassing

Vancouver's East West Market is aiming to get its customers to stop and think so they'll remember to bring reusable shopping bags.


Many of Canada’s large companies and grocery retailers have made efforts to reduce the amount of single-use plastics used in its stores, with many charging customers for bags in hopes that it will encourage them to remember to bring reusable ones from home. An independent grocery store is taking these changes a step further by not only charging customers to use a plastic bag, but making it look like they shopped at a fake business they might be embarrassed by.

At Vancouver’s East West Market – an independent grocer specializing in gourmet and locally sourced products – the plastic bags at the checkout line have been redesigned to look like bags from colon care clinics, ointment stores and “weird” adult video stores.

East West plans to carry the bags, designed by agency Rethink, for the foreseeable future. But the goal of the campaign is to not actually use them, and instead get its customers to buy a reusable bag, or remember to bring the ones they might already have at home.

While part of the campaign seems to be to embarrass people into forgoing plastic bags, the larger idea is to simply do something that will make people more aware of their bag purchase. Even though most stores now charge a small fee for plastic bags (East West charges five cents), that too has become a regular part of many customers’ shopping routine. Leia Rogers, managing partner and creative director at Rethink, says the idea is to get people out of the “cycle” of purchasing bags with a new design that will make them stop and think about it.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the government’s plans to enact rules that could ban single-use plastic products. While the exact products the ban would cover have yet to be decided, the government did single out plastic bags as a potential item in its announcement.