I just found this blog and I'm excited to start working toward less waste. So today I went on my weekly shopping trip prepared with jars for the meat and cheese counter. Well . . . the man at the cheese counter was laughing at me, anouncing to the other customers in line that "today must be jar day." The other customers were trying to hide their laughs. The men at the meat counter were so insulting and insisted on stuffing the bag in the jar with the bacon. I kept up a winning smile, but I desperately wanted to crawl under my cart. I felt so foolish.
I could really use some encouragement, has anyone else experienced this kind of treatment?
Oh my gosh, MJ. So sorry to hear about the harsh treatment you received. Don't these store employees realize you are a paying customer (and a fellow human being, for that matter)?
Before I started zero waste shopping, I had read Bea's January 2010 "Difficult Trip to Whole Foods" post. It was encouraging (oddly enough) to hear how even she had faced challenges shopping with reusable containers at what you would assume to be a very "green" and environmentally-conscious supermarket. So, when I went shopping, I first stopped by the customer service desk and asked what their policy was regarding using your own containers and bags. Armed with this information, I then felt more comfortable asking for my purchases to be placed in the jars, and if I faced any difficulties, I could refer the employee back to customer service.
I have received bewildered looks about my jars, mainly from other customers, but I try to not let it bother me. I remember how good it feels to not have a trash can brimming with bits of garbage and stuff. And slowly over time, I am noticing it is getting easier to shop this way (my supermarket even started to sell their own reusable bread bag) and I'm seeing an increasing number of approving looks for my efforts from fellow customers (lots of people ask where they can buy the reusable produce bags I use). Hope this helps. Hang in there!
They don't want to change their ways. You need to be confident about it. Tell them why you're doing it, and hope they can be accomodating to you as a customer. Then talk to your fellow customers around you...explain exactly what you're doing. I haven't tried meat/cheese yet, since I've still got plenty...but using mesh bags for produce hasn't even raised an eyebrow.
There is a new drop-off composting program at my recycling center. The only time I can be there is 4:15 on Tuesdays (15 minutes before they close) and Saturdays to avoid a whole week's worth of stinky food scraps. The guy on Tuesday always locks up the bin BEFORE 4:30 and then says, "Well all my compost people come on Mondays." I've said to him TWICE now (let's see what happens today), "The only time I can be here is between 4-4:30 on Tuesdays." I don't say it in a mean way, just matter-of-fact. Technically I have until 4:30, and he knows it. :)
You need to retrain them, don't them train you. You may also want to call and talk with your store's manager and get that manager's name. So, on your next shopping trip, you'll be able to speak with even more authority and makes you look prepared AND serious. :)
I agree, speak, without criticism, to the manager. They're employees after all, unless they *own* the business. These days managers are highly motivated to keep their customers happy.
Same would go with a recycling center. Sometimes these folks forget who pays their salary.
Memorialize any agreements with email, or a letter.
Wow, I'm sorry you had to go through that. I've never had an employee purposely try to embarrass me as happened to you; the most uncomfortable I've had is a confused employee! But the person at the deli counter at your store was extremely unprofessional. Especially the 'stuffing the bag in the jar' part - that would make me want to ask these guys how they'd feel about drinking a nice, cold glass of plastic-water from the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch ;-). But seriously, I too would recommend bringing this up with a manager - these guys are a liabilty and the manager will likely want to address their attitude before more costumers are offended.
I'm so sorry that happened to you!! I am so lucky to live in a progressive area, where environmentally conscious people are more common. I agree with what all the other posters have said. You've gotten some good advice! The only thing I would add is that as more people stand up for the environment it make it easier for others to join in. Keep it up! They will get used to it.
Also, whenever I start a conversation with anyone about my ZW efforts I usually use a little self-deprecating humor. Call myself crazy. Say that it is some weird phase that I'm going through. It helps people to let down their guard in the conversation. As we talk they slowly become aware of how serious I am about it. Most of my friends and coworkers have had a good laugh at my expense. But then the next time that I see them, they're usually telling me how they were thinking of me the other day when they were at the grocery store. About how they looked around and realized that they were surrounded by plastic. About how they bought a couple of reusable grocery bags. About how they dusted off their bread machine. The list goes on. Each step is a little improvement. When it comes down to it, changing any habit takes baby steps. Even just awareness is a big step forward. I don't mind being laughed at. They'll get it eventually. ;) Next time you're at the deli counter, call yourself the "jar lady" do a little dance, and laugh along. Or better yet just wink, leave them wondering what they're missing out on.
I'm not sure where you live, but perhaps going to an ethnic market may actually be easier. Bear with me. 1) Ethnic markets may be staffed by people who find American fussiness to be foreign and extreme (ok, maybe not the Japanese markets). 2) Not using plastic bags and paper materials helps them save money, and ethnic markets are much more cost conscious. 3) If they're insulting you, you won't be able to understand them! The downside is that it will be difficult to find the Whole Foods goods you're accustomed to (i.e. organic meat, produce, etc.), but it will most certainly be cheaper. Don't give up!
I went to the local butcher shop yesterday just to ask them about this. They sell local milk in returnable bottles, so that's where I've been buying my milk products. I asked if I could bring my own containers to take the meat away. They said yes. They said they can do anything I'd like except bring my OWN meat to be cut. I live in a former farm town (still has a lot of farm land), so it makes sense that they would say something like that...but I thought that was funny, wasn't expecting THAT as the exception. Haha.
You might consider going to a more mom-and-pop place, rather than a big box (even WF).
bought some pork sausage at my Whole Foods (obviously can't get that at the local halal butcher) and brought my own containers. The guy put the sausages in the containers, put my container in a plastic bag, and put the sticker on the plastic bag. *sigh* Next time I will be quick to tell him to put the sticker right on the container.
OMG- yes I had a very embarassing trip as well. They first gave me that "deer in the headlights" look. Once I explained they had to check with the deli and store managers. Finally- they decided they would do it, but would first have to sanitize my jar. They took my jars to the back and sanatized them. Then when they brought them out to me, told me they couldn't put the meat directly into the jar. They would present it to me and I would have to put it in myself. Of course- this then used a plastic sheet for them to weigh and then present me the meat- plus a plastic glove for me to pick the meat up. So- I'm not sure it saved any plastic- the the other customers sure got a show! My husband could have crawled under the cart. I told him he doesn't have to go with me to get meat anymore. Luckily- I found another store that has not questioned me yet- they just smile or give me a funny look ;)
It's horrible hearing about such treatment. Beginning anything different from the norm is going to present challenges and opportunities for embarrassment...but soon it will become old hat at the stores we choose to shop at...that hopefully have learned to treat us well...we'll know the persons at the counters perhaps better than any other customers.
So I went to a new store on the fly and asked at the deli counter. Here's the gist of the conversation. Hilarious!:
Me: Hi, my family is doing an experiment for my kids science fair. We are trying to see how little trash we can make for a whole month. I was wondering if you could put my lunch meat in my container instead of in a plastic bag. (Not a lie, I really am planning a science fair project)
Deli Lady: But if you do that then they will be expecting all the rest of us to do it too.
Me: Huh? This is just for me and my family. I wouldn't ask you to do anything differently. (I'm smiling the whole time)
Deli Lady: But that's what happens. Someone does a project and then your expected to do all of that too. I don't want any of that stuff in my house. (pointing to my glass container)
Me: (laughter and smiling) Well, it's for the kids' science fair and I don't think they want all of the plastic baggies in our landfills.
Deli Lady: Well, when I was growing up we didn't have all of this plastic. We used glass for everything. Even Coke. You had to return your bottles for refill. And you know what, people were happier then. Do you think people are happy now? Not at all.