Before we argue the rights and wrongs here on the plastic carrier bag tax we must remember they were free of charge before the 5p tax and the supermarkets picked up the bill, some 50 million Euros a year in Ireland. It aint cheap. A 5p charge for a carrier bag is not unreasonable and certainly a convenience. It’s not a tax on the poor as every one of all social classes who needs a carrier bag from the big retail chains have to pay for it. Smaller stores of less than 150 staff maybe exempt from the tax but still have to buy the plastic bags, no doubt even more of them next year as customers reuse those bags elsewhere, and in the home. Whether Tesco want NISA advertising in their hypermarkets is another matter.
We have already seen a few bust ups with security guards and shop staff alike in the first week of the tax were demonstrative customers/tw*ts have tried to make a point by using the steel baskets instead to take their shopping to the car and then accused of shoplifting. Customers argued that the carpark belongs to the store and so not theft. Heavies are not trained in law and soon in their faces to nip that dissent in the bud. It’s silly as you know you have to unload your car back home anyway and an item at a time would take some time. One chain is now tagging their plastic bags and baskets to stop theft. A Welsh Tesco store had 97% of their original basket stock stolen a year after the bag tax had been running over the border in the Principality. Asda ordered 60,000 extra across England in anticipation of more thefts. Carrier bags cost about 2p to make but baskets nearer a tenner. A year from now it will be interesting to see which place in England suffered the most stolen bags and baskets. I think we already know the answer to that one. Eh! calm down!
I think the worry is that traditional supermarkets are seeing profits tumbling due to welfare cuts and the new German chains coming in and so looking to claw back some money from the new tax. They are under NO Obligation to pass on the 5p per bag tax to charities. I was quite surprised that was the case when I checked. The government is predicting around £50 million over the next ten years from the bag tax going to charity although the supermarkets, not the government, choose the charities. I’m sure they will be tempted to use this new money to pay for their existing charity schemes. In fact I expect some to decrease charity spend and trouser a lot of the cash. They will do that because they feel the tax is supposed to be about the reduction of plastic bag use in our environment and not so much about charity fund raising so that guilt complex one for the customers to weigh up.
Where the tax has been introduced in the United Kingdom & Ireland it has seen a 70% decrease in the use of bags. The supermarkets may try to give them away free by various loopholes to win customers but the tax it is working. Paper bags are not taxed. You wont be surprised to hear that Marks & Spencer’s customers are the least likely to give up the logo when the tax hit Scotland, plastic bag use down just 50% in their stores compared to Jock ASDA’s 90%.
The ban has been in place for 13-years in Ireland but the first causality was one of the four local plastic bag manufactures, which went under soon after, putting 26 people on the dole. But in that period the income from the bag tax has doubled as the Irish government put it up from 0.15 Euros per bag to 0.22. They did see more imports of bags though to cut costs and so an environmental cost there. Economies of scale have seen the cost of plastic bags rise 8 fold in EIRE. Retailers did see an increase in sales of bin liners and nappy bags; Irish chain SuperQuinn some 84% more disposable nappy bags. People now have less used bags to do those waste disposal jobs at home, of course.
There are exemptions, of course, where you can have a free bag, including ‘goldfish’. If you stick non exempt items in with these items you will be charged.
• Uncooked fish;
• Uncooked meat and poultry;
• Loose seeds and flowers;
• Unwrapped blades, including axes, knives, and knife and razor blades;
• Prescription medicine;
The Government rules also list a series of bags which should not incur a 5p charge, including:
1 -'Woven' plastic bags;
2 -Re-usable 'bags for life';
3 -Those used by dry cleaning or shoe repair shops;
It is amazing how a small charge of 5p per bag has been so effective though Wales seeing 96% less bags in circulation one year on. Is it customers simply refusing to pay for a plastic bag they were so used to getting free and so feeling affronted or is it genuine concern for the environment? We have all seen the images of sea birds and creatures wrapped in this stuff and beautiful Bikini Atolls in the middle of nowhere having a daily tide mark of plastic crap and all manner of junk. When fines were introduced for dog fouling it was the actual disposable bins provided that saw the dramatic reduction in dog poo on the ground. Its not pleasant picking up after your mutt but people realized it’s not pleasant stepping in it and so for the best. As long as the supermarkets are not seen to be cashing in from the plastic bag tax and hand over the charity cash I think this will be seen as one of the most brilliantly simple and worthwhile taxes we have ever seen. It didn’t know governments were capable of that.
Other than IKEA, generally big-name household shops can be expensive, and the best place to buy such products are budget places like Wilkinsons, local small-town discount shops like Quality Save, and of course the pound shop.
Quality Save sells a mix of things from toys and games to food to househols products. You do have to look and shop around to get the best bargains. My best bargain from there is probably a clothes airer I bought. The exact same one is selling in Tesco and online for about £30-£40, whereas mine cost £7.99. It's also good quality and holds a lot of clothes - bonus!
Wilkinsons is also good for a range of things, especially things like toothpaste and snacks. They also do a good range of cookware but I think Asda's range may be cheaper. I did pick up a mini wok for £2 though. I also bought some paint for my bathroom at less than £5 - Wilkos' own brand, but it's holding up well. I also get my legendary magic erasers from here, no home should be without them!
IKEA is good to add the finishing touches to a room as it has a nice selection of lamps at good prices (under £10), that are reasonably hardwearing. Asda sells lamps around this price but they are uglier and of poorer quality. I also bought my sideboard and cabinet here - they do a lovely range of cheap furniture which is fairly good. It was also my lifesaver in finding a dining room table for under £100, rather than the £300-400 of most furniture shops.
Next - the home section is usually ok in its normal sized stores, but the bigger stores e.g. in Manchester usually have a great range and are like a home shop in themselves. For discounted prices try a clearance or outlet store (same with John Lewis, which is obviously very good for quality but not for prices!)
Argos can be cheap for some home stuff but not others, and it's annoying buying things when you can't see them first - especially heavy things which have to be sent back.
I have recently purchased items from both Argos & Index & wished to return both of them. I purchased a mobile phone from Argos but had problems getting it activated. After numerous attempts over the weekend I eventually got it activated but by this time was unhappy with the telephone. I returned it to Argos, within their 16 day returns period, but they would not accept it as a return even though I explained that I had problems with it. The member of staff was unhelpful so I asked to speak to the Manger. He simply told me that I should have brought the phone to them and they would have tried to activate it for me and that was all the help they were prepared to offer me. Exit one dissatisifed customer! On the other hand I had purchased a 4 man tent from Index. I erected the tent in the garden to check the size and the ease of erection and I was unhappy with the size of it. I returned the tent to Index, within their very generous 28 day period, and had no problems whatsoever. The member of staff did not even check if it had been used. She simply asked what the problem was - I told her that it was too small. She promply placed a return sticker on it, placed it behind the counter and gave me my refund. Exit one very satisfied customer who gives Index top marks for their returns service.
Not usually one for stopping for a toilet break whilst buying paint or garden shears, but my 2 yr old daughter is!! I found that HomeBase had fantastic toilet facilities including a baby changing mat in my local store. I asked one of the staff members if there was a public convenience on site, fully expecting a sort of grunting sound that resembled "sorry luv", instead my attention was engaged by the member of staff telling me not only where the toilets were, but also pointing out that I could get a trolley in the middle cubicle which was designed for wider loads, buggies, wheelchairs etc. I was able to wheel a trolley load of goods, including 1 yr old in the trolley seat and a handful of coats and hats, although I had to removed the curtain pole to clear the width of the doorway. In I walked with trolley and 2 year old by my side, only to see clean facilities WITH nice soft toilet paper. (none of this tracing paper variety that repels liquids or almost anything for that matter) We sorted ourselves out and then vacated the toilet section, heading for the tills. In contrast, I have to say that B&Q do not have customer toilets and when I happened to need a toilet for my daughter with a solid load pending, I was taken to the staff toilets that appeared to be underneath the building, after having been led through two security doors, a rabbit warren of corridoors and funny shaped rooms with silver foil tubes in the ceiling, one smoking room, canteen and into the toilet (singular)..yes, there was only one toilet and we were chaperoned the whole time. Need I say more. Quite a contrast in services - I know these stores aren't meant to be set up to cater for people wanting toilet breaks as most people tend to head for the item they need, spend a few minutes working out their requirements, pay and leave. What about pregnant ladies or children? Some customers like to browse, plan and match up items and may therefore need to spe
nd time in the shop that exceeds 30 miniutes. Whether it's a pot of beige grout or a gnome, when it comes to toilet breaks - HomeBase wins hands down!!