Thursday, 8 October 2015

Bag for Life Top Trumps revisited

Now that England has joined other parts of the UK in charging 5p for a 'single use'* shopping bag, I thought it was worth revisiting a middle class game I brought up a while ago, especially as I have since discovered an additional, powerful card to add to the pack.

As someone with green aspirations (come on, I did write Ecologic), I'm all in favour of supermarket 'bag for life' offerings, which mean you reuse your bags rather than throw them away. However, I think it is boring, and quite possibly in bad taste, to use a bag in the shop from which it was obtained.

Instead, to keep the shopping experience amusing, the good middle class shopper should play a game of Bag-for-life Top Trumps®. The idea is simple. Always use a bag with snob value at the supermarket in which you are shopping. So:
  • In Aldi/Lidl use at least an Asda bag**
  • In Asda use at least a Tesco bag
  • In Tesco use at least a Sainsbury's bag
  • In Sainsbury's use at least a Marks and Spencer bag
  • In Marks and Spencer use at least a Waitrose bag
  • In Waitrose use at least a Booths bag
In my previous list, Waitrose was top of the food chain (geddit?), but I have since discovered the North West-only chain Booths, which makes Waitrose look common.

But there is still the final problem. What to do in that doyen of supermarkets? Not a problem at all, because there is one bag that trumps them all - a French supermarket bag. In fact it's best to stick to one of these at any store, then you don't have to worry about whether you are properly attired. You can turn up in your pyjamas, a deer stalker and a tutu and still feel superior.

* I'm always a bit wary of the term 'single use'. There's no doubt that this kind of usage tax does significantly reduce the number of 'single use' bags issued by supermarkets, which sounds very green. However, there was some evidence from Ireland, when this approach was introduced there, that the consumption of the plastic film going into plastic bags went up, not down. This is because many people actually re-use 'single use' bags for other purposes, e.g. bin bags, food bags etc. As they then had to buy 'real' bin bags etc., which typically use significantly more plastic than the equivalent 'single use' bag, the impact seemed to be to actually increase the plastic (by weight) going into waste.

** Having said that, there's a bit of inverse snobbery that means that bags from really cheap places have a slight cachet that lets them play up a level or two. But they still don't work at Marks and Spencers and above.


  1. I claim the rights to a new game called "Supermarket Cricket"; played in the car park of any supermarket. First park your car near to the exit. Count the first eleven people passing by and score runs for the number and type of bags that pass by. Your opponent does the same and the loser gets to pay the bill when you both finally get to complete your shopping.
    Runs are scored as follows; each bag carried counts for one run, trolleys are dot balls (ie no run) ; Waitrose canvas bags and Sainsbury hard plastic carriers count for 4 runs each as well as any other hard permanent bag from any supermarket. A six is available for named foreign supermarkets (eg Carrefour, Leclerc, etc). This is the test Match version of course; a shorter (limited overs) match can be played by alternating the score of each passer-by. (This is the Waitrose-Lewis method of scoring when your partner is getting bored, exhausted, fed up etc. )
    My experience of playing ths type of game when I was at school is that you could regularly expect to be knocked out by a flying board rubber or a misplaced piece of chalk; in keeping with today's softer life supermarket cricket is surprisingly free from these risks.
    A solitaire version can be played for amusement whilst armed with a coffee.
    I imagine that different supermarket car parks would produce different scores but I have no evidence for that yet - maybe others would like to compile some averages?

    1. It makes as much sense as any other sport...