Borders Forces Customer To Take Plastic Bag, Claims It Is "Proof Of Purchase"

A Borders cashier wouldn’t give Allison her copy of Harry Potter without a plastic bag. A mindful environmentalist, Allison refused, even after the cashier stated that the bag would serve as Allison’s proof of purchase. When Allison pointed out the absurdity of using a bag as proof of purchase when she had a receipt, the cashier:

…rolled her eyes and said that if I didn’t want the bag, I could throw it away as soon as I left the store. I exclaimed that that was certainly the least environmentally friendly thing anyone could do, and she just pushed my book, a bag, a poster and my receipt at me and said, “Next.”

Allison’s letter to Borders, and their response, after the jump.

Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2007 23:44:03 -0700 (PDT)
From: Allison
Subject: Disappointed in Service at Borders

I am a longtime Borders customer with a Borders Rewards card who is reconsidering her book-shopping values after an incident this evening. I’m hoping that you can help me understand what happened.

Like millions of people, I pre-ordered “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” earlier this year and planned to pick it up at the Creve Coeur, Mo., location at midnight Saturday, July 21. I obtained a line ticket July 20 and found the activities and atmosphere pleasurable. I was impressed by the staff’s energy and ability to keep everyone happy. That is, until I made it to the cashier’s bar.

As soon as I approached, the cashier began to pull out a plastic Borders shopping bag. I explained that I didn’t need a bag, as I was only purchasing one book. She gave me an odd look and curtly said that everyone needed to have a bag. I responded that that was not environmentally friendly, especially in light of Scholastic boasting 65% certified ancient forest-friendly pulp pages in the American version of the book (Raincoast Books in Canada, however, used 100% recycled paper). The cashier again looked at me askew and said that it was policy and proof of purchase. I said that my receipt should be proof of purchase, especially since the one book I was buying was being held behind the counter and not available elsewhere in the store. She rolled her eyes and said that if I didn’t want the bag, I could throw it away as soon as I left the store. I exclaimed that that was certainly the least environmentally friendly thing anyone could do, and she just pushed my book, a bag, a poster and my receipt at me and said, “Next.”

I find it doubtful that Borders, Inc., had set a policy stating that each person MUST take a plastic bag with them when purchasing books, especially since I had purchased books previously (including during previous “Harry Potter” release events) without taking a bag. I also find it disturbing that this cashier brushed off my concerns with eye rolls and a short tone. I understand that the store was packed, but I was not trying to hold up the line — I simply wanted to buy the book without a plastic bag. There was no one at the door checking for bags or receipts, and most of the customers I saw only had one copy with no use for a bag.

In an age when people are finally beginning to understand the global consequences of their actions, corporations are taking measures to behave in the most environmentally way possible, and consumers are taking small but firm steps to lighten their environmental impact, I find this cashier’s reaction to my baglass request and her brusque attitude in general appalling. I certainly hope that her attitude is not indicative of Borders as a whole, but I would appreciate clarification from your front office within one week. Specifically, I would like to know if taking a useless plastic bag for one item was “policy,” and if it was, why? Why have a policy like that when potentially 12 million American readers may only purchase one book, which would mean potentially 12 million useless plastic bags littering the country?

I also will be sending my concerns to and, two massively popular websites that review the behavior of corporations.

For the record, my receipt shows the following information:
Store: 0113; Reg: 05/03; Tran#: 2201; Sale 07/21/2007; Emp: 00158; 07/21/2007 00:42 AM

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from your corporate office within one week.


Allison received an email from Borders over the weekend:

Date: Sat, 21 Jul 2007 09:16:53 -0500 (CDT)
Dear Allison,

Thank you for contacting Borders Customer Care and making us aware of your concern. I would like to apologize for your experience at our Creve Coeur store.

I am forwarding your comments to the General Manager for the store and the District Manager for the area. I am sure the GM and DM for this store will be grateful to receive your feedback so that they can rectify the situation.

Again, thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention. If there is anything else we can do for you, please let us know.

Borders Customer Care

The store manager did get in touch with Allison:

This weekend, the store manager (I think his name was Brian), called me. He was super-nice and very apologetic, though I still don’t feel completely satisfied. He said that he appreciated my positive comments on the staff and activities of Harry Potter night and agreed that most everything went well. He said that one of his cashiers approached him before going home, saying that she had a customer who didn’t want a bag, and she (the cashier) didn’t handle it very well. After hearing that and then receiving my email from customer service, he realized that both referenced the same incident. He apologized for his employee’s behavior and said that while corporate had handed down a general mandate that all books be in bags (to speed things along and deter stealing), employees are always free to serve the customer as they see fit. This employee, he said, tried to stay a little too true to the policy and ended up offending me, the customer.

Obviously, I was miffed at being forced to take a bag when I clearly stated that I didn’t want one and would be happy to show my receipt as I went out the door that was ten feet away (though no one was stationed there checking bags or receipts). That wasn’t my biggest problem, though. I was more concerned with what was apparently a policy from corporate that all purchases be put into bags, even when customers were only buying one item. He said that on normal (non-Potter) days, employees ask customers if they need a bag (I’ve had this happen) and most customers decline if they only have an item or two. Because of Pottermania, however, the company decided that automatically putting the books into bags would easily show employees that people had purchased the book. I’m still aghast that Borders didn’t take into consideration what an extra 12 million plastic bags could do to the environment and that they thought they needed them in the first place, since, again, no one was checking receipts/bags, and all Potter books were well behind the counter of approximately eight cashiers. I related all of this to the manager, and while he was sympathetic, he couldn’t shed any more light on the subject.

It all just seems careless on Borders’ part, though I’m sure they’re not the only bookstore to do this. I think it’s a bit hypocritical to put canvas bags with the Borders logo up for sale in an effort to reduce plastic bag use among customers (and show off the Borders brand) and still automatically hand out plastic bags for one of the biggest bookselling events in history. This could have been a great opportunity for Borders to lead the bagless way, and it was squandered.

We understand Borders’ desire to keep order on one of the busiest days of the year, but that doesn’t excuse ignoring the wishes of an individual customer wanting to do her part to clean up our environment.

What do you think? Was Borders’ response sufficient? Tell us in the comments.

(Photo: s2art)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Musician78 says:

    I go to Borders all the time and have never had any issues with their customer service. Weird.

  2. tvh2k says:

    If she cared about the environment she would have purchased an eBook!

  3. Namilia says:

    I think the whole thing is petty. She’s taking environmentalism too far for blowing this so out of proportion, and the cashier was bogus for her responses as well. A plastic bag isn’t the end of the world.

  4. Toof_75_75 says:

    I would say their response was enough. They addressed the customer service issue at hand and this girl even got a call from the manager of the store. Her complaint that they gave out bags to everyone, was not really as highlighted in her letter as she seemed to want to make it. If I were Borders, I would be thinking I pretty well addressed the issue. Perhaps she was hoping Borders would send Al Gore a nice fat check to “off-set” their plastic bag use…

  5. SaveMeJeebus says:

    Just buy a carbon offset and everything will be ok.

  6. ryan_h says:

    What more does she want????? Obviously the lady dealing with her was the problem, by being way too rigid on the policy. Sometimes people have bad days. When I bought a Zune at Target a few days ago, the guy in electronics wouldnt let me buy my other 5 items at his terminal because they were getting “busy”. I realize that was a case of one working slacking. I didnt shoot off an email to Target corperate blasting the experience, I went home and enjoyed my day.

  7. tvh2k says:

    Oh and yes, borders was smart in using bags as theft-deterance device although perhaps they could have used paper bags as barnes and nobles sometimes does. With a rush of that many people and (probably) a desire by most of them to not have a “PAID” sticker affixed to their brand new book, the bags were the most efficient way to handle things.

    Besides, I know I always reuse bags that I receive either garbage can linings, lunchs or even just consilidating receipts on my desk until I have a chance to sort and reconcile them with my monthly statements.

  8. LowerHouseMember says:

    People will complain about anything these days huh.

    Her taking the bag and recycling it herself would be more environmentally friendly than giving it to the next person in line who would probably just trash it.

  9. etinterrapax says:

    It pains me to say it, but I think that they each did all that they could do. The manager could have kept things simpler, but he engaged in the conversation even though it wasn’t going to change anything that happened. And it doesn’t seem from what was posted that the customer–who I think was right, incidentally, not to take a bag–was asking for any particular remedy in exchange for her continued business with Borders. Bottom line, it was a poorly-considered special policy that was then poorly executed by someone who, to be fair, is probably told on a regular basis that/paid as if she’s not paid to think.

    That said, perhaps Allison could take this higher in the company not to plead her own case, but to lobby for a more environmentally-friendly policy company-wide. Bags are seriously overused at bookstores. I always refuse one. I’m sure theft is an issue, but that’s why receipts were invented.

  10. FrenchBenj says:

    Jeez, it’s just a plastic bag, chill…

  11. If someone was going to steal books they could just disable any alarm tags and put them into an old Borders bag and walk out with them.

    Besides, no book store has a policy of stopping shoplifters. Book stores have no security for shoplifting.

  12. rjhiggins says:

    What more does she want? Sounds to me like Borders handled it just fine.

  13. Rev-E says:

    I work at a Borders from time to time filling in when they need a shift covered. While I wasn’t working for the big midnight release I was there for 8 hours on the 21st and I never heard a word about any bag policy. Even if it had been some sort of official corporate policy (only working occasionally I do miss big announcements from time to time)it doesn’t excuse the way she was treated.

  14. Cowboys_fan says:

    Why not just take the book out of the bag, and leave the bag on the counter as you leave? I don’t think they should force you to take a bag but it sounds like an employee having a bad day. If you reduce your waste by reusing that bag(cleaning cat litter, recycling, etc), then no crime has been committed at all.

  15. beyond says:

    So take the book out, pocket your receipt, and leave the bag on the counter when you walk away! Let the cashier deal with the bag.

  16. davidaegger says:

    What does this chick want? A million dollar check cut to save the plastic bags of the world? It was a crazy night, she was screwing up the flow of things by refusing to take the bag. To go crazy like that and make a manager call you over a plastic bag is just asinine. I’m going to go not recycle a bunch of stuff just to spite this nutjob :-)

  17. urban_ninjya says:

    I think this is a lack of corporate communication. When you hand down policies without real understanding of what’s behind them, something simple can escalate.

    From the story the cashier seemed like she cared but confused since she did talk to her manager about the incident. I think if she knew the motivations, she could have told the customer the reasoning in a civilized fashion and offer her alternatives.

  18. overbysara says:

    I bought my HP book at Borders without a bag. What a bitch cashier.

  19. huginn says:

    I think you are all missing the point.

    The point is she was forced a bag on her. A bag she didn’t want clearly.

    Hell it saves borders money, uses less bags and everyone’s happy.

    I figure a paper conscious company like boarders would be more active in these issues.

  20. Red_Eye says:

    @tvh2k: If Harry was available legally in ebook format she just may have, however the author has been against ebooks from the giddyup. At least thats what I have read.

  21. jwarner132 says:

    Why didn’t she just take the plastic bag and avoid the whole confrontation? If she’s such a hippy, she should know how and where to recycle it!

  22. bluegus32 says:

    My opinion:

    The cashier screwed up.

    The customer got pissed.

    The cashier, the store, and the corporation acknowledged the screwup and formally apologized.

    Good resolution. Matter over.

  23. acambras says:

    I bet part of the reason they wanted customers to use bags is to get the Borders brand out there.

    I’m glad Allison reported the incident. Not only was the cashier’s insistence upon a bag illogical (the receipt is sufficient proof of purchase), but she also pulled the bitchy eye-roll move on the customer. That’s just bad service.

    I’m also glad she was able to reference the receipt (complete with date, time, and employee number), so that Borders could trace the problem right back to the cashier in question. Not necessarily so she can be punished, but so that the whole bag policy (if there is one) can be clarified.

  24. DigitalMariner says:

    Disclaimer: I work at a Barnes & Noble)

    On Harry Potter night almost everyone I encountered was so eager to get a book in their hands, that I didn’t even bother to offer a bag unless the person was purchasing more than 2 copies. And I assume that, like B&N’s, the borders bags are recyclable.

    Why not just say “thank you”, remove the book from the bag and walk away sans bag. People do this to me all the time on calm days (and if they’d just ask for no bag, I wouldn’t have given them one).

    As for their policy, I assume it’s a marketing thing. That is the #1 reason stores have bags (making things easier for customers to transport is a distant second). They want their name plastered everywhere, particularly at a major event like HP. If anyone was there taking video or stills of the event, they want their name branded in that image where ever it ends up.

    If it bugs you that much, bring your own bag or save the bags you get from all stores and recycle them once a month. It’s going to take a big corporate shift in thinking in retail in general to reduce the amount of bags floating out there. And this is hardly one of the worst retail offenders out there…

  25. Ryuuie says:

    I agree with those who said she could’ve easily just recycled the bag.

    I’m all for trees and environmentalism but just reuse the bag.

    It’s still good she reported the annoying cashier, but…the bag? Seriously.

  26. liquisoft says:

    That’s interesting. I don’t normally purchase books from Borders since there isn’t one very close to me. However, I recently purchased a CD from one and they asked “do you want a bag?” I replied “no thanks” and left. No hassles, no problems. I think, perhaps, my experience was due to the careless attitude of the cashier. She didn’t seem to care whether people shopped there or not, let alone put their purchases in a bag.

    Barnes & Noble has always asked if I want a bag for things. I’m not sure if it’s their policy or what, but they have always been considerate in asking.

  27. North of 49 says:

    I always thought a receipt was proof of purchase and the bag was convenience. Guess I was wrong.

  28. Coder4Life says:

    I think she was just looking for a reason to put a story on the consumerist.

    Seriously, it’s a busy night for these people, its a FRIDAY night. Give them a break.

    And for the love of god, just take the damn bag. it’s because of stupid complaints like this that she probably had to pay such a high profit margin for the book.

    Also I can just imagine it right now, she probably got out of that store and got in her new LEXUS or TAHOE SUV or some crap and drove off with her being the single person in the car.

    I hope you were driving PRIUS if you are so worried…

  29. Murph1908 says:

    This has to be one of the most well-written complaint letters I have read on this site. It was clear, concise, grammatically correct, and had a good tone.

    Many of you are missing the point. This isn’t about one bag. It is about 1 bag multiplied by millions of customers.

    Seriously, I don’t understand why some of you even come to read this site. This site is about consumers banding together and fighting back.

    I agree with Allison. The ‘resolution’ is weak. Nothing is going to be done about their policy of trying to force a bag onto every customer. And I also seriously doubt the agent really came to his supervisor and admitted to handling a situation poorly.

    I recently commented on the Spirit airlines post about bogus ‘opt in’ charges. I said if more of us would not complete the transaction, and send an email telling them why, we could stop this practice.

    Allison stated her objection to a nonsensical policy of waste, and let us know about it. Many of you you missed the point completely. If more of us refused the bag, we could make a difference.

  30. Blueskylaw says:

    I thought a receipt was proof of purchase? Why have a policy of pushing stuff that costs the company money when the customer does not want it.
    Is that you Al?

  31. ShanW says:

    @tvh2k: Harry Potter isn’t available online… so I suppose she was being as green-friendly as possible not wanting a plastic bag.

  32. winnabago says:

    Give out bags (Borders) and people get pissed, don’t give out bags anymore (IKEA) and people get pissed. What is a megacorporation to do these days?

  33. Cowboys_fan says:

    I’d love to see this in court.
    Judge: “How do you plead to this charge of theft?”
    Defendant: “Not Guilty”
    Judge: “Do you have the receipt?”
    Defendant “Well no, but I do have the bag!”

  34. bigvicproton says:

    there’s a war on you know…but yeah your plastic bag problem is tough too….

  35. KIRZEN2007 says:

    People need to really pull their heads out of their asses sometimes, they get insulted over the absolute stupidest things imaginable.

    1 > Take the book (with the bag)

    2 > Take the book ‘out’ of the bag

    3 > Place the bag on the counter right infront of the cashier, smile… walk away.

    Suddenly you get the piece of mind knowing the bag never left the store, and regardless of the fact that the cashier was blindly spouting a silly corporate policy, you’ve turned the tables, shown her that you’ll not put up with such silly tripe, and walked out with a smug little smile and a copy of the book under your arm.

    Its it so hard to take appropriate action without feeling affronted?

  36. bigvicproton says:

    ther’s a war on you know…but yeah, this plastic bag thing is tough too…

  37. danieldavis says:


    There is no ebook for Deathly Hallows.

  38. chili_dog says:

    I know the environmentalists take their recycling to religious levels, this girl is obviously in that crowd. But come on, how is this petty spat over what is really a non-issue even remotely about consumerism? Besides, if this shopper was really this concerned about the bag she would have brought her own.

  39. DashTheHand says:

    One bag to rule them all…

  40. e-gadgetjunkie says:

    She’s over-reacting. Take the stupid bag, then take it down the street to Schuncks (the local grocery store chain), of which there is one right down the street from that Borders, and shove the bag in their plastic bag recycling bin.

  41. jwissick says:

    Pray to the Al Gore for forgiveness. All will be well.

  42. millcitymodern says:

    Sounds like Borders was trying to control theft and provide uniform service on a night that could have gotten a little crazy what with all the Potter-mania and all. I have never had an issue at Borders or B&N taking my purchase without a bag. In fact, when I buy just a couple magazines they usually ask me if I want a bag, and I say no and throw them into my purse. While I understand the OP was miffed at being forced to take a bag, surely as a “longtime Borders customer” she has made many purchases that were not bagged and realized this was a special situation. Also, kudos to the cashier who acknowledged she probably could have handled it better and telling her manager about it BEFORE the complaint came in.

  43. gorckat says:

    What needs to happen is a midnight (9pm PST) strike de-bagging all Borders nationwide.

  44. Toof_75_75 says:


    Actually, I’d say you are missing the point here. The manager said that the cashier had misunderstood the policy. The policy was to just put the book in a bag in the name of expediency and ease of loss prevention. The correct thing for the cashier to have done, according to the manager, was if this girl didn’t want a bag…ok, no big deal. The cashier just took the policy too far. The cashier messed up, was corrected, end of story. And Al Gore thanks you for your support of his lifestyle.

  45. TechnoDestructo says:


    what, and use electricity every time she wanted to read it?

  46. leftistcoast says:

    I think those of you that are criticizing her for not simply ‘taking the bag and recycling it’ are missing the point. Recycling the bag, yes, is important. And yes, if she left the bag, they’d likely give it to the next customer who will very likely simply trash it. Taking or leaving that particular bag won’t take it out of the waste-stream. However, by not taking the bag, she’s reducing (in a very very small way) the demand for future bags to be produced. That’s her point, her ultimate goal and (I think) the jist of the entire piece.

    Additionally, I think most people would agree that the ‘shoplifting prevention’ value of such a policy is ridiculously low. This is a book store, not Costco. No one is manning the door, checking receipts and, without such security, it doesn’t matter one whit whether you have a bag or not. Another argument might be that the bags have some sort of advertisement value. But that would only hold true in busy urban centers or *shudder* a mall. There again, though, I think whatever sort of value may be gained might also be lost by seeing the empty bags strewn all over the streets (Come to Boston and you’ll see what I mean).

    Finally, I think what she did is commendable. If more people took such initiative, rather than simply stewing in complacency, I think you’d see a real shift in many corporate and government policies.

  47. It’s a good resolution for the individual incident but it doesn’t address the corporate policy of wasting plastic bags.

    @DigitalMariner: Bringing your own bag wouldn’t have worked in this situation. The cashier was insisting that everyone get one of their bags to prove you bought the book. Carrying a book out in your canvas bag doesn’t prove you went to the counter.

    They probably did this to avoid having to stop everyone at the door figuring it’d be easy to spot people walking out without the bag. I don’t see how you would get the book if they were all behind the counter but that’s the only thing that makes sense to me.

  48. rekoil says:

    @tvh2k: So tell me – what uses more resources – the materials to manufacture a book, or the power required to keep a laptop computer running while you’re reading an e-book?

  49. Slytherin says:

    @Namilia: I agree. Sweetheart, just take the damn bag and shut up!

  50. consumer_999 says:

    I’m all for a cause, especially consumer causes, and regularly turn down bags when buying a single item, but I can’t imagine the delicate porcelain world this person lives in is doing their health much good. To get so bent out of shape as to write pages and pages of text about it is just taking too much onto the shoulders. Pay for the book, remove it and the receipt from the bag, set the bag down on the counter, and walk away, chalking the cashier up as a jerk. I doubt you’ll get arrested for such radical action.

  51. mjgrady says:

    I worked at Borders a couple of years ago while I was still in school, and never once observed any behavior like this from our cashiers. Pretty much universally, they would ask the customer “Would you like a bag?”, and if the answer was “No”, that was that. If there is some sort of policy about this, it certainly was never made known to us or enforced.

    I have also been a fairly regular customer there since leaving, and this behavior hasn’t changed. I buy a book every few weeks, and have never had a bag forced on me. I just give a simple “No thanks” and walk out with my book and the receipt, no problems or questions asked.

    This sounds like a problem with either this specific cashier or store to me, and not Borders as a whole.

  52. Dr.Ph0bius says:

    Not to totally nitpick, but the story is quite melodramatic. The line…

    “I’m still aghast that Borders didn’t take into consideration what an extra 12 million plastic bags could do to the environment”

    …is a clear example of that. While the book sold 12 million copies, Borders didnt sell all 12 million copies themselves… I appreciate the sentiment behind it, but exaggeration only cheapens the action taken.

    This sort of overreaction is what causes the general public to view anyone with an environmental conscience as a whack-o.

    Too many of us take an “in your face” attitude when a smile and friendly tone could actually win over converts. Saying something like “I’d rather not have my bag become land fill waste” or something to that effect would seem better than the author who states she “exclaimed that that was certainly the least environmentally friendly thing anyone could do.”

    A smile and kind word may result in the person considering their own environmental impact, even if only in a small way. I would say this cashier came away from this telling coworkers and friends about that “crazy tree hugging bitch” than anything else (figure of speech only, no offense to the author intended!).

    If we truly want to make a change, we have to do so by making environmentalism something friendly and accessible, not something radical and angry. Countless movements before this learned that the hard way.

  53. ptkdude says:

    This is just more proof to me that Border’s doesn’t give a damn about their customers. I cancelled my Borders Rewards account after I started receiving spam at the address I set up for them (and ONLY for them). When I called, the rep didn’t really care that I was cancelling, and even hung up on me when I told her why!

  54. leftistcoast says:

    @rekoil: Good question. I think it would really depend on the ‘service life’, as it were. Even the most carefully treated modern tomes probably would only be useful for something around 100 years (lots of factors, of course: type of binding, climate, number of reads, etc). That said, all the energy used to produce the book are used up front.

    An ebook, on the other hand, uses much much less energy to create than a paper book, no doubt. However, it consumes electricity every time it is accessed on your hard drive, loaded in your ram or otherwise ‘used’. This leads to an interesting situation since an ebook continues to use resources for the duration of its service life which could potentially be indefinitely. This means there is the possibility that an ebook could ultimately consuming more resources than a hardcopy.

    Of course, I’m strictly talking energy consumption here, not other resources (i.e. – trees for paper). And I’m not taking into consideration the source of that energy (conventional v. renewable).

  55. Black Bellamy says:

    Sometimes it’s better to be a little more aggressive and a little less passive in these kind of situations.

    You have the book in your hand. You are holding the receipt. It doesn’t matter if you’re in their store or what their bagging policy is – the book is yours.

    At this point you say something like “Listen clearly you dumb fuck, I don’t want your shit bag!” and you walk away. That’s that. No need for letters.

  56. GreenGranny says:

    Kudos to the consumer who recognizes that plastic shopping bags are a major threat to the environment and is willing to take a vocal stand about it. Plastic doesn’t go away, folks. It doesn’t degrade. It breaks *apart* but it doesn’t break down. Every piece of plastic that has ever been made is still here. The oldest bits, which have gotten brittle enough to turn into nearly microscopic pieces, are now entering the food chain and poisoning our oceans and our food. It isn’t a small issue. It’s a huge one. Three cheers to any consumer with the moral courage to stand at the front of a line of customers and refuse to be bullied into contributing to the problem!

  57. esea says:

    As a Borders employee who worked the night of Deathly Hallows’ release I am shocked at that cashier’s response to the refusal of a bag. Personally, I hate using plastic bags too and always ASK if the customer even wants it- most people that night refused bags, since they were going to start reading as soon as they walked out. Ridiculous.

  58. LatherRinseRepeat says:

    Sheesh. Where’s the “move-on” and “get-over-it” tag?

    The issue here is that when you have a big crowd in the store, it’s harder for the employees to keep track of thieves. If you see customers walk out the store with a plastic bag, it’s more likely they had purchased the book. If you see customers walking out with just a book without the bag, it raises some uncertainty on whether or not they had paid for it, or just grabbed one off the shelf and proceeded towards the exit.

    I think Borders could have planned the event better, so that it would be easier for them to reduce theft and not require plastic bags as proof of purchase. Allison got her apology, so I’m not sure what else she wants. Maybe some Humble Pie?

  59. Echodork says:

    Seriously, if this is going to cause you to “reconsider” your “book-shopping values,” then I think you take yourself a little too seriously. Remove your book from the bag, place the bag on the counter, and exit the store.

    Clearly, this isn’t a Borders policy issue, it’s the action of one tired clerk having to work a midnight shift to satisfy a line of customers. Does this need to be news?

  60. Shadowman615 says:

    Christ. Just leave the stinkin’ bag on the counter and walk out with the book and receipt. I understand that clerks shouldn’t be rude to customers, and that might be worth mentioning to the manager if you felt slighted, but it’s certainly not worth a 621-word letter.

    There are much worse things to get worked up about.

  61. leftistcoast says:

    @Shadowman615: So, wait, writing a “621-word letter” isn’t worth the effort but counting the words and flaming about it on The Consumerist is? Very telling. :)

  62. Kimba says:

    You all are missing the biggest point of all…..

    Support your local, independant bookstore.

  63. Dickdogfood says:

    Although it’s very rare, I’ve seen the bag-as-proof-of-purchase idea at other places, too. I’ve asked for my money back and walked away without when told I had to accept a bag.

    There’s a health food store in New York City (ain’t sayin’ which one) where I’ve been told several times that if I want to take a tray of buffet food upstairs to the eating area, I need to have a plastic bag with me to prove I bought the food. Rather than, you know, something UNIQUE and SPECIFIC to my purchase…something like a receipt.

    Now if the bag’s going to be treated as a proof of purchase, theoretically I could just go back into the store on another day with my plastic bag, take my buffet food upstairs without being seen by the cashiers, and eat without paying for it — and if challenged, show the bag — a state of affairs I highly doubt the store wants to encourage. (I stopped going there when I found a piece of raw chicken in my salad. ANYWAY…)

    My anti-bag philosophy isn’t entirely rooted in high-minded environmental concern, global warming, carbon footprints, etc. It’s something more gut-level: it just seems really stupid to be forced to accept something that I’m just going to throw away in less than a minute anyway.

  64. Shadowman615 says:

    @leftistcoast: Well, hey, I..uh…

    You got me.

  65. beyond says:

    In the girl’s defense, while I wouldn’t have been worried about one unrecycled bag, if a cashier had thrown a fit about me taking the bag I probably would have kept rejecting it just to see how far she would take it. Would she chase me out of the store with the bag and tackle me at the exit and stuff it down my shirt? Maybe. This customer relented and left with the bag, so we will never know how much entertainment could have been had at the harry potter event.

  66. Hey everyone, I think we’re missing the point of this article:

    FREE HARRY POTTER. Just bring your own Borders bag.

  67. gatopeligroso says:

    “Why have a policy like that when potentially 12 million American readers may only purchase one book, which would mean potentially 12 million useless plastic bags littering the country?”

    When we are done shopping we always hold on to any bags that were used to carry our things and reuse them.

    1). Trash liners for small trash cans
    2). To remove used kitty litter
    3). Wrap items during moves
    4). Reuse to carry other items

  68. SBR249 says:

    @GreenGranny: plastic shopping bags are predominantly made of low density polyethylene which is simple short chains of single bonded carbon saturated with hydrogen. no matter how much it breaks down, it can’t be poisonous since the monomer ethylene itself is generated naturally by ripening fruits and not at all poisonous.

    As for not contributing to the problem, I doubt refusing a plastic bag will lessen the contribution by any measurable amount. Most of the damage has already been done because most waste and toxic byproducts associated with plastics are generated in their production, not in their use or degradation. While the sentiment is noble, the effort could be better directed at the real source of the problem.

  69. The Meathead says:

    @Slytherin: Absolutely not.

    There’s no reason in this situation where she HAD to have a bag. Her reaction may border on overreaction, but she had every right to be upset by how she was treated.

  70. leftistcoast says:

    @SBR249: I’m curious what you believe to be “the real source of the problem.” Refusing a single bag, as I stated in my earlier post, doesn’t remove that particular bag from the waste stream and may only have a miniscule impact on the demand ultimately. However, if more people acted in such a thoughtful way (which means walking the talk for most people that consider themselves ‘environmentalists’), they might actually have an impact on demand and, ultimately, a business’ awareness of the issue.

  71. SadSam says:

    The event described in the original post seems reasonable, buy HP release day party and more difficult to track who has bought books w/o the bag.

    On the other hand, I’ve run into this problem with other cashiers (especially at CVS) where I don’t want to take a plastic bag (although I try to reuse them) and they give me a hard time. I especially don’t understand why when I pick up a RX, already bagged in a small paper bag, they insist on bagging again in a plastic bag. I’ve found that if I carry my canvas eco bag with me I get a better response, but there are still some plastic bag enforcers out there.

  72. Greasy Thumb Guzik says:

    She should have taken the book in the bag, then removed the book & pulled the bag over the cashier’s head & tied it around her neck.
    After five minutes, no more problems with idiot cashier insisting on bags for everyone!

  73. miborovsky says:

    @SBR249: It’s amazing how many self-proclaimed environmentalists simply jump on the treehugging bandwagon without actually knowing anything they talk about…

  74. urban_ninjya says:

    I guess people didn’t read the entire response. It’s a special precaution for Potter mania. You guys don’t realize how many bookstores had to hire armed guards to protect the stacks of books the night before the official release.

  75. acambras says:

    1. Reduce

    2. Reuse

    3. Recycle

    While #s 2 and 3 are certainly good things, it helps a lot if we can reduce the amount of packaging (including bags) that enters the waste stream in the first place. It’s not some radical “tree-hugger” idea — it’s just common sense.

    While I reuse plastic grocery bags for a variety of things, I can only use so many (one cat, one litter box). It chaps my ass when grocery baggers use a bag for one item that doesn’t even need a bag (e.g., a gallon jug of milk).

    If I were buying one book, I’d refuse the bag — it’s unnecessary, and my receipt shows that I didn’t steal the book. If the cashier insisted (esp. with an eyeroll), I would buy books elsewhere, and be sure to let a manager know why (I do understand that the OP was buying HP on the release date, so I can understand her not walking out).

    Funny thing — I bought 5-6 items at a Mom & Pop convenience store the other day. I had to ask for a bag — I guess it’s their cost-control policy not to give bags unless specifically requested.

  76. timmus says:

    I agree, leave the damn bag on the counter. No one put a gun to your head and forced you to walk out with the bag.

  77. Slytherin says:

    @The Meathead: If this incident “upset” her, as you say, the real world is going to eat her alive!

  78. Jon Parker says:

    What a bunch of wrongheaded comments.

    1. No store should automatically give a bag to someone with only one item.

    2. Why say she should have brought her own bag, when she doesn’t need a bag to carry only one item?

    3. To those defending the store on the grounds that the store personnel would see the bag and know that it was paid for, please read the post with your reading comprehension dial turned on. The books were being kept behind the counter — if she had it, it was paid for.

    4. And as the one or two sane posters have pointed out, it’s not about one bag, it’s about millions. Maryland is discussing banning plastic bags, which wouldn’t have happened if people used them responsibly.

    People taking ownership for reducing the amount of waste that they are responsible for is a good thing, regardless of your opinion on Al Gore.

  79. str1cken says:

    Boo hoo. Seriously.

    If this is the worst thing that has happened to her at a store, then three cheers for Border’s customer service.

  80. bilge says:

    Given that this employee really might have been told that she had to bag everything and that retail employees often don’t have a whole lot of leeway in deciding which policies to enforce, I think you should have just taken the book and left the bag. But way to squeal by including the employee’s number!

  81. leftistcoast says:

    @Slytherin: If by ‘eat her alive,’ you mean illicit from her reasonable, thoughtful responses to issues she views as problems and prompting her to direct her concerns in rational, well-drafted missives to the appropriate person or persons, I wholeheartedly agree. Sure beats the hell out of simply shutting up and being all sullen and Emo about it.

  82. bbbici says:


    uh, no. the next person in line would have trashed their bag regardless. one less bag is one less bag.

    i just would have taken my book out of the bag at the till and walked away.

  83. TheCrimsonKing says:

    IMO, the reason Borders wants you to take a bag, especially on that day, is so everyone can see where you bought the book. It’s cheap (almost free) advertising for Borders.

    I’m no environmental nut but I do think that we should stop or reduce our use of the plastic bags unless there is no alternative. I think the author’s response was proper. The only thing I would have done differently is to remove the book from the bag at the counter and leave the bag neatly on the counter.

  84. leftistcoast says:

    @Jon Parker: I wholeheartedly concur.

    I know this is a ‘consumer’ website, not an environmental one so perhaps is to be expected that most of the comments are focusing on the behavior of the clerk and the ultimate resolution. But, at the end of the day, a consumer MUST think of the impact that their happy consumption has, post-use. I mean, beyond the curb-side pick-up by those nice men in overalls once a week.

  85. bilge says:

    @leftistcoast: I’d say that you mean “elicit,” but even then your reply doesn’t make any sense.

  86. leftistcoast says:

    @bilge: Yes, my bad. Elicit, not illicit (I need to be more careful when alt-tabbing between documents). Beyond that, what part doesn’t make sense? The sarcastic part?

  87. RokMartian says:

    Yeah, but what they aren’t telling you is the bag had a Nazi skull symbol on it.

    Borders Bag Watch : Day 1 and counting…..

  88. lmbrownmail says:

    Yes, Borders’ response sufficient. She was in no way harmed or damaged so there should be no monetary compensation. There’s been an apology. That should be enough.

    I also bought my Harry Potter from a Borders on the release night. I stated that I did not want a bag and guess what – I wasn’t given a bag!

    So don’t tar and feather the whole chain due to the response of an employee at one store – an employee, by the way, that went to her boss to tell him that she has mishandled a situation!

  89. jmschn says:

    Another case of micromanaging a trivial situation…i hope she drives an electric car, recycles everything, purchases recycled components, uses energy saving lightbulbs, has natural insulation in the house, uses solar panels, low flush toilet, etc etc…give me a break…

  90. Slytherin says:

    @bilge: All I read from leftistcoast’s comment was “blah, blah, blah.”

  91. TexasScout says:

    Turn around and hand the bag to the person behind you in line and walk out. Geeshh…

  92. scott5834 says:

    She shouldn’t have to take a bag, end of story.

  93. leftistcoast says:

    @Slytherin: Well, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one that missed the illicit/elicit faux pas…

  94. jerkasaurus says:

    I worked at a very large record store years ago and we had a similar policy. All customers had to take a bag because the store was comprised of three floors and it was a quick and dirty way for security to recognize paying customers. It’s not a perfect system, because of course a shoplifter can bring in a used bag and stuff it full of unpaid CDs, but it was only a first line of defense.

    We had a recycling bin at the front door for those who did not want a bag. These bags were either reused or recycled. Of course, it didn’t the occasional angry hippie from yelling and screaming about what big bad polluters we were, but there’s no making those people happy.

  95. Trai_Dep says:

    Guys, girls. Live large. Just because counter staff tells you something dumb, rebel. Smile. Walk away ignoring their ninniness.

  96. @Kimba: Major chains discount the Harry Potter books to the point where small, independent bookstores can’t even afford to carry them anymore. There were articles about stores that wouldn’t be getting Book 7 because they knew they couldn’t compete.

  97. Buran says:

    Wow. I live in the area and can actually truthfully say that I will not shop there. The original poster can truthfully tell the store now that they have driven away another environmentalist who expects that “no bag” requests will be honored.

    And I would have left the bag there on the counter for them to clean up, too. I didn’t want it, it’s not my problem, I will not touch it.

  98. jmschn says:

    I will go to that same Border to demand 2 plastic bags then! yeah!

  99. megnificent says:

    I work at Barnes & Noble, at and least at my store, we were told to *not* give the customer a bag on HP night unless they requested one, more out of concern for the cost rather than the environment, I assume. It seemed pretty pointless to give out bags to people who were going to tear the book out of it the second they left the store (and presumably dump the bag in our trash cans.) We had maybe 10% of the people in line at midnight ask for a bag. I don’t know how that Borders was set up, but as soon as our customer was finished purchasing Deathly Hallows , they went straight out the door. So, unless they let people keep wandering the store after buying the book, the loss-prevention excuse doesn’t make sense to me. It sounds to me like a pissy cashier on a power trip.

    And seriously, if I see one more person excusing the cashier’s behavior because it was Harry Potter night…You’re flat wrong. If there was one night that all booksellers should have put on their happiest faces and bent over backward to make their customers happy, it was that night. That’s just MO, but it’s the opinion of someone who spent 2 & a 1/2 months planning ther store’s release party, was running on 4 hours of sleep, and still smiled the whole time.

  100. aka Cat says:

    100x the usual number of people were passing through the doors of B&N just after midnight. Corporate just wanted to make it easier for half-asleep, over-whelmed employees to notice if shrinkage was occurring.

    Give them a break and take the bag, already.

  101. aka Cat says:

    Whups, sorry. Borders. I can’t tell the two apart.

  102. sahhhm says:

    Actually, at my local Barnes and Noble in Norcross, GA, none of the cashiers handed out a single bag during the Harry Potter event unless it was requested by the customer. It was simply, pay, get book, and leave–no question about a bag. I’m not sure if this was nationwide or simply my branch, but it was a completely different experience to the experience held at Borders.

  103. Jon Parker says:

    @CatMoran: And again, what part of “especially since the one book I was buying was being held behind the counter and not available elsewhere in the store” escapes you?

    I could halfway buy the clerk’s reason if not for that. If the book was behind the counter, and is now in the customer’s hand, the assumption is that it’s paid for.

  104. Robobot says:

    Sounds like our local Borders. Not only are they anal about bags, but one of the managers flat-out refused to check me out without a Reward Card.

    I just stared at her in shock because I’m not at all confrontational and she was just being rude for no reason. She asked me if I knew the lady I’d been standing with in line. I said yes and the manager yelled over to my mom for her card.

  105. Squeezer99 says:

    don’t environmentalists have better things to do then whine about every little thing?

  106. acambras says:


    I would have left. Absolutely no excuse for that kind of behavior, especially from a manager.

  107. E-Bell says:

    For every bag she doesn’t take, I’m going to ask for three.

  108. Secularsage says:

    Some people have too much free time, it seems… :-P

  109. faust1200 says:

    Crazy hippie chick. Think of all the trees murdered to publish your stupid harry pussy potter. See what happens when we let you out of your coffee shops and drum circles for one minute? Fast forward 5,000 years – the last human pulls itself across the tundra, trying to survive on a dying world and finally chokes to death on a Borders plastic shopping back. Woot – irony!

  110. faust1200 says:

    And remember for every plastic bag you use, a hippie’s hacky sack goes in the gutter.

  111. SBR249 says:

    @leftistcoast: What I meant by “the real source of the problem” is the production process and the fact that we have to take the petroleum from the ground, refine it, transport it, process it into plastics generates much of the environmental impact of plastic usage. Even if the demand for plastic bags decline by a significant amount, the production of plastics will barely be impacted because it is literally used everywhere. Are you going to refuse milk packaged in plastic jugs (which is the same stuff–polyethylene–as the bags), or plastic shrink wrapped goods, or buying a new car because it’s plastic?

    Instead of overemphasizing the usage of plastic bags, perhaps we should direct our energy into supporting new research on plastic alternatives, or lobbying for better regulation of the plastics industry, or lobbying for a policy change that can affect new research. Granted it doesn’t feel as good as refusing a plastic bag, but if it succeeds, it’ll be much more effective than giving a cashier who gets $8/hr grief over one bag.

  112. Raze50 says:

    I’m really surprised that the manager didn’t offer her some sort of coupon or freebie to retain her as a customer after the issue. I used to work at my local Borders and managers usually had two coupons in their name tag holder at all times: “xx% (I think it was 10%) off the regular price of any item”, and “1 free drink in the cafe,” and could offer whatever kind of discounts they wanted.

    While it seems Allison’s frustration with the store is settled, if not the corporation at large, I know she could have gotten something more had she been ruthlessly committed to getting something. nice to see she wasn’t bloodthirsty, though.

    And, as for the bags as loss prevention: from a retail standpoint, it makes tons of sense, especially on a huge event night when you expect to have ten times the amount of sales of a normal day
    …and ten times the traffic
    …and when you’re selling what will likely be the number on book of the year at the lowest prices (probably 40% discount off of cover)
    …and when it is unlikely that the store has had time to prepare those books with the typical loss prevention devices.

    A bag takes the place of a PAID sticker, and does some lo-key marketing. It’s alot better than having some borders bouncer stop you as you leave to check your receipt. I think all parties are in the black here.

  113. zibby says:

    Since (apparently) Harry Potter isn’t available as an eBook, might I suggest the following environmentally concious ways to enjoy this outstanding literature:

    1) Check it out from a library
    2) Borrow a friend’s copy

    Of course she would have to wait a bit longer to read the book, but wouldn’t that be a small price to pay for someone that got her silks in a bunch over the initial plastic bag problem?

  114. 3drage says:

    @Namlia “A plastic bag isn’t the end of the world.”

    Plastic bags add up, it may not seem much to you but if you think about every bag given away with just a single book, 12 million bags is quite a bit of waste. If everyone does a small part to conserve, it adds up to large dividends in the end. Try to think large scale, not on a personal level.

  115. falconree says:


    Bravo, I agree.

    My interpretation from this is – perhaps Allison has a stick up her patootie(wooden not plastic) and the persnikitty attitude is just as offensive.

    YES YES, sure sure, all store clerks need to keep their composure and practice discipline in not rolling the eye-ballies, but – for her to open the letter to customer service with:

    “I’m hoping that you can help me understand what happened.”

    EeeeGats – don’t play coy-victimized consumer.
    “Help you understand?” Um-DUH, we all have bad days sometimes. You could understand perfectly well that clerk did not handle the situation well and in my oppinion – you blew it out of proportion.

    I’m done with my soap box, thank you ;-)

  116. 3drage says:

    @SBR249: Less people purchasing plastic bags equals less demand, which equals less desire for manufacture. It’s one step of many that help prevent plastic stopping up the pipes. Every little bit helps.

  117. SOhp101 says:

    Their response was enough… customer service bad, customer contacts corporate, corporate talks to store, store apologizes to customer. End of story.

  118. dr.funkenstein says:

    The cashier was rude and stringently enforcing a stupid rule, the cashier was wrong.

    The “policy” is stupid on two levels:

    1) it costs the company money in wasted bags

    2) it makes shoplifting EASIER not harder. As a juvenile delinquent I learned the easiest way to get free music (this was before the days of Napster) was to purchase one disc, then wander around the store and stuff my bag with other merchandise and then walk out, looking like a paying customer. Sometimes, we even skipped the first step and just brought in an old bag and filled it and left, although that felt a lot riskier.

  119. SBR249 says:

    @3drage: I don’t think you read the part of my comment where I said plastics are literally everywhere? Crimping on plastic bags will barely put a dent on the plastic industry. that’s like saying if we each conserve a little gas instead of finding alternatives, we can wean ourselves off gasoline. If we hope to solve the problem of plastics, we need to fundamentally change how they are made and what they are made of, not how we use them.

  120. Tatnuck says:

    I’m not a fan of the big chain bookstore and would normally side with the, um, extremely enthusiastic environmentalist….but it sounds as if Alison could have expended her resources on a more worthwhile issue. The cashier apologized, Alison, you got a response….get a life ! and move on.

  121. leftistcoast says:

    @SBR249: I completely agree that the issue of plastics is a much much larger problem than this story addresses or intended to address. And one plastic bag does not a solution make. But it’s a step. And, yes, it may feel good to get your eco-righteousness when refusing a bag but, call me an optimist, I’d hope that Allison has thought as much about the omnipresence of plastics and opted to compatible decisions in other areas of her life (opting for glass or paper milk cartons, walking/biking rather than driving, seeking out minimally packaged consumables, etc). Perhaps she’s even lobbied for appropriate governmental action, as you mentioned. But the attack has to be two-pronged: petitioning for redress from your government will only go so far…your dollars, your consumer-behavior, take you the rest of the distance.

  122. leftistcoast says:

    @leftistcoast: Speaking of ‘petitioning’, I’d like to petition for a comment preview function…man, I can’t seem to get my edit on proper today.

  123. ChasteWhite says:


    Sometimes I dump used motor oil down the street drain. You don’t even want to know what I do with used plastic bags…



  124. Trick says:

    I kind of sympathize with the cashier. If I had some rabid Harry Potter eviro-nut going on about the percentage of tree’s in a plastic bag while rambling on about what bookstores in Canada use, I would probably look at the nut for what she was too.

    And what a shock Borders taking care of the issue was not enough. Stand by for the $54 Million lawsuit with her new lawyer, Roy Pearson.

  125. robertseaton says:

    umm…anyone concerned about all the trees that were chopped down to make the pages of those books…and what about the colorful covers…must be some good chemicals there too.

  126. ChasteWhite says:

    @robertseaton: No, they farm trees for paper production… And minks for fur coats.

  127. Little Miss Moneybags says:

    Before I start, I should say that I agree with the writer that she shouldn’t have had a bag forced on her, but if it had been me, I would have left the bag on the counter.

    I think this is one of the best complaint letters I have ever seen. She is polite, reasonable and objective in her complaint, provides her entire side of the story, and asks for clarification of Borders’ policies instead of for a gift card or other ridiculous “compensation”. In return, I think Borders handled the situation very well and to a full resolution. She may not be happy with their policy, but they explained it as best they could. It was a poor decision on their part, and maybe next time they won’t make that decision, but the incident has been handled, and should, I think, be considered over.

    However, I hope that the manager also assured her that the cashier in question would be given additional training in customer service, including how tone of voice and eye rolling can escalate a situation. Maybe I’m just too cynical but I find it really hard to believe that the cashier approached the manager to say that she didn’t think she handled it well. I’ve worked in retail enough that I know people don’t cover their asses like that, they just hope not to be found out.

  128. toolverine says:

    I really don’t see how flaming Allison for not wanting to use a bag is constructive in any way. She’s not alone in wanting to skip the superfluous bag at the register either.

  129. Clobberella says:

    While I agree with everything this woman said and did and commend her for her efforts, there’s one thing she didn’t consider. If she’s REALLY concerned about her personal environmental impact, she shouldn’t have bought Harry Potter that night. She should have waited a couple of months (after the hype begins to wear off) and either bought it used or checked it out from the library.

  130. Havok154 says:

    What you do is say “I don’t need a bag” and if they give you one anyway, just take the product and receipt out of it. Leave the bag on the counter and walk out. No argument and you leave the bitchy cashier with a bag sitting on the counter.

  131. infinitysnake says:

    While I like to see a well-written, articulate complaint letter, I don’t think it was necessary in this case. I simple “I will NOT be taking a bag” would probably have sufficed to shut up the snotty checkout girl. I think a majority of the problems people face with companies stems from our dislike of confrontation- acquiescing at the counter and complaining later is passive aggressive at best and sets a bad example.

  132. infinitysnake says:

    @Clobberella: Sure, and she could wear cocinut husks instead of clothes and only eat out of dumpsters. Or, she could kill herself, and reduce her impact 100%

    Or, she could do whatever small thing she can whenever she’s able, like she’s been doing, only without the snarks from the holier-than-thous.

  133. kromelizard says:

    What a sanctimonious twit. Just take the fucking bag and quit hassling the cashier.

  134. Clobberella says:


    Wow! The hostility! I already said I agreed with her. I don’t think it’s terribly “holier-than-thou” to suggest that someone who is clearly already concerned with her environmental impact (inlcuding the impact from paper, which she brought up herself) to take it one small step further. Used books are cheaper anyhow, and library books are free. It’s a win-win for everyone.

  135. jrdnjstn78 says:

    I agree with everyone else. Take the book out of the bag and leave the bag. I hate taking home a bunch of plastic bags. I think what really made this woman mad is that fact that the cashier “rolled her eyes”.

  136. infinitysnake says:

    @Clobberella: It is certainly “holier than thou” to make such a suggestion, and condescending to boot.

  137. Clobberella says:


    I’d really like to understand why you think so. I buy used books all the time. What’s wrong with used books? What’s wrong with suggesting that someone who cares about waste buy used books? How is that in any way condescending? Why are you attacking me instead of everyone who thought she was stupid for not wanting to take the bag? Good lord.

  138. appleface says:

    @tvh2k: “If she cared about the environment she would have purchased an eBook!”

    Do you know what goes into making consumer electronics? Do you know how bad these products are for the environment?

    I believe a book printed on recycled, or mostly recycled paper is much better for the environment.

  139. infinitysnake says:

    @Clobberella: I think so because your comment was not framed to be helpful, even if you’re backpedaling now. And yes, it is considered holier than thou to play one-ups: “if she’s REALLY concerned” carries the obvious implication that you think she isn’t.

  140. ShanW says:

    @Kimba: Amen!

  141. Clobberella says:


    I think you’re just misunderstanding me. I didn’t mean really as in “honestly” but really as in “very” (which she clearly is)… I guess it didn’t come across that way to you, but I didn’t mean it the way you think I did, which is why I was honestly quite flabbergasted by your responses. And no, I’m not backpedaling. I just don’t think that the printing of 100 million books is any more helpful to the environment than 12 million plastic bags, and if more people bought used books or checked them out or borrowed them from other people then there wouldn’t be a need for so many to be printed. If you still think that’s condescending then I’m sorry you feel that way. I know it’s hard to discern tone through text.

  142. niteflytes says:

    So take the bagged book from the cashier, take the book out of the bag and leave the poor bag for the cashier to recycle. NEXT!

  143. FromThisSoil says:

    If you’re concerned about the environment, you could always reuse the bag for something else. If you don’t take it, the person behind you will.

  144. Tricon says:

    @bigvicproton: pish tosh, it always seems like theres a war on, be it iraq or the middle class

  145. seanSF says:

    I think Borders response was completely adequate but what I am concerned about are the responses here. However Allison approached it, her concerns are extremely valid. How many Harry Potter books were sold in Borders store that night, each one with a plastic bag? It’s little things like a single plastic bag, multiplied hundreds of thousands of times over, that make huge differences. “It’s just a plastic bag, chill…” is a pretty ignorant response.

  146. Kimba says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:

    I guess I’m lucky to live in Berkeley. All the independants had midnight parties for the Potter junkies. My bookstore around the corner had a huge shipment wrapped in black plastic the Friday before the release, even they mostly deal in used books.

  147. aeolus says:

    Some one who seriously cares about the environment that much should know that Borders donates to right wing parties. Now I do not wish to pick a fight with anyone, but typically, republicans do not care nearly as much about the environment as their left wing counterparts.

  148. StevieD says:

    What is the poster seeking?

    That a minimal wage entry level employee be fired for following management directives?

    Should the store manager drive across town and retrive the offending bag?

    What was the purpose of the complaint?

    Personally, if I was the owner of Boarders, I would banish the poster from my stores for life as the poster is more trouble than she is worth.

  149. DearEditor says:


    A plastic bag isn’t the end of the world.

    A plastic bag is the end of the world for the turtle that eats it.

  150. reykjavik says:

    Allison – I think that Harry Potter book did more damage to the environment then that plastic bag. If there was one you should have passed on, it should have been the book. You could have waited to get one from the library, or borrow a copy or wait to buy a used copy (ya know, “recycle” the same thing your Cadillac liberal ways are so desperately trying to do). But you just had to have your precious crappy book, just like Bush has to have his oil.

    Face it Allison, you’re full of shit. Bleeding hearts, bleeding hearts everywhere, and not a a drop of blood to be found.

  151. CapitalC says:

    @LatherRinseRepeat: I agree – maybe she just needs some pie. ;)

  152. rdm7234 says:

    Anyone who doesn’t think this isn’t a serious issue needs to volunteer to clean up a highway or a beach one day.

    This isn’t a minor issue, and I’m kind of shocked at how dismissive some of the commenters are.

    I have had to fight with clerks who seemed to insist that a plastic bag was a proof-of-purchase. If I was treated as rudely as Allison was, I would certainly go to the management.

    In this case, I think that the management apologized appropriately.

  153. TVarmy says:

    Hypocrite. If she really cared abut JK Rowling and the environment, she would have just given B&N the money and asked that they keep the book and the bag, and email her the receipt to save resources. Books are made of trees, after all. Then, at home, she would jerry rig up a solar cell to her laptop and download the bootleg ebook version on the torrents. ;-)

    I’m an environmentalist, too. I just don’t get Potter mania.

  154. clickable says:

    What’s done is done. What more did she want them to do to redress the situation? They couldn’t go back and retrieve the 12 gazillion bags they handed out. Borders did get to the bottom of the incident, found the person responsible, spoke with her, and explained the situation to the customer. The customer was given a chance to explain her point of view and reasoning.

    They did the best they could to address her complaint, and the only possible additional step might come if they face the same situation in the future and deal with it in a more environmentally-friendly way.

  155. RedSeven02 says:

    So, if potentially 12 million Potter fans (not including Allison) were to buy the book, took the bag and threw it out, then wouldn’t it be easier to determine who to blame, other than big business? So, would the hardcore environmentalist activists be right in burning down Borders, throwing blood on copies of Harry Potter, burning Rowlings in eggigy?

    Something to consider.

  156. RedSeven02 says:

    Mmm, effigy. My mistake

  157. MissAnnThrope says:

    Having worked in retail, I have no trouble believing this actually IS corporate policy.

    I worked at Macy’s for years. We were told in no uncertain terms, we were to say no if someone said they didn’t want a bag. The ONLY exception to the rule was if they already had a Macy’s bag and were putting their purchase in there. If it was someone who wanted to wear the item out of the store, the item they took off went into the Macy’s bag, with the tags from the purchase and the receipt stapled to the bag. Period. No exceptions.

    When customers would argue, we would tell them the truth. We can be fired if we don’t follow policy. We always gave them the loss prevention line, but let’s face it. You can still steal with a shopping bag from the store. It was all about the advertising.

  158. zibby says:

    @Clobberella: You are correct. What do we have here? We have a woman who wants us to believe she has such strongly held values that she is willing to make a complete pest out of herself over a plastic bag…only to tacitly admit that those values are completely trumped by her desire to read a young adult book the very moment it comes out.


    Borrow it.
    Buy it used.
    Check it out of a library.


    Stop hassling stressed out clerks when you’re obviously full of crap.

  159. laddibugg says:

    She could have waited until a friend finished reading it and read that copy instead of buying her own. It’s not a need.

  160. Mary says:

    I work at a Borders Books, and I worked the door on Harry Potter night.

    Over half of the customers were leaving without bags, it was at their discretion if they wanted one or not. If this was a corporate mandate it was either not handed down to our store, or else our store decided it was stupid and not to follow it (which stores often do, to be honest).

    This particular store and manager deserve to be mocked for making a stupid decision, but I can safely say this was not a company wide issue and I believe the manager blaming it on “corporate” was a low thing for him to do. Now the story is about the entire corporation instead of one store, and he made it that way when he could have said “That was a mistake on her part, I apologize, we talked about it after, it won’t happen again, would you like a $5 coupon?”

    We handled the whole “no stealing” idea very simply. No copies of the book actually went out onto the floor until the next day, they had to approach the counter and ask for the ones they wanted and get them from the bookseller there.

  161. vladthepaler says:

    It’s a stupid policy on Border’s part. I suppose what she would have liked is for the manager to have admitted it was a stupid policy, perhaps said “gosh, we hadn’t thought of the environmental impact of requiring bags, we’ll try to keep that in mind in the future”. But that didn’t happen. Her real complaint, which was not about the cashier but about the policy the cashier was enforcing, was ignored.

  162. Mary says:

    @Felix the Cat: Besides, no book store has a policy of stopping shoplifters. Book stores have no security for shoplifting.

    That’s actually not entirely true. Our store DOES have policies in place to stop shoplifters and theft. It’s complicated and mostly on the managers are well versed in it, but that’s why we call a manager when we witness suspicious behavior.

    We have a lot of security against shrink, it’s our most talked about problem.

  163. Mary says:

    @Quietly: Sounds like our local Borders. Not only are they anal about bags, but one of the managers flat-out refused to check me out without a Reward Card.

    I just stared at her in shock because I’m not at all confrontational and she was just being rude for no reason. She asked me if I knew the lady I’d been standing with in line. I said yes and the manager yelled over to my mom for her card.

    Please complain to the corporate office about this, and supply a description of the employee who was rude to you. This kind of behavior makes me ill. If they were a manager, please take it straight to the corporate offices in Ann Arbor.

  164. killavanilla says:

    OKay, not to split hairs here, but plastic bags are usually made by recycling old plastic. SOOOO, this person essentially made a stink about nothing, imo.
    To add insult to injury, she burned electricity when she fired up her computer to shoot off a complaint email. Which then had to be electronically moved via email to be stored on a server at borders HQ. Another series of emails and paperwork were set into motion to document the event and contact the GM and DM of the store, who then had to use their phone to call up the customer to apologize.
    All to save a bag. That could have been recycled or *gasp* reused.
    Much ado about nothing, methinks.
    Sure, environmentalism sounds like a wonderful cause, but taking it to this extreme doesn’t make anyone join up.
    Next time, take the bag. Then recycle it. Or reuse it then recycle it.
    You wasted more energy complaining about it and handling the situation. It would have done less damage to the environment to just take the bag and use it for a while.
    It reminds me of the time I walked by an environmental rally to have a few people shove some printed materials into my hands, which I promptly tossed out.
    I remember looking around at all the paper on the ground and in the trash cans in the area and thinking how silly it was that this sort of hypocritical nonsense occurs every day.

  165. Soultrance says:

    You know what’s even better for the environment? Buying the book from a small, non corporate owned, local used book store. You get the book for cheaper, you’re supporting a small, locally owned business, and you’re recycling. Bam! Problem solved.

    I hope she at leasts takes the book into a Used book store when she’s done with it.

  166. @All of the Buy Used/Library Responses: I would dare say that most fans would like to read the book BEFORE they are told what happens by other people.

  167. jeffj-nj says:

    1) Take the bag, with the book, and leave the store.
    2) Put the book in your car.
    3) Re-enter the store with the bag, and return it, insisting it be given to someone else.

    That would’ve meant one less bag used that day, right?

    I agree, though, that if Borders hadn’t adopted such a policy, countless more bags would’ve been saved from usage that day, but.. eh.. what are you gonna do?

    (Buran, your method is merely obnoxious. It does nothing to eliminate waste.)

  168. vikileigh says:

    The General Manager of the Borders seems to have indulged in some creative storytelling. I am highly skeptical that a remorseful cashier approached him, at like 3 AM after a Potter-manic night, to discuss a faux pas she committed with a single customer who didn’t even pitch that much of a fit in the store. On the surface, Borders’ response WOULD be appeasing except for my nagging suspicion that it is based on a lie.

  169. HeartBurnKid says:

    @zibby: Since when is politely refusing a bag “getting your skills in a bunch”? Seriously, now, it takes two to tango, and if the clerk had just honored one simple request instead of making a mountain out of a molehill, we wouldn’t be sitting here arguing about this now.

    Rule number one of business: “Don’t piss the customer off.” Having worked in customer service myself, I dealt with enough unreasonable, half-insane people as it was; I wouldn’t dare make any trouble for myself by fighting a simple request that costs absolutely nothing tooth and nail.

  170. average_white_male says:

    I once went back to a Borders to exchange a book that turned out to have a section of pages missing. The person at the customer service counter warned me that I should have brought it back in my Official Borders Bag to prove that I hadn’t just picked it up off the shelf and tried to exchange it (an elaborate scam, the point of which still eludes me). Fortunately, she had seen me come in the door and go straight to the service counter, so she was willing to believe that (as my receipt also stated) I’d actually bought the book. Still, I was told several times, quite condescendingly, how foolish it was not to use the proper bag. I did not attempt to remedy the flawed logic therein, because I just wanted the damn book.

  171. zibby says:

    @HeartBurnKid: hmmm. I see now that my use of the word “initial” was unfortunate; “Initial” did not refer to the exchange with the clerk, but rather Allison’s entire plastic bag odyssey. This involved arguments – or at least, we may presume, tart exchanges – with clerks, unfulfilling debates with store managers, a trip to Consumerist, and lord knows what else that she was perhaps to embarrassed to mention lest she seem like a crank with too much time on her hands (actually, she does mention more now that I review her email). Thus, silks in bunch.

    The “new” problem that made the bag the “initial” problem in my comment was that she would have to wait a week or two to read the book if she wanted to go all the way and save bag AND paper. Which seems like something that should have occurred to somebody that visits a site called

  172. mkpalumbo says:

    I’ve had similar experiences with cashiers and the seemingly religious fanatisim they have with pushing as many bags as they can. I had so many logic defying experiences that I made a short 5 minute movies about them and my efforts to shine light on the subject.


  173. Vegconsumer says:

    I think people are missing the point a little bit. I personally don’t think it was the bag ITSELF so much as the rudeness of the customer service person.

    I use cloth bags when I go places and that is the easiest solution. I don’t do it to be a yuppie or whatever. I do it because the cloth bags can hold a lot, plastic IS recyclable but it’s not as environmentally friendly as cloth, and the cloth bags are reusable.

    I have had my fair share of rude customer service people when I say I’d not like a bag or would like to use my own. Things are changing, though! A lot of stores are friendlier about it.

    I don’t think the customer was in the wrong. They should have given her a $5 gift certificate along with the apology.

    Her just leaving the bag on the counter (which would have been thrown away) defeats the whole purpose of environmentalism and the whole point of not taking bags.

  174. YoHenYo says:

    Talk about too much time on your hands. The of time that she used to write that epic email probably wasted more power and put more pollutants in the air than manufacturing the bag did in the first place.

  175. Elle Rayne says:

    Oh, please, like saying she didn’t need a bag was really holding up anybody. For God’s sake, the whole exchange couldn’t have taken more than 30 seconds. And no amount of pressure on the cashier will excuse her rolling of the eyes. I’ve had this done to me when I expressed concerns, and it’s incredibly rude. I make sure not to visit a place again when that happens. Borders’ bag policy is silly, because it doesn’t really deter stealing (in fact, by that logic,couldn’t you slip a couple of fancy bookmarks and mints in to the bag that much more easily? and a bag is hardly a proof of purchase. The receipt is. As for not needing another bag, I understand that because I have HUNDREDS and you can only do so much to recycle them. But ah, good ol’ Consumerist readers, slamming and accusing someone for taking a stand and making snarky comments like “she must want them to send a check to Al Gore” and “I’m going to go not recycle.” Oh how witty! Haha! What a wonderful community.

  176. AngelzBreath says:

    Unfortunately, this seems to be a problem at a lot of corporate stores (other than grocery stores). However, Borders did handle the situation fairly well. I think an apology was sufficient, although the cheap idjits could have offered her coupons!