Coles backflips on bag charge
COLES will hand out its 15-cent reusable shopping bags for free until Sunday, with the supermarket acknowledging that it "can be difficult to get into the routine of bringing your own bags".
It comes after Woolworths similarly back-pedalled last week in response to customer complaints. As of Sunday, single-use plastic bags have been banned in all states except NSW and Victoria.
The bans in Queensland and Western Australia brought them into line with South Australia, the ACT, Northern Territory and Tasmania, but the supermarkets have voluntarily removed the bags from their entire store networks.
"To help our customers during this transition period, we're pleased to help out by offering our customers complimentary reusable plastic bags in those states where single-use plastic bags have been removed for the first time," Coles chief operating officer Greg Davis said in a statement.
That means shoppers in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia will be given free bags until Sunday night.
Coles will still charge for its range of Community Bags, which includes a $1 tote bag, a $2 shoulder bag, a $2.50 chiller bag and a $3 jute bag.
"We want to do everything we can to help our customers," Mr Davis said. "For some, it can be difficult to get into the routine of bringing your own bags to the supermarket or know exactly how many you may need for your entire shop."
Mr David said Coles was "really grateful for the way our customers have responded and this is a small way we can say 'thank you' and help them with the transition".
"We've invested in extra customer service during this period and our team members have provided terrific support," he said.
Despite roughly three-quarters of shoppers claiming to support the ban, the move has sparked a customer backlash, with the retail workers' union describing the phenomenon as "plastic bag rage".
In one extreme case, a staff member at Woolworths in Western Australia was "strangled" by an angry customer.
According to an analysis by Queensland University of Technology retail expert Dr Gary Mortimer, Coles and Woolworths stand to make roughly $71 million in gross profit by replacing free lightweight plastic bags with heavier 15-cent options.
Many shoppers have accused the supermarkets of hypocrisy due to the abundance of plastic packaging on the majority of products, and of profiteering from the change. One disgruntled customer stole a Coles shopping basket to protest the ban, while a Woolworths customer loaded an entire trolley into the back of his car.