Banning plastic bags breeds theft in California stores


California has long led the nation in plastic bag bans, so it only stands to reason that it might soon lead the nation in shoplifting as well. According to an article written by Beatriz Valenzuela, a journalist for the Long Beach (CA) Press Telegram, shop keepers and store owners have to watch shopper more closely now that plastic bags have been banned.

More shoppers are using cloth bags that they bring from home, which means these bags are not transparent as are plastic bags, and because they are not in-store plastic bags it's more difficult to tell just exactly what's in the bags that customers carry out. Cloth or non-woven bags are heavier as well, so it's difficult to tell whether there is anything in them, unlike plastic bags that are thinner and lighter weight, making it pretty obvious that there is something in the bag.

The author of the news item in the Press Telegram noted that "Long Beach was among the first cities" in California to pass a ban on plastics bags. And she also points out that shoplifting is the trend in other "bag ban" cities as well. It seems that in Seattle, which implemented a bag ban in the summer of 2012, "one of every five business owners surveyed by Seattle Public Utilities reported increased shoplifting due to the city's plastic bag ban," wrote Valenzuela.

Well, I have a whole list of "unintended consequences" about which I write from time-to-time.  Never are we able to solve one problem (or believe we are solving it) without raising two or three more problems in its place. It's a universal law.

I also have a theory that has been proven many times in my life: Nothing is all good. Nothing is all bad. Beware the person or group of people who rally against something, declaring that it is bad. Among all those things or situations we encounter that judge to be bad, are some very good things; some very good lessons or outcomes that we could have never predicted.

Likewise, amid all the things or situations in life that we believe to be completely good lies the opportunity for some bad consequences to arise.  

Valenzuela noted that store owners in Long Beach have become aware of "the unintended consequences of plastic bag bans," of which shoplifting is just one of many, I might add!

I do believe that most people are honest and wouldn't use the plastic bag ban to shoplift using their cloth or non-woven bags. But for those people who might be prone to shoplift, the plastic bag ban offers a great opportunity to make off with the goods without anyone noticing.

So next time you shop, beware of the cloth or non-woven-bag carrier. They just might be hiding something.

Slowly but surely, we will learn what SPI has been trying to teach the public for many years: Plastic is fantastic!

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