From residents who might not live within reasonable walking distance of a grocery store, to small shop owners that now have to keep exact inventory of the bags they give away and to grocers that might feel obligated to start giving away free reusable bags to keep people coming in, Logan Square has seen the effects of the bag tax in their regular shopping habits.
One month into the City of Chicago’s new “checkout bag tax,” shop owners in Logan Square note the difference in the bagging habits of their customers. Since Feb. 1, there has been a 7 cent tax imposed per checkout bag sold or used in the city.
Tony’s Finer Foods, a grocery store on Fullerton Avenue, gave out free reusable bags to angry customers in the first week or so of the bag tax, according to assistant manager Willie Dawson.
“People still shop,” Dawson said. “They’re not gonna not get their groceries because of the bag tax. Some people carry their stuff out, if they have like ten items, just walk on out.”
Another store where customers just walk out with their purchases is Wolfbait & B-girls, female-owned and operated independent business in the square selling handmade goods and clothing from local Chicago artisans. The store sells many breakable, fragile items, such as ceramics, candles and jewelry.
“There’s a little confusion, the tax is weirdly written,” said Jenny Stadler, owner at Wolfbait. “I can gift wrap a candle for you for free, and people love it. This box is free all-bowed-up — as soon as I put it in a bag it’s 7 cents, so people are just walking about with their glass item wrapped up like this. This costs me more than the bag does. It’s silly.”
According to Stadler, her customers tended to have items gift wrapped before the bag tax. What she’s found now is that for some customers, just asking if they need a bag will make them think and realize that they don’t.
“Honestly, I do think it’s a good reminder for people,” Stadler said. “Just us suggesting ‘Do you need a bag?’ You know we look each other and we’re like, ‘of course you don’t! You can carry this.’ ”
Wolfbait isn’t the only local business in Logan that would see customers bringing their own bags before the tax. The Dill Pickle Food Co-op, another local grocer on Fullerton Avenue, finds that their customers tend to be thinking sustainably already.
The Pickle Nickel Program was started by the Dill Pickle Co-op when they opened about seven years ago. According to communications coordinator Ally Young, the program incentivizes bag-bringing by allowing customers who bring their own bag to donate the 5 cent difference of the cost of a bag to a charity organization.
“The Pickle Nickel Program is a program that rewards shoppers that bring their own bag with a written token that is worth 5 cents,” Young said. “They can choose one of three organizations that rotate throughout our cycle that they’re gonna pay that forward to. So there’s the money they save us in bringing a bag, and we will donate.”
The co-op currently donates quarterly to each organization they choose, with checks ranging somewhere between $200 and $400. “Those nickels add up pretty quick,” Young said.
Like many grocery stores nowadays, Dill Pickle also sells their own reusable bags, of which they have seen an increase in sales lately.
“I think there’s a particularly conscious group of folks in this neighborhood,” Young said. “There’s already sort of this critical mass of folks wanting to see purchases toward sustainability, you know our farmers market is one of the biggest in the city too, so I think yeah, folks who reside here are leading a lot of changes in good directions.”