Retailers – why not spend the 5p shopping bag charge on Customer Service?

I don’t mean for my blog to turn in to a rant – but have you noticed that since the introduction of the 5p bag charge, the checkout encounter is just a little bit awkward and the ‘chit chat’ seems to have stopped?

I queue up, I pay up (if by contactless there is no more ‘insert your card now please’ followed by ‘ok, key in your pin please’), I get asked ‘Do you need a bag?’, ‘No thanks’, clumsily overload my arms with shopping and scurry away feeling quite unloved by the cold experience.  Previously, the packing into bags and going through the detail of the payment process was a catalyst for conversation, but now – nothing.

One of the most crucial elements contributing to a customer’s opinion of a retailer is their experience during a checkout line and so I started reading up a more on the 5p bag charge. Introduced into England in October 2015, the government hopes to see an 80% reduction in plastic bag use in supermarkets, and a 50% fall on the high street.

This is not a tax and the money raised by the levy will not go to the government – a retailers can choose what to do with the proceeds of the charge. They are of course expected to donate it to good causes and interestingly the government will publish information about what retailers are spending the charge (amounting to a healthy £730m over the next 10 years) on.

My vote like most, is to build a more sustainable model with improved environmental practices but how about spending 5% of that on bolstering up customer service at the point of sale where it matters most?

What do you think?