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Some grocers abandon rebates for reusable bags

Some chains including Kroger and Safeway are starting to move away from the pennies per bag rebates, saying they don’t do enough to keep customers from forgetting reusables at home or in their cars.

Grocers save money when customers bring reusable bags. They also want to stay ahead of plastic bag bans and taxes that could cost them or their customers more money.

Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, had been giving three to five cent rebates or fuel discounts for each reusable bag. But it ended the bonuses this year in some regions. Customer feedback indica mulberry tes most want to use reusable bags, company officials say; it’s a matter of making it a habit. So Kroger officials say they’re focusing more on promotions and educational efforts, investing in signs and other visible reminders.

Now, many Kroger parking lots are dotted with signs asking “Are your reusable bags still in the car?” Messages around stores tout the environmental value of bag reuse. A reusable bag replaces hundreds of disposable bags, one says; another: “Less Plastic? Fantastic.” Kroger also sent shoppers coupons for reusable bags, holds bag design contests and giveaways, and puts out containers for recycling pla mulberry stic bags.

Kroger spokesman Brendon Cull says the company has found no significant difference between reusable bag frequency in markets with rebates and those without them.

Safeway also has been phasing out cash rebates such as 3 cents per bag in some regions. It’s still dangling discounts, but making them more occasional and targeted. Shoppers who use Safeway’s “Bright Green” reusable bags get 10% off Safeway’s line of environmentally geared household products.

Moral appeals and trendiness are more powerful than small discounts, said Ted Brown, a consultant who helped develop one of the earliest reusable bag programs two decades ago. Make reusables fashionable and fun, and shoppers won’t forget.

About 95% of food retailers offer reusable bags, the Food Marketing Institute says. In 2010 half of shoppers said they “try” to bring reusable bags, up 10% over the prior year. However, half reported their use as never or less than monthly. That figure isn’t falling much.

“Getting consumers to change their habits is difficult under any economic conditions,” said Joel Makower, a consultant and executive editor of Greener World Media Inc. “Stubbornness is recession proof.”

Some governments have decided that sticks work better than carrots.

Still, some miss the small but noticeable incentive. Andrea Deckard of Monroe, Ohio, says Kroger’s reb mulberry ates saved her about 20 cents a visit.

“I don’t know what it would have hurt to continue it,” said Deckard, who shares bill cutting tips on her blog The Savings Lifestyle. “It was just like mulberry a coupon to a lot of people.”