CVS FAIL: Reusable bag promotion doesn’t work if clerks have no clue

By | November 8, 2009

green_tagAs The Consumerist recently reported, CVS is now selling “Green Bag Tags” at the register.  Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

  1. You buy a tag for 99¢ and attach it to your reusable shopping bag.
  2. Every time you give that bag to the checkout clerk to use instead of a plastic bag, the clerk scans the bar code on the tag, which rings up as a special free purchase on your receipt.
  3. Every fourth time you use the tag, you get $1 in ExtraBucks (obviously, this means that you have to be a member of the CVS ExtraCare rewards program).

Wow, 25¢ each time you reuse a bag sounds like a really great deal, right?  It’s much better than the comparable deal offered by our local Stop & Shop (5¢ per bag) or Whole Foods (10¢).  Only here’s what actually happened when I tried to buy and use a couple of the tags for the first time at my neighborhood CVS:

  1. Since I was planning on buying about two bags worth of stuff, I brought two reusable shopping bags with me to CVS.
  2. At the checkout, I took two of the Green Bag Tags off of the display rack and asked the clerk to ring them up first.
  3. I removed them from their cardboard backing, put them onto the handles of my bags, handed the bags to the clerk, and asked her to scan the tags and use those bags instead of plastic ones.
  4. Pandemonium ensued.

The clerk had no idea what I was talking about.  She had absolutely no idea what the tags were, no idea that CVS was offering any sort of promotion to encourage people to reuse bags, and absolutely no idea what I was talking about when I asked her to scan the tags on the bags.  She was also seemingly rather confused that the reusable bags I had asked her to use were Stop & Shop bags, although this obviously was completely irrelevant.

I tried to explain to her how this was supposed to work.  I showed her the cardboard backing from the tags, which explains clearly what they’re for and that the clerk is supposed to scan the tag when using a customer’s reusable tag.  None of this did any good.

She got on the PA system and called an assistant manager to the front of the store.  By this point, the line behind me was starting to grow, and I was starting to debate internally between throwing in the towel for the sake of the other waiting people, and seeing it through to the end on principle.

A couple minutes later, the assistant manager showed up.  The clerk explained the situation to her.  Then I explained the situation to her.  Neither did any good — she was just as clueless as the original clerk.  After a few minutes of this, she threw in the towel and went into the back to get the store manager.

Meanwhile, I was starting to worry about the possibility of riots.  Finally, the store manager came out and set the clerk and assistant manager straight.

Gee, do ya think maybe a little training would have been in order before starting to sell the tags?

By the way, for those of you who are interested in taking advantage of this promotion, there’s an important fact you should know that wasn’t completely clear from the Consumerist posting.  You’re only allowed to scan one tag per household (i.e., ExtraCare account) per day, so don’t bother buying multiple tags even if you plan on using multiple reusable bags at a time (aha! now we understand how they can offer 25¢ instead of 5¢ or 10¢!).  Apparently, CVS has smarter promotion designers than Wachovia.

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