Thanks JCrew, but I’d happily pay not to use your bags

, ,
Carrier Bag Packaging

First and foremost packaging should be fit for purpose 

Like most formerly metrosexual, formerly in London, and formerly young PR-men, I now source my wardrobe online – well pretty much anyway.

Except, that is, when I find myself in the West End with an unexpected couple of hours to kill, as happened last week. So brace yourselves Covent Garden, Regent Street and Oxford Street, here I come.

First stop Nigel Hall in Floral Street and a cheeky scarf. Ready-wrapped in clear plastic, it goes straight in to the rucksack, no messing. Yes, you did read that correctly, that’s a rucksack. I commute.

Next stop Regent Street, to JCrew, and a nifty pair of jeans. I like JCrew and this made a welcome change from its online service which inexplicably ships UK deliveries from a depot somewhere in the deepest US – no next day delivery here – and don’t get me going on the company’s absurdly overly complicated online returns process either.

Still, back to the jeans which, as my mother always reminded me, were the original workers’ clothing and never worth the vastly inflated prices she paid to keep her chippy middle child happy. Now, at £125 a pair, I accept she had a point, and perhaps at that price even jeans have earned the right to be delicately wrapped in several layers of the finest tissue paper and placed gently, reverently even, in a carrier bag.

I say carrier bag, but this was not of the 5p from Sainsbury’s variety; more a thick, rigid, card version finished with contrasting black ‘tape’ handles. Smart, yes, but hideously awkward to carry, the shallow but wide design, gaping mouth and over-long handles had it twisting all over the show. And so a distress purchase in Gap, revered by most for its basic tee shirts, but by me for its totally practical carrier bags!

Gap carriers are a known quantity. Made of thin plastic, light and flexible, they have a draw string akin to the old fashioned, homemade plimsoll bags we had at school (only ours were made from old curtains or an ancient bedspread.) But fit for purpose they undoubtedly were, nothing fell out, nothing could be taken from them, and they were easy to carry. So into Gap version went the T shirt – and sorry JCrew, the jeans too – and full marks to the sympathetic Gap assistant who disposed of the rejected JCrew bag behind the counter.

There is a tendency for shops to put purchases in a bag at least ten times bigger than the item bought. I had to buy an emergency bow tie in Paul Smith recently (that’s another story) but yes, you guessed it, into a full size carrier bag it went.

Clearly retailers like us to parade their branding like sandwich boards. Or maybe they think that we want to flaunt our brands associations to everyone else. On the other hand, it may be just a cost thing. Is it cheaper to produce a one-size-fits-all carrier bag than it is to manufacture a range of sizes which can be selected according to the purchase?

Whatever the reason, for me an inconvenient bag is a packaging faux pas. I’m a fairly low key kind of guy and I hate walking down the street laden, Ab Fab-like, with out-sized carrier bags. Packaging first and foremost should be ‘fit for purpose’.

So what’s the answer? Well from here on I’m rejecting all extreme carrier bags and excessive packaging. And if my rucksack can’t cope, I’ll have a handy rolled-up 5p supermarket option in my coat pocket.

The supermarkets have got it right – fit for purpose bags that customers will pay for – and keep. Sorry Paul and JCrew, but I’d happily pay not to use your bags!