Happy New Year! It’s been a while, and I have a story to share.
On Wednesday we went to Bulk Barn. It’s kind of far from home but we had to be in the area, and we were excited to take advantage of the larger selection available there than where we usually buy our bulk goods. Things were going well, we had some peanut butter, (we brought our own tub), walnut pieces, and I was filling a bag with baking soda when an employee approached and told me that I couldn’t use my own bags, I had to use their plastic bags. Apparently they’re afraid that my bags are going to contaminate their food. He actually said that I should put the food already in plastic bags provided by the store. I told him that wasn’t going to happen and I would return the food I had bagged to the bins, (obviously they didn’t want that), throw out the food in their garbage and leave, or buy the food already in my bags. He ran away and I didn’t see him again.
Since I knew we were going to have problems I found Joanie and told her what happened, so we went to the cash and paid for our purchases, in our own bags. At the cash the clerk asked us to use the bags provided by Bulk Barn on our next visit and explained a bit more about the rule. Apparently there are people who change their minds after filling bags and empty the bags they have filled back into the bins, so they want people to use new plastic bags which are supposedly sterile. I asked a bit more, but she didn’t have a lot of information, basically it’s a corporate policy to not permit customers to bring their own bags to Bulk Barn, and the people who work in the stores have to enforce the policy.
This brings up some interesting questions about buying foods at bulk stores. How clean is the food? By shopping at a bulk store I accept that there might be a bit of cross-contamination in the food I buy. In fact I bought some split yellow peas the other day that had a few lentils mixed in. It’s not the end of the world. I think that we have to trust, to some extent, that the store we buy our food from and the customers who shop there have decent enough hygiene habits to keep the food from becoming dangerous.
If I can’t bring my own containers to a bulk store, eliminating the use of packaging, what is the point of shopping there? Many items, (like flour and sugar), are more expensive than buying them in paper bags at Costco or somewhere similar, so I’m probably not saving money. Is it just for the novelty of buying in bulk?
As for Bulk Barn, if people putting food back is a concern they maybe they could create a rule along the lines of “you bag it, you buy it.” In fact, that might be a good idea for all bags, even the “sterile” plastic bags. Needless to say we won’t be returning to Bulk Barn anytime soon.