This charge on plastic carrier bags has hit wine buyers harder than most High Street shoppers.
Those outside the UK need to know that our big retailers are now charging 5p for each plastic carrier bag. They could, of course, provide free paper bags – but they don’t. Arrive at the checkout without your own bag, and it’s a 5p carrier, or nothing. There are exceptions, so you can still get free plastic bags for raw fish, raw meat, and of course those staple purchases, corms or rhizomes. But not wine.
The thing is, winelovers don’t necessarily go out prepared to carry wine. But you pass a supermarket, and they’re shouting about a reduction, so you pop in just to have a look, just to keep your eye in, and lo and behold, there’s something interesting on offer.
It’s all very well walking home with an unbagged pint of milk or a loaf of bread. Everyone assumes you were just caught short. But, can you be caught short of wine? As far as I’m concerned, that’s just casting aspersions on my cellar.
And people don’t see wine as an impulse purchase, except by those whose impulses require a spell in rehab.
You might say that if you’re spending £10 on a bottle of wine, then 5p on a bag in which to carry it is a minute fiscal addition. Well, I make that 0.5%, which thanks to the current interest rates is what my bank will currently give me if I save that £10 for an entire year. And they advertise that as being an immensely attractive, significant sum. Which obviously I am not going to blow all at once on a wild extravagance like a carrier bag.
But unless you do, it can be more than a little awkward, walking up the High Road carrying a naked bottle of wine.
Your purchase may be utter rubbish, bought because it’s on offer, and because you really are intending to cook with it, honestly. But there you have to go, announcing your poverty and/or poor judgment to all and sundry. Every passer-by is going to think you’re an ignoramus. Or a mug.
(What do you mean, people don’t judge people that way by the wine they’re carrying? I certainly do…)
And can you bear the look on your regular wine merchant’s face as you walk past his frontage bearing a supermarket bargain? You… traitor! He wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a supermarket bag, because he’d assume it contained a entirely different bottle, like olive oil, or bleach. (Although given some supermarket wines, you might be hard pushed to tell the difference…)
Alternatively, the wine you’re carrying may be reasonably good, rendering you a target for those snatch thieves on bicycles and scooters, Okay, they do normally grab mobile phones or watches, but they may be misled by the potential value of a bottle of Burgundy. They wouldn’t be the first to confuse a bottle of DRC with a basic Pinot Noir…
You’ve also got to decide how to carry your naked bottle. Cradled to the chest like a newborn? Inappropriate for anything less cherished than a Grand Cru Classé. The clench around the body? Gives a look of grim determination as if you are wielding a weapon. The carefree swinging by the neck? Not recommended for sparkling wines, as the ejaculatory opening employed by F1 drivers is not popular in social circles which favour interior décor.
Winebuyers had, in fact, become accustomed to a degree of bagging generosity. Check-out assistants would actually offer to double up bags, in order to make them stronger, and ensure your bottles got home safely. Supermarkets loved winebuyers.
So perhaps wine is a significant enough purchase for a supermarket to graciously say, do you know what, we’ll pick up the charge on this bag, sir. Thanks for spending more than the average customer’s entire supermarket spend on just a couple of bottles of wine; we’re so grateful you bought them from us that we’ll let you have the bags gratis, and pay the charge ourselves.
Or perhaps another exception could be extended to winebuyers? For instance, there is no charge on bags for prescription medicines. I assume this is because people would be embarrassed holding a product boldly announcing some kind of personal problem. But in fact, most medicines fit into a pocket; and if you need so much Anusol that it won’t fit in your pocket then you’ve got far more than just embarrassment to worry about.
Couldn’t the embarassment exception be extended to winebuyers like me?
And then I can walk up the High Road again, carrying my wine in a free carrier bag. Like a purchaser of fresh meat. Or Anusol.
Like a rhizome cowboy.