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How A Plan To Shame Customers Away From Plastic Bags Backfired

East West Market in Vancouver, British Columbia, offered single-use plastic bags with embarrassing slogans to encourage customers to utilize reusable bags.

East West Market in Vancouver, British Columbia, offered single-use plastic bags with embarrassing slogans to encourage customers to utilize reusable bags. (Courtesy of East West Market)

Public shame.

That's the tactic one Canadian grocery store used to get customers to ditch single-use plastics and instead utilize reusable shopping bags.

Shoppers who didn't bring their own bags to East West Market in Vancouver, British Columbia, left with groceries in plastic bags that read "Wart Ointment Wholesale," "Into the Weird Adult Video Emporium" or "The Colon Care Co-Op."

For store owner David Kwen, the bags evolved out of wanting to bring more awareness to reducing consumption — in a humorous way.

Kwen printed the eyebrow-raising slogans on the bags with the assumption that people would be embarrassed to carry them, he told Here & Now's Robin Young. In a post on Instagram, the grocery store said, "It's hard to always remember a reusable bag. We redesigned our plastic bags to help you never forget again!"

But the scheme backfired.

People began flocking to the market, paying 5 cents each in hopes of collecting the designs.

Although the bags were meant to force customers to think twice about their plastic consumption — smaller text on the bags read, "Avoid the shame. Bring a reusable bag" — Kwen wasn't defeated by the attention his plan got.

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