Leave shopkeepers alone. Please.

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 08 February 2019, 12:00AM

Changing habits, mindsets and attitudes is not easy. 

It’s always the case, whether the change is good or bad. 

Folks it doesn’t matter if the change is taking place in Samoa, United States of America, Europe or anywhere in the world, getting people used to change is always the challenge and it takes time, a lot of time.

And so in Samoa this week, our nation is just coming to terms with the nationwide ban on single-use plastic bags introduced and implemented by the Government in an effort to protect our environment. 

To be sure, it’s not an easy thing to do, after years and years where we’ve become so used to these plastic bags. Indeed, old habits are hard to break especially when they become second nature. We don’t think about them anymore, we just do it because it’s become part of everyday life.

We’re a bit like that with plastic bags. 

Everywhere we stop to buy something, we are given plastic bags upon plastic bags. At every corner of Samoa. 

On a daily basis, it’s probably safe to say that each person goes through an average of 10 plastic bags a day, some people go through more. So imagine then having a blanket ban where you suddenly turn up and find there is none. 

But that’s not all. Then you realise the inconvenience of not having anything to carry your shopping to the car – or being told to buy a more environmentally friendly bag as part of the change, and it becomes quite a shock, isn’t it?

Some people find it amusing, some become frustrated while others just become downright rude. Which is precisely what our people have had to come to grips with this week. 

Sadly, from what we’ve been told, many of the rude types have taken chosen to take their frustrations out on the shopkeepers, especially the ones at some of the biggest supermarkets in the country. 

A story published earlier this week highlighted the plight of the men and women who have suddenly found themselves as the target of abuse and violent threats.

 “Ever since the ban started, people have been coming in with such indescribable attitudes,” one cashier told the Samoa Observer. “Telling us this and that, and then even to the point where they actually swore at our face, while we are trying to explain why we are not using plastic bags anymore.”

Another shopkeeper said: “I believe some people are aware of the fact that plastic bags have been banned. But they refuse to understand – they just want to let us know that they are strong enough to say whatever they want to say – and it is very disrespectful.”

In some cases, the shopkeepers have tried to be helpful.

Another shopkeeper hit the nail on the head when she reminded that the ban is the Government’s idea, not theirs.

“We are only doing our jobs,” she said. “The abuse makes us feel so discouraged to do our job because we are trying our best and it is not our fault that they can’t use plastic bags anymore. 

“We give some people boxes for their shopping if they refuse to pay for the reusable bag but they still complain about it so we have no other ways to address such baby issue.”

She added that a lot of customers are “reacting like babies” when the solution is clear – “bring your own shopping bags.” 

We couldn’t agree more. If anything, we feel for the poor shopkeepers. They are probably among the lowest paid workers in the country and for them to cop the abuse when it’s not their fault is unnecessary. If anything, it’s bullying at its worse. People with such attitudes towards these men and women should be ashamed.

The Government has made the right decision to start implementing this ban on plastics. The move is absolutely critical in terms of efforts to preserve our environment and to fight against climate change. Everyone is affected. 

The solution is quite simple to avoid all this unnecessary troubles. 

Either we take a box, reusable bag to the store, or we buy a reusable bag and get used to turning up with one every time we need to buy something. Or else just grab your shopping and take it with you. 

This ban is here to stay and whether we like it or not, we need to change our mindsets and attitudes to avoid the disappointment. And don’t forget, threatening and abusing shopkeepers, especially swearing at them is a criminal offense. Don’t do it.

Have a wonderful weekend Samoa, God bless!

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 08 February 2019, 12:00AM

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