“Strangle a Turtle Sir?” – Should checkout staff change the way they sell plastic bags?

We are now fully aware of the damage the plastic bags have caused to our planet and especially the poor old sea life. Fish and turtles (my personal favourite) are forever being found dragging their death sentence around their necks in the form of a supermarket carrier bag. There are some great campaigns out there, raising awareness of the problem and of course, the carrier bag tax, but is it having the right effect. I would like to suggest with a little clever wordplay could prevent plastic bags from being used ever again.

I was giving a presentation the other day about the difference between emotional and rational decision making when it comes to buying habits. Appealing to someone’s rational side is when you tend to talk about the price or how your product is better than the other guy. You are telling people to buy your widget because it is cheaper than mine. Yes, this works, you only have to look as far as RyanAir to understand some people don’t give a damn about anything but the price.

Not everyone is the same however and that is where trying to provoke an emotional response is more important. You don’t buy an Iphone because its the cheapest thing on the market. You buy it because you believe in better service, quality and technology that will make a difference to your life. Apple is always pushing the boundaries of technology, changing the way we do things for the better. You buy it because you believe in the Apple story and want to be part of it, you are emotionally engaged.

No one ever bought a Porche because it was cheap, they buy a Porche because it becomes part of their story. They want people to know about their financial status, success, how fast they drive or that they aren’t particularly well endowed. So how can this emotional response be used by the government to prevent more sales of plastic bags?

The current efforts involve a financial penalty at the check out if you want a bag you now have to pay for it. 5p to be precise, the result of which goes to charity. Yes, there is an emotional response at play here because of where the money goes, but essentially it is a fine/tax to encourage you to be greener.

Next time you go to the supermarket, imagine if the checkout staff asked you the following question:

“Would you like to kill some more fish?”


“Strangle a Turtle Sir?”

I think it might make you think again. Appealing to customers emotion in the right way can be very powerful. You immediately get an idea as to the consequences when buying a plastic bag. OK, it is quite a negative way of doing things, almost as bad as selling by fear but then it is an important subject. I would love to know your thoughts and what would happen if someone said it to you. To find out how we can help you provoke an emotional response, why not contact us for a chat.


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