If you think writing about it does not help, think again.
Last year, on International Plastic Bag Free Day (IPBFD), I visited 6 different Carrefour outlets and documented what I saw. I put local newspapers who had published misleading information on the spot, and asked the following questions, which seem to have evaded their editorial team:
What has changed since their introduction of reusable bags in 2007?
Who is keeping track of the behavior change?
Are we forgetting that many of the products sold on Carrefour shelves are packaged in plastic?
In November 2019, Carrefour decided to address the first two questions, by introducing reward points for customers who brought their own reusable bags, but generously mentioned that this will only initially apply on two specific days (if you are a fan of percentages, that amounts to 0.00548% of the calendar year), “with plans for issuing more rewards in the future,” and that they will hopefully implement “this loyalty programme in all of [their] 17 markets operational by next year.”
This year, I checked, and it seems that only one Dubai-based magazine, Time Out Dubai, mentioned Carrefour’s IPBFD promotion, and it was very brief, but still misleading. The five sentence Time Out Dubai piece mentioned that Carrefour will be offering “customers free share points when using a reusable bag.” But based on feedback from customers who went shopping over the July 3–4 weekend this year (2020), bonus points for bringing your own bag could only be obtained if new Carrefour branded bags were bought. In their IPBFD press release last year, Carrefour mentioned “similar initiatives over the past year have resulted in 10 times more customers buying reusable bags.” Well.
To reach customers this year, Carrefour resorted to paid ads on Facebook and Instagram. “Get your reusable Carrefour bags ready, and stand a chance to win a 500 AED gift voucher with Carrefour,” an ad said, but of course, you needed to earn your chance to win, by capturing “a photo of yourself with any reusable Carrefour bag” at any of their stores, and sharing it with the Carrefour UAE social media accounts along with the hashtag #ReuseWithCarrefour. The competition is still open until July 9th (here’s some free PR, Carrefour).
But wait, there’s more. A local “marine conservation organization,” posted an official Thank You to Carrefour for “encouraging the use of reusable bags,” along with misleading information that reward points can already be earned until 31 December 2020. I will assume that the program is yet to be implemented, but the information is already up on Azraq’s website.
We appreciate the support (in the form of a ‘like’) our organization’s social media post got from Azraq when we demonstrated how we are taking up plastic waste issues with corporations, but Azraq blocked us on social media the moment we became critical of our “peers.”
I am motivated to write this article by jealousy, it seems, because we rolled out a rewards program ourselves in February of this year. The truth is, I have been quiet for very long, and it is time I speak up. “We need to tell our customers and partners to change the behaviour…This is a way of life and there is no going back,” said Hani Weiss, Chief Executive Officer at Majid Al Futtaim Retail, who also pointed out in the same Gulf News article that: “In Dubai, roughly 1.2billion plastic [bags are being] dumped in landfills a year,” and “we found out through our loyalty data that our customers, at least 50% of them, are ready to walk away if we don’t offer them a plastic bag at the cash counter. This is very risky.”
I will conclude my humble coverage of the Carrefour IPBFD campaign this year with one more question:
4. Risky for who?