The Seattle City Council is busy working to eliminate plastic shopping bags. While we agree that far too many of them do end up blowing around the streets and causing mayhem, they have their uses and we don't think those are being taken into account. We fired off this e-mail to Mike O'Brien, the lead councilman on this effort.
Mr. O'Brien - From the point of view of this small business, the proposed plastic bag ban is a fiasco. While I can agree that too many plastic bags end up as trash and clogging the environment, they have their place in the rainy Northwest, especially when it comes to books.
Seattle is known for being a great place for books - for readers and writers and for bookshops. Within the publishing world, Seattle has a great reputation for all of the above. Seattle is also a mecca for tourists and we're happy to say that many make a point of coming to visit us each time they come to town.
I don't think enough consideration is being given to those two factors - rain and books. In general, I would hope you'll agree that water and paper do not play well together. Books swell when they're wet, the pages ripple, the covers wrinkle and they become, in every way, less attractive. And what you want to do is remove the best way to protect books from the rain.
We do a great deal of business due to author signings. Again, Seattle has a golden reputation in the book world for the number of authors who are sent to town to promote their books. Collectors are astonishingly picky about the condition of their books. We take great care to provide them with pristine signed copies, yet you expect them to take them out in the rain protected only with a paper bag? Lunacy! Paper bags, like the books themselves, don't react well in the rain.
Here we turn back to the tourists that so many of us depend upon. While the locals may learn to carry reusable bags, tourists won't. I don't travel with reusable bags. Do you? You seriously want us to explain to customers from near and far, from Asia and Europe, that our city council thinks it is a good idea that their books get damaged in the rain, that we're not allowed to provide protection for their purchases and that, even worse, we're supposed to charge them for the bag we can provide?
What we want are people to come downtown to spend the day shopping and eating and enjoying themselves. That's the way we stay in business and you get sales tax. Instead, the city has spent the last 21 years that I've been down here making it harder and less pleasant to come downtown - traffic, construction, higher parking rates, now no shopping bags. Is it any wonder that people stay out of downtown and hit the malls? Plenty of free parking, no weather to contend with, they can fill their arms with bags, go dump them in the car and go back for more. We do have a half-dozen shopping bags in our trunk, but we don't go for a walk or get on the bus with those 6 bags. Easy enough to hit the mall, take in a couple of bags with you, head to the car when they're full and pick up a couple of empty ones. Doesn't work like that on the bus. Doesn't work like that for tourists. Alderwood and Southcenter and Bellevue Square must be licking their chops over the way you all continue to drive shoppers and diners out of downtown.
Of course the inevitable end of this is a ban on all plastic of any sort - no zip locks baggies for lunches, no produce bags and no newspaper bags. At that point, I hope you're follow me and my dog and pick up after her with your hand because there won't be any more plastic bags to use in order to follow the scoop laws.
In a way, the city council is like Congress. They spend their days talking about In God We Trust and restricting freedom of choice and you all spend your days working on eliminating plastic bags - all of you ignoring the most important thing: getting people back to work.
Your priorities are screwed up. We need shoppers. We need people with disposable income. And we need plastic bags to protect the books they buy to keep us in business and keep you all in sales taxes.
JB Dickey, owner