Street Anthropologist
July 20, 2011 12:04 PM   Subscribe

Where have you seen working-class people carrying their everyday stuff in high-end store bags (e.g., a Tiffany's bag)?

I'd like to know if my initial impression, "These people probably cannot afford to shop often at these stores, but they want to give the impression that they do," is accurate or not. I could be classist or overthinking this; maybe they just think, "This bag looks smart."

I am also curious where they get the bags, e.g., a one-time purchase for themselves or as a Xmas present or bought on eBay etc.

For info, I would like straightforward information, not snark such as "How dare poor people violate the sumptuary laws," thanks.
posted by bad grammar to Society & Culture (75 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I've lived on both coasts of the US, and I've never seen or heard of anyone doing this.
posted by brainmouse at 12:06 PM on July 20, 2011

What kinds of bags? Maybe they're just well-made and nice/easy to reuse. Really high-end stores tend to make every aspect of the shopping experience pleasant, and that might include the shopping bags.
posted by needs more cowbell at 12:06 PM on July 20, 2011 [10 favorites]

You don't even say which country you're in.
posted by Namlit at 12:07 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I see that regularly in Salvador, Brazil. People use nice store bags where I might use a plastic WalMart bag. I don't know where everyone gets them from, but my maid used to ask to take bags home with her.
posted by wallaby at 12:08 PM on July 20, 2011

When I lived in New York it was Bloomingdales bags mostly. It's what you carried your stuff in that either wouldn't fit in your purse or that you didn't WANT to put in your purse (your lunch, your work shoes, a book, etc).

In California I see Victoria's Secret bags, but less often because there's not much in the way of public transportation commuting going on.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:11 PM on July 20, 2011

People will often donate items to the Salvation Army and other thrift stores in these sorts of bags, which will then reuse them for purchases.
posted by ODiV at 12:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [7 favorites]

When I worked in the visual department at May Company, my mom and her friends would clamor for the Chanel and Gucci gift bags to use as their lunch bags.

We would also get lots of women coming in and asking for them.

Southern Indiana, mid-late 1990s.
posted by Tchad at 12:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is me, or was me when I was a receptionist. I used to carry my lunch to work in a Tiffany's bag. I think it was a combination of the two things you said above, but also a jokiness to it. "Look, I have a tuna sandwich in this Tiffany's bag!" There was also something less depressing about bringing lunch in a Tiffany's bag than in a 99 Cent Store bag. Which I suppose is classist. Whatever.

Any bags of this type that I've gotten have either been from gifts or the boss was throwing out a perfectly good bag.
posted by queensissy at 12:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

In the US, I've seen people with shopping bags from high end stores, but they're usually very small ones, or it's obvious that there's very little inside. Sometimes people will buy something small or the least expensive thing they can get from a particular store just so they can say they got it there. Some people are class conscious like that.

Nevertheless, sometimes the bags really are nice and sturdy enough to be used to carry everyday items such as lunches. Such people may simply be using these bags to save money/reduce waste.
posted by Anima Mundi at 12:12 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I see this frequently on the BART in the bay area. I occasionally use the higher end bags to carry my lunch in because they often have better and more reinforced handles.
posted by Zophi at 12:12 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

In NYC I usually see young women of all classes reuse Victoria's Secret and Sephora bags, although those aren't exactly high-end stores.
posted by griphus at 12:12 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I live in San Francisco, which has both many high-end retail shops and people who can't afford to shop there.

I haven't noticed this thing you've noticed. But I also can't necessarily tell by looking who can afford to shop at Really Expensive Place and who can't. That guy in the torn jeans and yesterday's stained t-shirt may well be the founder of a startup that just went public.
posted by rtha at 12:12 PM on July 20, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have seen them in my country. A lot. It happens with people who have relatives who are lucky enough to travel and bring a a couple of presents , and the bags, too. The bags are given away as presents because they are pretty, and people like to use them to carry papers, snacks, etc.

Last time I visited my country I saw a street market stall decorated with Victoria Secret bags. It was actually charming.

Also, these bags tend to be used or treasured for ages. In our case, it's a result of our crisis in the 80's and 90's in which we never had anything imported (commonplace things "from the movies" like snicker bars or johnson and johnson shampoo were seriously cool). I mean, I'm pretty sure I still have some cute bags my parents brought from Europe in the 90s.
posted by Tarumba at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a Fortnum and Mason bag I picked up in London 10 years ago that still lives in my suitcase to ferry home dirty laundry. I don't know what that says about your thesis, though.
posted by pantarei70 at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

High end shopping bags are probably a lot better made than regular shopping bags, plus, they're fancy and special. Having said that, I've never seen or noticed it...

I do notice people carrying high end purses A LOT though, even more so in working class/middle class areas.
posted by katypickle at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2011

I keep my Victoria's Secret bags to tease people with. I'll use them to wrap an ordinary present for a friend's baby shower or to make my husband think that's where I got his present (when really it's a gift certificate to Home Depot.)

I keep all my shopping bags to reuse. The higher quality the bag, the more often it'll get reused.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:13 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

High-end store bags are frequently more durable than grocery bags or other bags with handles. Sometimes they are even made with metal reinforcements to keep the handles from tearing through. They're so durable that they survive being given from person to person many times.

Person A buys something at Tiffany, gets awesome bag.
Person A has to take a bunch of stuff over to Person B's house for dinner, uses Tiffany bag, leaves Tiffany bag at Person B's house.
Person B takes large item to her mother in Tiffany bag, leaves bag with Mrs. B.
Mrs. B takes Tiffany bag to the market.

In my neighborhood, I see this a lot, particularly among Russian immigrants. I think their experiences in the Soviet Union have made them averse to throwing out perfectly good items like good-quality bags.
posted by overeducated_alligator at 12:14 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, I have received fancy store bags full of donations at work. We usually give them away full of goodies.
posted by Tarumba at 12:17 PM on July 20, 2011

For what it's worth, I live in a major metro area of the US East Coast. I'm happy with your wide range of answers and contexts for this practice.
posted by bad grammar at 12:19 PM on July 20, 2011

This is very very very common in the Korean immigrant communities in LA, DC, and New York (and elsewhere in the US for all I know). I laughed and laughed when I read this blog post about what Korean moms like, because it's so true, at least of my mom and all her friends. They like the sturdiness of the bag combined with its cuteness, and maybe a little bit of the dubious status symbol of hey-I-bought-a-thing-at-this-fancy-store-once. It's not necessarily trying to give the impression that they shop there all the time—everyone knows there's just a prayer book or some kimbap in there—it's more like an accessory in itself. Shopping bags from high-end stores tend to be pretty.
posted by peachfuzz at 12:20 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

In NYC I'd see all kinds of people carrying their stuff in all kinds of branded bags, some from "high-end" stores, and I did this myself too. Not because I wanted to come off as super wealthy, but because bags from those stores just hold up better. The cheap tissue-thin kind you get at the grocery store is really likely to tear or get a hole and drop your stuff all over the street. The kind of bags that (e.g.) Victoria's Secret uses aren't going to do that.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:23 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

There's also at least one person who frames their high-end bags and hangs them on the wall.
posted by mauvest at 12:24 PM on July 20, 2011

Yes, the bags I see people carrying are the stores' sturdy paper bags that stand up on their own and usually have cord handles.
posted by bad grammar at 12:25 PM on July 20, 2011

"Luggage by Safeway" was a catch phrase for college students a few years ago. Higher end than WalMart?
posted by Cranberry at 12:25 PM on July 20, 2011 [2 favorites]

I'd need two hands to count the number of times I've had to borrow a bag from a co-worker to carry something in, when I unexpectedly was caught short. Those bags could have been from any one of a number of stores, which may or may not have fit in the same "class level" that I am in.

Just a thought.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:25 PM on July 20, 2011

This was a common accessory for some girls back in age range 16-19 school, which I had never wondered about but now do. They can not have been suitable for lugging books around.
This was in Denmark, and not particularly poor people I wouldn't think. I can not even say whether these were continuously changed or reused, but they were so common, I have to doubt that they all went shopping at these stores every day and got new bags. They probably were sturdy and durable but again, pretty ill suited for heavy school duty.
posted by Catfry at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2011

My officemate saves all shopping bags to reuse -- we regularly order boxed lunches from Panera Bread for meetings, and they deliver the food in a huge bag that could easily fit two standard bed pillows. There are three of those bags tucked behind a bookcase in my office right now, my officemate will use them to ferry supplies around the building until they fall apart. We have wheeled carts to do that, so I'm not sure why she uses bags, but that's what she likes I guess.

I see a lot of women reuse specific shopping bags around where I work (Bellevue/Redmond, WA) -- the ones I see the most are Lululemon Athletica, Anthropologie, and Barneys.

These women are in high-paying jobs in the software industry, so the reuse of high-end shopping bags is not limited to lower-income individuals. It's still a status thing, though -- the women who are carrying around the Lululemon bags, especially, are signaling to the other women around them that not only do they have the ability to drop $100 on a pair of yoga pants, but that they are privileged enough to attend regular yoga/pilates classes and put an emphasis on their own health/wellness. (Usually the bag is used to carry gym clothes or a salad in an attractive, stylish travel bowl with a matching water bottle.)
posted by palomar at 12:26 PM on July 20, 2011

I see this frequently. Grew up in NYC, live in Boston. I often got the sense that some of these people were domestic staff and got them from their wealthy employers.

For some people, it's clearly messages status, or at least, allegiance to a high-status brand. You don't have to read Veblen to know that this is common in our society. For others, it's probably just a bag.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:29 PM on July 20, 2011

I used to see this all the time on the Peninsula (SF Bay Area) when I was working in an office around 2003. It was our office staff (although I see lots of folks on Muni and SamTrans with these bags). These women were really, really obsessed with luxury brands. The bags came from purchases from these stores. Some saved, some just used credit cards for these purchases. The brand made them happy (they actually said this--it's not deduction on my part).

I also think that part of this is that the bags are of much better quality than what you get from lower-end stores--they last a long time.
posted by smirkette at 12:30 PM on July 20, 2011

I see it in NYC all the time.
posted by dfriedman at 12:31 PM on July 20, 2011

How can you tell just from looking that the person is "working class" (what does that actually mean anymore, anyway? They're toting a steel lunch box and wearing overalls?)
posted by Ideefixe at 12:32 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I reuse them because they're usually just really nice bags - too nice to not be reused. They're sturdy and easy to carry - as they're usually the flat bottomed ones with the cord handles. I have a bunch from a variety of stores that I use for toting stuff all over the place - to work, to my parents house, etc.

My boss's wife uses the smaller ones for when she packs his lunch.
posted by NoraCharles at 12:32 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a coworker who always had an endless supply of high-end store bags for her paper bag lunches (especially Tiffany's bags or it might have just seemed that way because that shade of blue is so distinct) and I've reused nicer shopping bags as disposable carry-alls such as when I need to take things in a bag somewhere but don't want to hassle with taking the bag back home with me. The nicer shopping bags are great because the paper is super thick, very often made of coated stock (much more water resistant than uncoated brown paper) and the handles are reinforced cord knotted through metal grommets rather than glued-in rolled paper or paper strap. Dunno where my coworker got her bags but mine are on hand because I did some shopping at that retailer and I'm basically too thrifty to toss out a perfectly useful bag.
posted by jamaro at 12:35 PM on July 20, 2011

I noticed this yesterday. A girl in Dunkin Donuts was using a paper "Conrad Hotels & Resorts" bag to carry her belongings.

You asked about 'working class people' but this girl was dressed to impress with her clothing and jewelry.
posted by seesom at 12:35 PM on July 20, 2011

I use shopping bags to carry my lunch and assorted crap that won't fit in my purse to work sometimes. They're sturdier and look a bit nicer than a plastic grocery bag (which I save for dog poop). I'm definitely not trying to impress anyone though. If I was I'd get a nice leather tote to haul my crap in.

I've seen lots of other women in Chicago reuse bags in this manner and I honestly don't think they're looking to impress anyone either. It's just a bag that won't fall apart right away or make you look homeless.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2011

I lived in CT for almost 7 years and saw this regularly. Seeing it then my initial reaction was "really? OK, I get it you shop at______and want attention..." Now back in TX, I haven't seen it.
posted by doorsfan at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2011

I like reusing girly store bags to gift things to my male relatives. "HAHA, YES LITTLE BROTHER, I TOTALLY GOT YOU VICTORIA'S SECRET UNDERPANTS no just kidding it's a t-shirt happy birthday." What they do with the bags after that is their business. My dad keeps receipts and random mail and stuff in an old (small) Nordstrom bag. I don't think he's ever set foot in a Nordstrom. It's just a very sturdy little bag.
posted by phunniemee at 12:46 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have a sturdy shopping bag filled with folded up sturdy shopping bags. I save them whenever I get them because they typically have stiff cardboard at the bottom and that helps keep items in place. The handles are usually reinforced and can "hold up" to frequent use.

I use these bags mainly to ferry random items from place to place, such as multiple tupperware bins for potluck dinners, or delivering presents to folk. If I leave the bag at someone's house, it was by accident because I prefer folding it back up and taking it with me, but I have enough that I usually let the other person keep it.

For everyday use I don't rely on them. I'll use a backpack or some kind of tote, or a lunchbox.
posted by CancerMan at 12:48 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm in Boston, and I see people at rush hour taking their lunch in Victoria's Secret bags all the time. I try really hard to miind my own business but I have to admit it makes me think judge-y thoughts.
posted by marginaliana at 12:48 PM on July 20, 2011

I can't bring myself to throw away the Apple bags. I don't have many uses for them but this thread is giving me ideas.
posted by shew at 12:52 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, I live in a major metro area of the US East Coast. I'm happy with your wide range of answers and contexts for this practice.

Certain phrases you used in your OP, like "working-class" and "this bag looks smart", make it sound like you lived in the UK at one time.
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:54 PM on July 20, 2011

Common in Chicago and Boston. It seems to be more of a yuppie thing.

I think a lot of women do this. Not only is it reliving the branded indulgence of whatever they originally bought, but the bags themselves are usually really nice. They're durable, they're pretty, they can stand up on a desk or subway seat, and the handles are comfortable and sturdy and sometimes made out of ribbon or fancy cord or whatever. It feels nice to have nice things, even if it's just the bag your sandwich is in.

Good shopping bag design can be part of a store's marketing strategy, since nice bags are more likely to be carried and give the impression of "this is an expensive store" - and they have the store's name right on the bag. If I see an interesting-looking but unfamiliar shopping bag on the subway, I'll be curious about the store.

And besides, why not reuse them? (I have a few of the Lululemon bags palomar mentions, and sometimes I use them to carry my lunch or gym clothes. I actually feel a little embarrassed when I carry them, because I don't want fellow commuters to think I actually believe that "children are the orgasm of life!!!" but hey, they're super-duper durable and the handles fit over my shoulder. If Under Armour gave out sturdy flat-bottomed shopping bags, I'd use those instead, but noooo their bags are wimpy.)

An anecdote: when I was in middle school and girls were just starting to care about clothes, we'd often carry our gym clothes in shopping bags from Express, Gap, or The Limited - about as fashionable as you can get when you're a suburban preteen. The most enviable bags were from Limited Too, because if you shopped there you could still fit into kids' sizes. Conspicuous consumption and self-consciousness both start early!
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:57 PM on July 20, 2011

Came in to say Lululemon, not at all surprised several people already beat me to it. Whenever I notice someone doing this (San Francisco and Silicon Valley public transit) it's always a woman, never a man.

I'm convinced that someone smart at Lululemon very purposely beefed up their bags precisely because they wanted women flashing their logo in as many places as possible.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 1:06 PM on July 20, 2011

I live in Southern Indiana, and I take my lunch to work in a Victoria's Secret bag all the time without a second thought. They're the right size and shape for a lunch, with an additional bit of cardboard in the bottom and some structure, so my food gets carried instead of skooshed.

After thirty seven years on this planet, I have learned that there is nothing one can do in public that someone else will not decide is some weird social signal, and I no longer give a damn.
posted by endless_forms at 1:07 PM on July 20, 2011 [8 favorites]

I just found a NYT article from 2007 about this exact thing.
posted by phunniemee at 1:11 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

I held a garage sale once and had a pile of store bags at the ready for people's purchases. Someone picked up a Godiva Chocolate bag and asked me how much I wanted for it. Dumbstruck, I told her it was free... and she picked through the pile and took several away without buying anything else.
posted by carmicha at 1:21 PM on July 20, 2011

I'm chuckling over this side of the pond because earlier today I reached into the larder to get a carrier bag to take to the village store to stock up on vegetables and in the space of a nanosecond I felt:

...pleased that it was a Waitrose* carrier bag
...then stupid for feeling pleased
...went to put it back in the larder to "keep for best"
...realised how idiotic I was being and shoved it in my pocket to go get the vegetables.

* Waitrose are one of the more upmarket supermarket chains in the UK - I rarely go there (distance, frugality) but did a small grocery shop there last weekend.
posted by humph at 1:27 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

I've known my dad to do this. For him it's partly ironic.
posted by Jehan at 1:31 PM on July 20, 2011

I hold on to pretty much all bags I get. Plastic ones get used for garbage/cat litter. Sturdy paper ones for carrying things around. I used a Zara bag to carry my lunch for the longest time, although I have since stepped up to a fabric grocery bag.

I'd say that most people in Toronto hold on to their plastic bags, and more than a few of us will re-use the paper bags they get too.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:35 PM on July 20, 2011

Morning bus commute into Boston, a lot of Victoria Secret bags.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:38 PM on July 20, 2011

I remember seeing a market stall selling nothing but (presumably fake) logo shopping bags in Siberia a decade ago. I think that was more brands associated with America than brands Americans would ID as high-end (e.g. Marlboro, Levis, etc.). People were buying bags for a small amount (less than $1USD, I think) and then putting their market shopping in it.
posted by ssg at 1:50 PM on July 20, 2011

I'm convinced that someone smart at Lululemon very purposely beefed up their bags precisely because they wanted women flashing their logo in as many places as possible.

Well, the lululemon bags are reusable. They're real bags [some sort of ripstop plastic with webbing handles, not paper or even whatever the "fabric" is that reusable grocery store bags are].
And they're great for both [especially dirty] gym clothes AND lunch. Not at the same time.
And I'm in DC, so you have the combo of public transport making what people are carrying very visible AND a plastic disposable bag tax. It's amazing how 5 cents a bag as really pushed people to use reusables.
I also see men carrying lululemon ones here in DC.
posted by atomicstone at 1:52 PM on July 20, 2011

Back when I was traveling regularly by Greyhound, I used to see a bit of this at bus stations.
posted by box at 1:57 PM on July 20, 2011

Although I have really stepped up using cloth bags for shopping, somehow once in a while, a good quality paper bag will make it home. I hate to throw it out, because it feels wasteful to get rid of such a nice sturdy bag with handles. So as others have mentioned, I'll use them when taking things into work, over to a friends house. I mostly do this, so that I won't accidentally leave one of my cloth bags behind.

When I was in middle school, I do remember girls bringing their gym clothes in GAP, and Express bags. I figured that they were just showing off that they could afford the higher-end mall stores. Now I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and just assume they were forward-thinking about re-using disposable bags.

I had a co-worker at a past job who would always bring her lunch in a Victoria's Secret bag. For some reason, it just didn't sit right with me-as if I couldn't eat lunch with her without thinking about what sort of under ware/ bra she might have bought.
posted by JennyJupiter at 1:59 PM on July 20, 2011

Dang, I reuse those nice paper bags all the time, lunch, spare shoes, post office run. I didn't realize people thought I might be trying to show-off. They just happen to be a good size, and a good bag, especially when you don't really mind if it gets lost/dirty/torn/etc. They are also usually sitting on the table or something because I haven't gotten around to putting it somewhere so highly convenient.
posted by magnetsphere at 2:03 PM on July 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

In my 'hood in Manhattan..lots of the women will use high-end bags to carry to Prayer Services in Synagogue on Friday night and Saturday.

Usually they store shoes so they can walk in flip flops (or snow boots!) and change in the lobby. Sometimes a a bottle of wine/box of candy/pot luck item for a host that invited them to a shabbat meal after services.

It's funny-one particular synagogue has a security system where 2 guys check purses/bags. I always wonder if they ponder why these crazy ladies are trying to sneak some high heels or a salad inside :)
posted by duddes02 at 2:04 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks, people, I now see that the phenomenon is widespread and varied enough to make some sociology Ph.D. student's dissertation (if there isn't already one) with grants funded by marketing agencies!
posted by bad grammar at 2:06 PM on July 20, 2011

Tangentially, last year I noticed my local Toys R Us store sells FAO Schwartz bags. Odd.
posted by mmascolino at 2:07 PM on July 20, 2011

Lululemon bags were actually recalled due to lead content. So no, they're not good for carrying your lunch.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 2:14 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

maybe unrelated, but I've seen a hipster carry her possessions in a walmart bag on a consistent basis because... I don't know? irony? this was in Brooklyn.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 3:11 PM on July 20, 2011

::laughing at lululemon contamination::

I grew up in Connecticut and saw this a lot in high school. I suppose a "status symbol" in part, and also a convenient tote that looked nicer than a grocery bag. The walmart bag is definitely the epitome of unimaginative hipster irony, M. Pemulis. They aren't even sturdy!

Later on, staying with a wealthy family in New Delhi, I observed that they saved, folded and stored high-quality shopping bags with the utmost care. It was mostly recycling. And why not? The nicer stores have better bags and it would be wasteful to trash them.

I've done the same, but I will say that I will think twice about the brand name. I don't like Victoria's Secret and won't advertise for them. The best, imho, are like handbags: no conspicuous branding preferred.
posted by keasby at 3:36 PM on July 20, 2011

This was definitly a thing in high school (late 80s, sf bay area) but I think back then it was pretty rare to get a nice bag with a handle, so they were very precious.
posted by vespabelle at 3:43 PM on July 20, 2011

As a teen, I used to—and I still find myself doing this on occasion—save the package from any "nice thing" or brand-name thing I got. I'd use it to store/display things on my shelves at home or carry things in public when my other, more permanent bags and boxes were full. Getting stuff like that was so rare, and some kids I knew had all kinds of bags from high-end stores, so of course I wanted to look like I, too, bought stuff from "nice" stores.

Now I'll keep a nice box or bag for a while if I know I'm going to be giving someone a gift, and use it to carry those things over to the person's house/party/etc. But I don't hoard and display them the way I once did. Though when I was cleaning my closet recently, trying to pare down anything unnecessary, I found a bunch of things I'd used this way—a box from a 12-pack of Coronas in college, one from some nice beer glasses, a bag from the Apple store... I guess you figure, this stuff has to go in some kind of box or bag, it might as well go in an interesting or high-status one. (The Corona box is now holding my entire collection of spray paint for artwork and crafts.)

But yeah, it's also a little sad to be so brand-conscious, and I've tried to avoid doing that as much as possible in recent years.
posted by limeonaire at 3:52 PM on July 20, 2011

I got curious - you can buy Lululemon, Victoria's Secret, Nordstrom and Apple store bags on ebay. So people must be really into this.
posted by artychoke at 4:32 PM on July 20, 2011

i use them because, as stated above, they are really sturdy bags, and they lay flat. i keep some at work to take home stuff i may have gotten shipped to me there, and i have some at home to take my lunch in, and if it rips, i have more and can still carry my empty containers and things home. they're very functional, and i feel as though they should be used again, instead of just tossed.

i use apple bags when i travel, to put my shoes/wet clothes in. they're totally awesome for that.
posted by koroshiya at 4:33 PM on July 20, 2011

I see this a bit in China.
posted by bearette at 4:41 PM on July 20, 2011

Starbucks holiday paper bags are sturdy. I've reused those and trader Joe bags. Kinda lame but recycle isn't.
posted by Bun Surnt at 4:59 PM on July 20, 2011

I saw it in NYC all the time, and I used to carry my lunch in a small Prada shopping bag. I found it in a closet at work (no way I could afford to shop there!) and it was the perfect size for my tupperware, plus amazingly well-made. This was a bag that someone got at a store, not intended to be reusable, but it was practically indestructable and seemingly waterproof. I did not remotely care about giving the impression that I shop at Prada - nothing else about my appearance or accessories would indicate that. I just cared about having a great way to move my lunch from home to work.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 5:19 PM on July 20, 2011

Cole Haan isn't Tiffany's level high-end, but I have known more than one person who carries around their gym clothes in a Cole Haan bag for some reason. They were neither working-class nor the type to flash labels.
posted by pravit at 8:01 PM on July 20, 2011

This is quite common in Seoul
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:51 PM on July 20, 2011

Not quite luxury store, but as a high school student I'd get extra bags at Disneyland every time I went so I could schlep stuff around in them. I love Disneyland and it made me smile to use bags from there.

One interesting twist on this phenomenon is that at least one clothes chain (Urban Outfitters) now sends shoppers home with explicitly reusable bags (not plastic, some kind of thin fabric). I don't actually like carrying around an ad for Urban Outfitters and it kind of annoys me that I can't really use their bags to line my bathroom trash anymore. But I've definitely seen people using them on the bus to carry their things so I guess the strategy is working.
posted by troublesome at 11:54 PM on July 20, 2011

Oh yes! The Threadless store here in Chicago uses those thin fabric bags as well and I see people re-using them ALL the time.
posted by Windigo at 9:17 AM on July 21, 2011

tl;dr but I've heard people use these bags as part of a scam -- if you want to return an item, when it's in the store's bag they'll more readily agree to a refund or exchange if you don't have the receipt.
posted by Rash at 10:56 AM on July 21, 2011

I briefly worked as a teacher's aide in the Chicago area and one of the teachers would always bring her lunch in a Tiffany's bag. She was loud, foulmouthed, and completely repulsive, and that bag drove me nuts.
posted by jabes at 1:33 PM on July 21, 2011

I see a lot of middle-aged men in NYC carrying things in yellow Forever 21 bags. I'm pretty sure they're not filled with purchases from that store. For what it's worth, they are pretty durable bags and good for a lunch or something.
posted by Fuego at 8:35 PM on July 21, 2011

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