Bring Your Own Bag Law Freak Out

As a businessperson, my relationship to the City of San Jose in which we have our offices is best described as contentious. It started when my husband moved his office to San Jose and paid the business license tax. Rather than welcoming a business to the city, the revenue department immediately assumed we’d been here for the 2 previous years and sent him a huge bill, complete with fines for non-compliance and late payment. No one at the department deigned to return his calls, so he finally had to march down to City Hall in person, and that didn’t clear the matter up either. He had to deliver an affidavit from the current landlord that we hadn’t been in the office before we actually started paying rent on it; a copy of the office lease and business licenses in Santa Clara where we’d been all that time; and copies of our former stationery with the Santa Clara address to get the fines cleared, never mind that San Jose itself had no proof for its presumption that we’d been illegally squatting in our new offices for years beforehand. The visit this summer from Guido, visibly counting heads in the office, didn’t improve my mood.

So when I found a notice in the mailbox that the City of San Jose had sent us a registered letter, my immediate assumption was one of “how did these @$%^tards #@$% up again, and how many $%#@& hoops will I have to leap through to get it fixed?” And I don’t usually curse, but this sort of thing brought forth my mental pottymouth. It’s Christmastime, and I don’t relish standing in a long post office line just to sign for a letter proving the city’s latest idiocy, so I left a message at the revenue department (sans vulgarities) asking them to call me back with information on how they screwed up this time. As it turns out, this wasn’t that department’s mess.

I had to run an errand which took me past the post office anyway, so I finally braved the lines and signed for the registered letter. It was from the Environmental Services Department: a redundant reminder to the notice they’ve already sent out that retail businesses may no longer give out thin plastic bags with handles with purchases (though thin unhandled plastic bags are ok) Being largely mail-order, we don’t use bags, period. And honestly, before the city council decided to enact this ban rather than tackle the far more serious financial problems and issues, I was a happy bag lady, bringing my totes in to each and every business, some of whom, like Trader Joe’s, Lunardi’s, and CVS, encourage the behavior with various spiffs. Since then, I’ve been grabbing as many plastic bags as I can while the getting’s good and hoarding them, because sometimes you do need a thin plastic disposable bag for stuff.

But I digress. My first thought when I opened the letter was “how much money did the city (which can’t keep its libraries open, or pay its cops) spend on this fiasco?” The final kicker was that the letter included a “self-certification” form, with all the checkboxes already conveniently checked in for me, which I should return (also at the city’s cost) to let them know I understand the requirements of the “Single Use Carryout Bag” law that goes into effect in January. I had to stand in line at the post office at Christmastime for this!!?

As it would happen, we had two of our favorite wags over for dinner that night. Bill promptly asked if there are any consequences for not returning the form, because if there aren’t, why bother doing it? There’s nothing telling you what will happen if you don’t return it, and I even called the number on the letter today to ask and reached a guy with a thick Vietnamese accent who had no idea what I was talking about (and yes, I checked — I called the same number on the form.) Peter A. pointed out that there are consequences:  the Environmental Services Department will keep sending me registered letters which I could keep ignoring, imposing even more costs on the city for its eco-posing, thoughtless initiative. Oh, and did I mention, the law is redundant with the exact same anti-plastic-bag rule imposed upon us by the county?

And yet, the politicians wonder how they keep losing money, despite all their cut-backs…..


  1. Jon Bickford

    LOL…goodness I miss your rants

  2. Keith Stattenfield

    As a minor nit; it isn’t redundant with the county’s ordinance, because the county only has authority over businesses not in a municipality like San Jose.

  3. Pingback: Daft Musings » Blog Archive » Continued Tales of Rapacious City Overreach

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