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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Empty comments

My rant about the Safeway stores here in Northeast Portland prompted quite a few good comments. Several blog commenters, and a few other friends to whom I relayed my tales of woe in person, have observed that part of my problem is that I still return my empty beverage containers for the 5-cent deposit charged here in Oregon.

They all stopped doing it long ago. They simply give their empties to needy friends, or leave them at curbside with their garbage every week for the shopping cart people to pick up. Thus, the poor get to deal with the filth of the Safeway and Fred Meyer bottle and can processing machines, and the surly teenagers who get to run them.

Cheapskate that I am, it's hard for me to give up on getting my damned money back myself. But hey, they're right, time is money, and avoiding aggravation-filled time is worth big bucks. So maybe I should follow their lead.

I'm not going to leave the empties out at curbside with my trash, though. I think it's a bad idea to encourage people to come around rooting through your garbage. They may take an empty can to feed their children, but they may also pick up a stray credit card receipt or two, get home on their PC, and start robbing you blind. And while they're out there with their stolen shopping cart, maybe a few things on your front porch will look good, too.

But I know the Boy Scout troop at the school across the street will take the empties. If I can just figure out which Sundays they'll be out there, I can turn the chore over to their eager little hands (or more likely, those of their dads and granddads). I won't get a receipt for my charitable donation -- there's the cheapskate in me talking again! -- but I won't have to deal with those awful machines any more.

Come to think of it, that's probably why the public has let the supermarkets get away with turning their bottle return operations into festering hellholes. The only people left using them are ghetto-ized folks who are really down on their luck, or dedicated Boy Scout parents who are willing to go through the worst for their kids.

Comments (15)

Lambs Thriftway as bins out front where you can put your empties, and they will donate the proceeds to your specified school.

My kids school collects empties... each class responsible for turning in empties for $$$ one month a year, with the money going for extras, like pencils for kids who never seem to have any.

It's a good source of extra revenue for the school.

I was under the impression that OR was weird when it comes to the bottle returns. Unlike other states, when if the bottle is not returned, the selling store gets to keep the 5 cents. So, the miserable return machines are really a profit center for the stores.

I just throw my away in the recycling. No shopping cart vultures in my neck of the woods. So, the ID theft doesn't scare me as much.

However, that doesn't stop me from having to be annoyed by the non-working machines. Freddy's has a lovely storewide anouncement system, so all of their customers can hear "Service to the bottle return" every 10 minutes while in the store.

In my neighborhood, we leave any returnable bottles on the curb, separate from our trash. I actually think this practice discourages people from going through trash. Digging through trash is not fun, even for "ghetto-ized" shopping cart people. I've never seen anyone dig for empties after they already got some from the curb. (Most of these people do not have a PC to use your credit card on, and many of them probably do not have homes either -- thus the shopping cart.) Donating to a school or scouting may be a better idea, but I hope that you were being dramatic in stating your fears of leaving the empties on the curb.

Alas, as I learned during my two years living in the Buckman neighborhood, not everyone who walks the streets with a shopping cart is a homeless individual. Some are thieves disguised as homeless folks.


I am surprised that you do not shred your credit card receipts (and other financial records?) before tossing them. You can buy an inexpensive cross-cut shredder almost anywhere.

A former identity theft victim, I do shred. Not everyone does.

Prof., sorry. I read the rooting through your garbage to mean yours and everyone's garbage. I have been trying to break myself of that manner of speech (not writing, fortunately) forever so maybe my mistake will do the trick.

PS: I liked your candidates' analysis. Not surprisingly, TPM expressed a similar view on the alleged frontrunner.

Fortunately, given that there's absolutely no reason for receipts to give your credit card number, most receipts don't include the full number anymore, and those that do will quit it as soon as they get new machines, because as I understand it, the new ones are almost exclusively last-four-digits-only machines.

That's not to remotely minimize the identity theft problem, but I do think a stray credit card receipt isn't as likely of a starting point for an ID theft as it used to be.

I used to leave my empties in a separate bin for the folks to come by and grab, until they took the bin...now I have nothing to leave my empties in.
Like you, I find using the return machines to be a miserable experience. Between the valid cans and bottles that don't get accepted, to the always broken and full machines, to the long line. But worst of all for me is that the areas have a smell to them that takes me back to a job that I once had, and am happier not being taken back there. That spoiled cola scent just sickens me now.

I'm pleased to report that in Oregon, all new credit card machines are required by law to omit all but the last 4 digits on receipts. So over time that will be less of a problem.

I still don't like the guy that roots through my trash though. It's creepy when he comes right up behind my building where the trash cans are kept and I surprise him back there.

Alli's got a good point. Credit card receipts have gotten less dangerous these days. My identity theft experience came as the result of someone apparently stealing my check out of a payee's mailbox. It's got the account routing number it, my name, address and phone number -- perfect for the thief.

But I'm still not going to invite street people to take things out of my garbage.

I like to buy my beer from my next door, totally awesome convenience store, give him my five cents and then return at Safeway taking my money back from them. My little way of attempting to screw with the icky place.

(I hope this does not constitute a solicitation for my convenience store)

Moik: No problem, not an ad. And good for you with the guerilla warfare. Fight back with those stinky dead soldiers!

Believe me, I'm not downplaying the ID theft thing at all. It's scary as all hell. We've seen the last-four-digits legislation here, too -- we haven't passed it yet, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it passed in the next little bit here.

The other scary issue is the thing with the handheld skimmers that allow a waiter or whoever has your credit card for a minute to just zap it through the skimmer and pick up all your info. Creeee-py.

Sadly, though, I ultimately agree that while it would be nice to help out whoever you could, it's not a good idea to encourage people to paw through your stuff.

When I lived in Portland, I hated taking the empties back, though, for exactly the reasons explained -- pain in the neck, dirty, sticky, unpleasant operation. I also never got used to going to Fred Meyer, though, because when I first got to Portland, the grocery strike was on, and Fred Meyer was pretty much the one place they were picketing. So despite its being within walking distance of my apartment, I got in the habit of skipping it and never went back. Weird.

At the SW Multnomah & Barbur Safeway, an employee takes your empties into the back and braves the machines for you, then brings you back your coupon. Sanitary, and it didn't take long either (though that could be just my good luck in service workers).

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