There’s a big increase in crime due to 15 cents bag fee on Oahu, says Retail Merchants of Hawaii

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The effort to go green by charging a fee for a bag is causing problems for some Oahu stores.

Charging 15 cents per compostable, recyclable paper or plastic bag was enacted July 1st in an effort to cut down waste going to the landfill. 

Even if you support the reason behind the fee, many shoppers prefer to decline the purchase of a bag to carry merchandise out of the store. 

“If I can carry it, then I will carry it. If I really cannot, I purchase the bag,” said shopper Tsai Chien. 

“I’d rather not spend the extra 15 cents on a bag. I’d rather just use what I have,” added shopper Mike Amerino. 

“Retailers are totally wanting to save the environment, we’re conscious of our aina and all of that. But, there’s a lot of unanticipated consequences that came with it,” said Retail Merchants of Hawaii president Tina Yamaki. 

Since the bag fee was enacted 3 months ago, Yamaki says shoplifting on Oahu has gotten out of control. 

“It’s a big issue. We’re seeing a big increase in crime going on. People are coming in, loading up the bags and running out of the stores, and we’re seeing it on a daily basis,” she said, adding stores from mom and pop shops to big box retailers are losing thousands of dollars – or more – to sticky-fingered thieves.  

Plus, there’s another problem emerging. 

“For some retailers where they have somebody at the door checking their receipt, we’re seeing now that people are coming in with fake store receipts,” explained Yamaki. “What we’ve seen, too, people are not only stealing, but (attempting to) return the items. So, it’s a big loss.”

Businesses are trying to get ahead of the problem by hiring extra security, though Yamaki would not elaborate. 

“We don’t want to give a heads up to shop lifters about what they’re doing, to build a better mouse trap.”

Businesses hope spending extra on security could help from the worst possible scenario: raising prices or closing up shop from losing money over stolen products. 

“It’s going to have a huge impact later on, and we’re seeing it coming around right now,” said Yamaki.  

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