Channeling the Assyrian proverb of ‘tell me what company you keep, I shall tell you what you are', researchers at the Harvard Business School (HBS) have found that using reusable grocery bags can influence you to buy buying environment-friendly goods. Uma R Karmarkar, an assistant professor of business administration at HBS, and Bryan Bollinger, an assistant professor of marketing at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of Business conducted this study. They also found out that these bags can make you buy indulgent goods in some other area, say ice cream and cookies, as compared to other shoppers.

Custom Grocery Bag Influences Study Conducted at HBS

The study was conducted to determine the psychological factors that drive purchasing decisions of customers. The study was done by conducting a survey. The survey asked participants on how their shopping varied when they brought their own bags. The participants were then tested on how they would behave if they had reusable bags and presented both options: some indulgent treats contrasted against environment-friendly products. They were also tested on the parameter of the price of the goods.

Custom Grocery Bag Does Have an Influence

The custom grocery bags or the reusable bags, the study concludes, does have an effect on customers in both directions. The study suggests that the bag encourages a person to go for a like-for-like product, that us environment-friendly goods. This act of doing good generates a good mood which prompts the buyer to reward himself/herself, hence, leading to the buying of tasty treats. The study calls this trigger as the ‘licensing effect'.

However, Kamarkar does warn that the study does not account for whether customers have been buying more organic products than before, because of the bag. Nor does the study account as to whether the organic products that were bought, were predetermined by customers. But she says that the experiments prove that the custom grocery bag influences people ready to pay more for organic products, rather than go for the alternative choice of treating themselves.

However, there is also a flip side to the whole case. The recent practice of many stores, to charge for reusable bags can have a significant negative impact on customers buying organic products. The extra charge feels like a punishment for some, for not bringing a reusable grocery bag. This tends to remove the positive vibe a reusable bag would produce when brought voluntarily.