Score One For the Little Guy or What Were They Thinking?

Score One For the Little Guy or What Were They Thinking?

I have to admit I didn’t even know ChicoBag was being sued by three plastic bag manufacturers until the press release that they’d settled showed up this week in my inbox. Here’s the quick recap, for those of you –like me — who weren’t clued in:

ChicoBag is a reusable bag manufacturer.  You’ve probably seen their product, pictured at right.  It’s a handy and durable little bag — I actually carry one around at the bottom of my purse to stash all the random stuff I buy in airports to tide over my stomach until the next airport.  The impetus for Andy Keller to create the company was a trip to the landfill one day…which happened to feature jillions of plastic shopping bags floating in the wind. He made his own bag, then made his own company to keep making his bags and went about sharing facts about plastic bags on his Website.  This is what the suit was about:  Hilex Poly, Superbag Operating and Advance Polybag said some of his facts were out of date and this had led to “irreparable harm” to their businesses.

(As a point of reference, Hoovers reports that Hilex Poly’s Net Sales in 2010 were $66.5 million.  InsideView puts ChicoBag at half a million dollars in sales.)

According to Chico Bag’s press release, a couple of the plastic bag manufacturers dropped out of the law suit (Superbag Operating and Advance Polybag), leaving only Hilex Poly still standing.  They and Chico Bag settled, both agreeing to cite dates and sources for the statistics they use on their websites. In a win for environmentalists, Hilex Poly also agreed to begin promoting ways that consumers can eliminate windblown litter.

Now, it’s understandable that the plastic bag industry is in a squirmy, itchy-trigger-finger mood these days.  More and more municipalities are banning plastic bags from their area stores, and consumer sentiment towards plastic is pretty sour (when we bring up the topic of plastic in our focus groups, the comments — and mood– from consumers is always very negative).

But I can’t imagine how anybody at Hilex Poly, Superbag or Advanced Polybag thought this was a good idea.  Really?  Let’s go down the path of Big Rich Companies Sue Little Do-Gooder Company To Protect Our Reputation and Profits?  It’s like the plot of an Adam Sandler movie, and we know Adam Sandler (cast, of course, as the struggling entrepreneur with a mission and a heart of gold) will win in the end. And the Big Corporations will look oafish and greedy.

Oafish and greedy isn’t going over very well with mainstream Americans right now, in case you haven’t noticed. And I don’t know that many mainstream consumers will ever learn about this whole event.  But if they did I feel certain it would just give them one more reason to hate plastic bags.


Posted on

September 14, 2011

About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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