"Some people are buying other items. I'm sure there are new customers coming in."
At Foodland, folks pick up their bags at the rear and get their vouchers at a checkout counter. "There is increased traffic, but normally they pick up their bags and leave," Joseph said.
Increased sales are the only compensation stores get for participating, he said, although WasteZero originally promised a kickback.
"It was pitched at first that you were supposed to get a quarter per package," Joseph said. "You still have people to unload the truck and run them through the register. That would have covered the cost."
Drug Emporium has added a cashier during the day to help process bag customers, Tornes said, and others pitch in when landlords come through with 30 or 40 vouchers for their tenants.
Reishman said he had hoped a big-box chain like Kroger or Home Depot that had the capacity for bulk sales would take on the program. "But we had to bid it out." It takes time for national corporations to gear to bid on local programs, he said.
"I know people have a problem. People used to put them in their trunk. No one comes out of the grocery store to do that." And he's well aware of the shortages. "You're not going to buy anything in the store if they don't have bags."
He's not ready to give up, though.
"I would encourage the city to do the bags this way. But we have to make sure the bags are there. That's something we can correct."
City Manager David Molgaard said he's been talking with WasteZero, too.
"We're going to make an effort to get the bags out to the stores, and talk to the distributors about loading up," he said.
WasteZero should have known how many bags to provide, and done a better job of educating residents, Molgaard said.
"We were relying on them to make sure the program ran smoothly. Part of my discussion with the guy has been you can't predict people will evenly distribute themselves among the five stores.
"We'll see how it works. We've got one more distribution. We'll do triage. The problem with going back [to the old system] is there's a learning curve. They learn the new system, then they have to learn another one."
And despite the hassles, Tornes and Joseph said they'll likely sign up again for the February handout.
"I'm not committed, but I would say we will," Joseph said. "I won't give them a death penalty. I've been threatening them I wouldn't do it again. They've been very nice, though."
Reach Jim Balow at ba...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.