Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Bag Ban, The Sales Tax, The Minimum Wage: to shop in Seattle or NOT to shop in Seattle

RantWoman promised the world meditations on public transportation, the new Seattle minimum wage, Seattleites’ willingness to invest in public transportation by voting to pay more sales tax, and the bag ban.

This entire excursion brought to you by reports part of the Service Guidelines Task Force about how Metro has opted to invest the sales tax money Seattleites’ voted to invest in buying back some of the bus service hours lost during several past rounds of cutbacks: Metro is investing some of the funds on routes where only 80% of the stops are in Seattle and further is following the rules set by the original service guidelines. Metro is buying back service hours more in South King County than in East King County.

RantWoman's first thought was "Hey wait a minute. I am NOT paying more sales tax so people can go to S. King County! What GIVES????" Upon more nuanced consideration, RantWoman has decided her good intentions, shopping incentives and economic priorities are at war with each other all over the place.

First consider fast food. Consider that RantWoman is willing first of all to admit sometimes to eating fast food. RantWoman tends to eat fast food near where she lives and travels regularly. In other words, when it comes to fast food, RantWoman is likely to have to absorb BOTH the effects of the new Seattle minimum wage AND new sales taxes if the latter applies to fast food.

RantWoman at fast food outlets does all kinds of things to try to stay in the realm of nutritional reasonableness. Recently, shortly after the new minimum wage started to kick in RantWoman was astounded to pay about $2 more for a fast food order than she expected. This was 30% more than RantWoman was hoping and probably about 20% more than she should have planned on..

RantWoman is all over the $15 / hour minimum wage. RantWoman is all over getting all employers in Seattle there no matter how big or small. RantWoman is all over treating franchises as part of the big companies who profit from their brands.
But RantWoman is likely to cut out some more occasional items from her fast food orders.

RantWoman further is annoyed to hear of a now former neighbor, a single mom with 3 children who tries to support her family on a fast food job. Neighbor tries but the fast food franchise does all kinds of things to jerk her schedule around, cancel her hours at the last minute, and generally make it all but impossible for her to have a stable schedule for herself her childcare arrangements, and any other activity that wealthier people take for granted.

RantWoman was interested to learn recently though that neighbor continues to work near where RantWoman lives in central Seattle even though now former neighbor and her family have moved to Burien. The family moved, partly RantWoman guesses for more affordable housing and possibly to be nearer a sister with whom she shares childcare arrangements. But if she has a choice between one wage in Burien and 25% more / hour in Seattle, guess which one RantWoman would choose. Plus, former neighbor now has some kind of long overnight shift and a stable schedule which would be giant steps forward. Okay, put some service hours into the travel between Seattle and Burien to support options like this..

(FWIW the fast food job is actually an improvement over another job in tertail. Former neighbor worked in some shopping mall clothing outlet and had some of the same schedule issues as with the fast food job. Even worse, other staffers were too young to be asked to work late and close so neighbor faced continual requests from her boss to work late and close never mind the logistics of getting kids to and from childcare on late night bus schedules. DO NOT throw any of RantWoman's sales tax at all of those fiascoes.)

Next,  consider the bag ban, the Seattle ordinance that bans the most popular kind of thin, easily disposable plastic shopping bags. When these bags were legal, RantWoman accumulated a few of these but generally shopped at many places that offered discounts of a few cents for bringing her own bags. The other reason to bring one's own bags: the plastic ones just are NOT very sturdy. RantWoman tends to do grocery shopping close to home but close to home still means carrying  full shopping bags or stowing them in a shopping cart.

RantWoman has had an assortment of sturdy canvas bags. RantWoman tends to sew on reflector tape and not to launder them as often as maybe would be a good idea. The canvas bags saved RantWoman from accumulating the plastic bags but RantWoman did not want to cut out use of these bags altogether for a very simple reason: they are GREAT for lining small trash cans and not terrible for dealing with very used cat litter.

Since the bag ban took effect RantWoman has watched both store clerks and customers struggle to deal with the bagging logistics of a busy line. RantWoman notes that now merchants offer paper bags of various sizes and consistencies as well as smaller but sturdier and thicker plastic bags. Often there is a charge and RantWoman really does not want to accumulate such things anyway.

Meanwhile in addition to RantWoman’s supply of canvas bags with good shoulder-length handles and sewn-on reflector tape, RantWoman has also accumulated an assortment of nylon bags that all fold or stuff into tiny nylon pouches. RantWoman has also developed various coping strategies as far as lining her trash cans and disposing of cat litter.

One big strategy: shop outside the city limits. Another is let RantMom shop outside city limits and raid her stash. RantMom shops way more regularly out of the city than RantWoman does. Sometimes RantMom rides ACCESS. RantMom does some other excursions partly because they offer way more opportunity to shop than RantWoman is interested in. In short, RantMom also tends to have a stash of the illegal in Seattle plastic bags and is more than generous if RantWoman needs to raid RantMom’s bag storage box. But put thin plastic bags on the list of reasons RantWoman would SOMETIMES consider shopping trips with considerably longer travel times than options closest to RantWoman.

Here's where the rubber meets the road as far as RantWoman's budget, civic-mindedness, and transit though.

RantWoman is likely to keep shopping for groceries mainly the way she currently does, in Seattle, one RantWoman's regular circuit with some purchases close to home no matter what the price because ice cream, say, does not do well waiting around RantWoman goes out of town to save the labor costs part of the ice cream price?.

RantWoman has assessed her bus travel to mal options and collided with another problem. The closest actual mall outside the city limits with really frequent bus services is...Bellevue Square. Kemper Freeman has spent FAR too long lobbying  against public transit for RantWoman to want to take the bus there--even if she might save money because of Bellevue having a lower minimum wage,and even though the route from the nearest bus stop is fairly walkable. So how hard WILL RantWoman work to find non-Seattle shopping destinations....?
Stay tuned, but don't wait up: RantWoman may just revert to her beloved mail order options, even though most of her mail order options seem kind of variable about how sales tax even shows up. RantWoman SHOULD want to go there and find out; RantWoman does NOT.

RantWoman does a certain amount of shopping at big box stores for items that probably would be cheaper if sold by someone earning a lower minimum wage, not to mention the small additional increment of sales tax. Can RantWoman imagine some scenarios where the service added back would make it easier to shop outside Seattle? Can RantWoman also imagine getting to her shopping destination via sidewalks without long stretches of parking lot between the bus stop and the door of the shopping destination? RantWoman can certainly imagine this, no matter how much in theory she wants to support Seattle's new minimum wage regimen.

So is RantWoman required to advocate that the entire state should increase the minimum wage? Probably a question out of scope of the Service Guidelines Task Force?
And should RantWoman go look up some numbers behind her mental meanderings? That could make more of an actual research project than RantWoman wants to take on just now, but....

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