We're several weeks into the ban on plastic bags (and paper, too, in some cases) here in New Jersey. How's it going for you so far?

How many times have you forgotten to bring a bag into a supermarket with you? How many times have you gotten halfway to the door of Walmart before you had to turn around and fetch your reusable bags out of your car?

Welcome to the new normal. Ain't it fun?

And don't get me started on paper straws. Before we figure out how to get people living on Mars, we gotta do something about these crappy paper straws. Anyway...

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While we're all getting used to toting our own tote bags around, something else disappeared just as quickly as those plastic bags did.

Hand baskets.

Yeah, hand baskets. You know, there used to be a stack of them right inside the door of whatever store you were going into when you needed to buy a few things but didn't feel like pushing a cart around.

They're gone. And if they're not all gone, there certainly aren't as many around as there used to be.

No, they weren't banned when the bag prohibition began. People stole 'em.

When bags went away, people needed to carry stuff from the store to their car and then from their car to their house, and, by golly, felony or not, those hand baskets did the trick. And they easily fit right in your car, too.

Now, we're not alone in this. A couple of years ago, Connecticut started taxing single-use plastic bags, and what happened? People stole hand baskets.

“People are just taking the baskets and walking out the door with them,” said Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association.

The same thing happened in Wyoming. And in California, Target started putting alarm sensors on their hand baskets so people wouldn't take them out of the store.

I started to take note of this phenomenon a couple of weeks ago. I checked my local Acme store -- none to be found. Well, one was.

A lone hand basket in front of an Acme supermarket - Photo: Chris Coleman
A lone hand basket in front of an Acme supermarket - Photo: Chris Coleman

All alone. Abandoned. A relic of happier times. Just sitting in the parking lot.

I spotted one (just one) in front of the Mays Landing Target the other day, too.

A lone hand basket in front of Target in Mays Landing NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman
A lone hand basket in front of Target in Mays Landing NJ - Photo: Chris Coleman

Just one.

People have been complaining that they're gone from other supermarket chains, big and small. They're gone from big box stores, too, like Petsmart and the like.

Those baskets, by the way, cost about $8 or $9 each, which doesn't seem like a lot but if, say, Acme, which has 161 stores, has to buy 50 to replenish them, that's about $70,000 that they have to spend (probably only to have them all get stolen again).

So if you are guilty of shoplifting a shopping basket from a shopping center, why not consider bringing it back? If we're all using reusable bags now, surely reusable hand baskets need to be returned.

But you can keep the freakin' paper straws.

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