I work for a fashion accessories brand, which due to troubled times (etc, etc) has decided to pull out of the UK. The brand is high end; good quality and worth the money, but expensive nonetheless. Not something I would usually be able to afford anyway!
With this in mind, we usually offer a boutique service. Handbags and wallets go in dustbags, jewellery in silk pouches, our carrier bags are high end, gift boxes and wrapping are available on request and so on. As we are now in closure, we are offering 70%+ discounts throughout the store (something that would NEVER happen usually), bringing prices down to the middle to lower end of the high street (where one would not expect any boutique services such as wrapping etc in this country). We have also run out (or near enough) of all our gift wrapping equipment and our dustbags for all our products.
Many of the customers who know the brand are buying in volume, some easily buying 10 or more items of jewellery. While we still had some silk pouches for the jewellery, we instituted a rationing system where every customer received one or possibly two no matter the volume they purchased or the amount they spent.
This leads to (a lot of) conversations which go something like this:
Customer: “Could I have separate bags for the jewellery?”
Me: “I’m afraid we’re running out, so I can’t give you more than one.”
Customer: “But these is a gift.”
Me: “I’m sorry, but a lot of our customers are buying gifts and we just don’t have enough pouches.”
Customer: “Could I have a gift box then?”
Me: “We’ve run out of gift boxes I’m afraid.”
Customer: “Usually, I can get a box.”
Me: “Yes, but we’re closing down, and unfortunately we haven’t got any left.”
Customer: “Since I’ve spent so much, could I have a couple of extra bags?”
(Note: The customers are usually spending what is to them – and to me – a lot of money, but is not an uncommon amount within the store. Further, with the amount of money they’re saving, they could go and buy some jewellery bags or gift wrapping with money to spare)
Me: “I’m afraid we’re only giving one bag per customer, because we don’t have many left.”
Customer: “So if I went out, came back in again and bought this item, you’d give me another bag?”
Me: (reaching the end of my tether): “No.”
Customer: “Could you wrap it in some tissue paper?”
Me: “If I can find some, then of course.”
It is a really good thing that I’m not currently around small children (i.e. Those at the age when you’re teaching them so say please and thank you) because I know that if that were the case I would not be able to stop myself from adding “Please” at the end of their requests (honestly, the number of people who are not saying please is appalling).
What is worse, is that customers will then often approach another member of staff asking for gift boxes, wrapping etc, as if – I don’t know – they don’t believe me, or think I’m just being mean to them.
I’m sure there are politer ways of dealing with them than I have been using – I’m afraid I lose my temper too easily. Any suggestions, Miss Jeanne, are most welcome!
There isn’t much solace or advice I can give you! Your situation is a common one in retail and the best answer is a consistent, “I’m sorry, I cannot accommodate that request”, type of answer which you did. You really don’t want to start the snarky habit of adding “Please” to people’s requests, however. What fantasies you play out in my mind as to how you would love to react to these customers is between you and God.
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This is a case of bad management that is putting its employees it a tight spot.
Would it kill the management to obtain some gift wrap so the customers are happy? If that’s not possible, then putting a small sign near the till that says “1 bag per person” will surely help matters some!
It sounds as though your responses are absolutely fine. I think the only thing I might add,would be to mention, the first time have to tell them no, that the reason is because this business is CLOSING DOWN , so none of the wrappings etc will be re-ordered.
I agree with Lychii that a sign by the tills saying something like ‘Due to limited stock, we cannot provide more than 1 dust bag / gift box per customer’ might be helpful as, while I am sure you will still get people asking, it gives you som,ething to back up your statement with.
@Lychii- in a going out of business sale, you do not spend additional funds on superfluous things like gift wrapping, dust bags, and gift boxes. You use what is on hand and explain to customers that you have run out, or are rationing to be fair. And in a shop as high class as this one is described to be, placing a sign up saying “One bag per person” is considered crass, rude, and/or beneath the dignity of the store. Customers need to understand that in a true clearance sale that former expectations like this may be beyond the means of the store to accommodate.
@OP- good luck! I worked retail for several years and can sympathize entirely.
I’m going to have to disagree with the OP here. I have bought jewelry at a high end store with the high end wrapping…part of the purchase and part of the reason I go there is the high end service.
I agree with admin that the store should buy more bags. The story states that a lot of money is being spent…it is to the store’s advantage to accommodate that purchasing so they are not stuck with unsold merchandise. Just because a store is moving or closing does not make the loyal customers pariahs. The reverse is true, the loyal customers who are buying the remaining product are even more valuable.
It is offensive to state that a customer who is rich enough to buy expensive jewelry is rich enough to buy their own wrapping.
In my opinion, every piece of jewelry should be wrapped just as it used to be until every bag is gone. Then a statement of truth, that we are out of bags can be used. I would be offended if bags were available and I was buying a number of pieces and told I could only have one wrapped. Why should a person buying only one piece get a bag, but someone who buys ten not get bags for each?
Another way of looking at it, were it not for the loyal customers who are still buying, the other option would be to close the store, sell the merchandise to another store, and the salesman could lose his job immediately.
Customer: “So if I went out, came back in again and bought this item, you’d give me another bag?”
Me: (reaching the end of my tether): “No.”
If it’s one bag per customer, then that would actually work, wouldn’t it? They could buy the piece of jewelry and get their “one per customer” bag, walk around the block, then come back in and buy another piece of jewelry and get another bag. Are you really going to argue with a customer over whether s/he had already been in the shop that day/week/month?
Yes, I agree with Lychii here. The sign is a great idea!
FWIW, I don’t think that the customers are wrong for asking for the gift bags, if that’s what would normally be offered (I’d probably do the same). They are probably planning in giving the items as gifts and want to pass them off as full-price (again, what I do while on a limited income!). But there is no excuse to be rude to staff if that isn’t possible, and once a customer is told no, they shouldn’t argue about it IMO.
Sorry, but when you’re an employee in customer service of some kind, you don’t get to demand that customers say “please” to you. “Could I have an extra bag” is just fine, and if an employee demanded that I say please after that, I might ask to see a manager to request a more polite employee. Polite people don’t demand politeness from strangers (or customers)
I feel for you. If someone were to rudely tell me “usually I get gift wrap”, I would probably respond with “usually you are paying full price, not 70% off”.
Oh, the joys of retail and inane questions. OP did a good job, and is a credit to her/his industry.
My favorite questions were when I lived on the Atlantic Coast of Florida (which sees a lot of tourists) and customers would ask me in what time zone our town was located. “Well, I can see the ocean from here…”
“So, is that like, Central?”
I agree with Lychii’s idea of a sign near the register. I disagree that gift wrap should be provided – the store is having to close due to a lack of business, and is discounting its wares. Why should they spend more money?
A sign might help. Most customers won’t read it, but it gives you something to point to to prove the policy.
OK my mind went straight to “OF COURSE they want the namebrand gift wrap/bags/tissue so they can disguise cheaper gifts come Christmas time”. I have several in-laws and friends who do this religiously, and think they fool everyone. I think this thought comes under the heading of “between you and God” thoughts for retail workers, but it sure would be nice to say it just once!
I think everyone turning their noses up at people shopping at a clearance sale is what is most distasteful about this post.
I don’t think it was out of line for them to ask for jewelry pouches (gift wrapping requests seem silly, as it sounds like the sale was taking place in a pop-up location). Customers not taking the OP’s word was frustrating, but the general tone of the post left a funny taste in my mouth. Apparently, their discount means they only deserve 70% of your respect.
Why are so many people insisting that the store should obtain more bags to give to customers. They are going out of business!! Did you all miss that part of the story? I’ve worked at stores that are going out of business before, the answer from higher up is ALWAYS “No, you cannot have more, you are going out of business”.
There really isn’t much OP can do here except grin and bare it.
Brockwest — the reason a store might buy more dust bags and such is to encourage repeat custom. As this is a going-out-of-business sale, there isn’t much point in that. Furthermore, they are already deeply discounting the products — at 70% off of retail price, what do you expect them to use to buy the extra bags anyway? At this point, they aren’t going for strong profits or repeat business, they’re just trying to clear the merchandise as quickly as possible.
We had a high-end retailer close in my town recently, and it was much like this. They ran out of giftwrapping early on, which is a good thing as they would have a difficult time reselling unused giftwrap and would have instead had to pay to dispose of it.
@Chris, I completely agree. Some people just cannot get over the whole, “I want it because I want it and I don’t care about everyone else at all” mentality. To me, that is the same attitude that some people (SOME, not ALL) who use coupons take, when they clear out an entire shelf of a product just because they can; they rationalize their behavior by saying, “Well, if other people wanted it, they should have gotten here before me.” I’m sorry, but in this case, 10 bags are NOT a necessity for one customer (that would be a want, not a need).
@OP working in retail myself, I commend you for your composure. It would be lovely if everyone used their manners, but unfortunately they don’t. If I said even half of what I thought, I’d be out of a job today (and I’m off of work today). It’s fun to imagine it, though, which is why have a journal for my ‘customer stories.’
During close out sales like this one, I strongly dislike when a customer says “Look at how much I’m spending!” when they are, in fact, spending roughly the same as they would normally (maybe a bit more but usually not much more), just getting more in exchange.
OP, keep doing what you’re doing.
Re:”It is offensive to state that a customer who is rich enough to buy expensive jewelry is rich enough to buy their own wrapping.”
I don’t thing the OP was dissing the customers for being ‘rich’, rather she is pointing out that saving over 70% on high-end jewelry meant the customer would have cash (alot) left over to purchase gift wrap.
If you can put a sign at the register, I’d to that, even though we know most people wont’ read them. Some people just don’t get it. IF I were able to purchase pricy items at huge discounts, I might ask about bags etc, but if they said no, fine, I’d figure something out myself.
I worked retail for years, so I have the utmost sympathy. I agree that a sign should be put up, and that no bags/paper whatever should be purchased. The store is going out of business, and has no need or obligation to purchase anything more. Even when a store isn’t going out of business, it’s completely reasonable to limit extras to one per customer. It’s not right that one customer should get ten of those and the next not have any because they’re now out.
@Brockwest, where did you get that admin said the store should buy more bags, and the OP said that customers rich enough to buy jewelry were rich enough to buy bags? Neither of those statements were written.
Grrr. Arrrgghh. One of my biggest pet peeves on Earth is people arguing with sales people over things they have absolutely NO control over. Yet another reason why every human being should have to work in the service industry for at least one year. I really feel that the universe would shift with the resulting empathy. 😉
I think the OP has done/is doing exactly what he/she should. This is when the whole “broken-record” technique can work. “I’m sorry, that’s our current policy. I’m sorry that’s our current policy. I’m sorry, that’s our current policy.” With a bright smile, of course.
I disagree that people expecting high-end things should get the high-end wrapping in this situation. First off, regardless of whether one thinks that, it isn’t the salesperson’s battle to fight, and after a customer is told “no,” once, should respectfully bow out of the argument. Secondly, this is not even remotely the same thing. These items are no longer being sold in the same context they were a month, a week, or even a day before. It is very clear that the store is going out of business – that’s why the customers are there! The phrase, “Biting the hand that feeds you” comes to mind.
Also, I understand the idea of customer loyalty, and giving loyal customers the same experience they’ve had in the past – but what about people without as much money, who could never afford such items, finally getting a chance to have them? So they shouldn’t have a little bit of the high-end experience through the employees saving bags? No matter how I think of this situation, it’s a “Damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” scenario. Someone will always be unhappy, regardless of how wrapping is distributed.
Jay, it would be rude for the employee to demand that customers say “please,” but I don’t agree with you that dropping “please” and “thank you” when dealing with retail staff is “fine.” Saying “please” and “thank you” is the polite thing to do, and truly polite people are polite to everyone, retail staff included. I’ve never understood why some people seem to think that basic etiquette only applies when dealing with certain segments of the population.
You can see the ocean from a lot of time zones, two of which are in Florida. I would not be very happy if I received that response from someone.
Some of the comments here reinforce my belief that everyone should have to do mandatory retail and restaurant service, just like some countries have mandatory military service. Just because you are a customer, doesn’t give you the right to be rude, petty, and ridiculous. Of course the OP would be rude for demanding that someone say “please,” but Jay, why don’t you say “please” to retail employees? Are they less deserving of basic courtesy than other people? And whoever has enough free time and strong feeling about a bag to walk around the block for an extra one really needs to get a life. If you’re getting a high-end piece of jewellrey for 70% off, I think you can suck it up and find your own wrapping or deal without a bag. All that extra wrapping is wasteful anyways, regardless of the (true) fact that a store going out of business has no incentive to buy extra wrapping supplies.
If you PUT UP a sign saying “one bag per person”, there would be some people who’ll do what some of the customers asked – actually keep going back multiple times to buy each of the 10 items they purchased.
Sorry to hear that the store you worked in is going out of business, and good luck dealing with boor-ey customers! You seem to be handling it fine.
“Sorry, but when you’re an employee in customer service of some kind, you don’t get to demand that customers say “please” to you. ”
You know, I caught myself typing out a nasty response and stopped myself. Suffice to say, working in customer service is not permission for customers to not have manners. Someone in customer service doesn’t have the freedom to say “What an interesting assumption” or “Have you tried the bean dip?” because they’ll get reported as *rude* for polite deferrals. If please and thank you are the rights of the customer, they are ALSO the rights of the employee… unless by dint of needing a job and taking one in customer service, the employee is beneath common courtesy.
OP, I know this is frustrating. This isn’t your policy, and I’m sure you get tired of having to explain it to people.
That being said, I’m not sure I understand the point of “rationing” these bags and gift boxes…? Why not just give them out in the same manner you always have until they run out? It seems to me, if I purchase two items, I should receive two boxes as long as they are available. Otherwise, I’ll bring my husband in, and he can purchase one item and I’ll purchase the other. Then we’re treated as two separate customers, and you’ll ring up two separate sales with two separate receipts. And we’ll get our two boxes. What kind of sense does that make?
The Atlantic Coast of Florida is only in Eastern Time zone. The Gulf Coast of Florida is in both. This is a very specific tourist town that is most definitely on the Atlantic Coast. I could see the waves. Had I been in Pensacola, I would understand the confusion.
I went through this for a retail company that went out of business. It was the most horrible experience I have ever had even after many, many years in retail. Once the liquidator took over, we had no say in what we could do for customers. It really doesn’t matter what the customer wants in this situation, or what they think they are entitled to. Everything is based on what the employees are told to do, and they have no choice in the matter. Going out and coming back in just gives one person preferential treatment over the other customers. If you were behind the woman that wanted to do this wouldn’t you be upset if she got another bag by this method? It is merely an entitlement attitude on the part of one person that prevents another customer from receiving at least one bag when she should have.
No, you cannot really say to a customer, “say please,” but I certainly understand the frustration on the OPs part. I have seen rudeness that makes that situation look tame and had to smile through it. I’m so very glad I don’t have to work in retail for a living anymore.
I find, “I’m sorry sir/ma’ma, but this the policy that has been put in place by our management team. If you’d like to speak with a member of management, I’ll be happy to call them over as long as you don’t mind waiting a few moments”, said in a friendly tone with a big smile, usually conveys the idea that no matter how big of a hissy fit you throw my minumum wage about to unemployed hands are tied. Plus people who throw hissy fits never want to wait. They’re far too important for that.
I’d start selling the bags and stop giving them away. A seventy percent discount saves a great deal of money on high-end merchandise. If they are saving so much on the items they buy, a few dollars per bag will prove no hardship.
You are not selling baby formula to feed starving orphans. There’s nothing wrong with increasing your profit margin by selling the bags.
to the people who say everyone should have to work in retail to “know what it’s like” this is not an all-encompassing solution as i have worked in clothing and body care retail nothing bothered me more than a rude or overly demanding customer who finishes their comments with “i used to work in retail so i know what you can/can’t do” Some use their “secret knowledge” as an excuse to demand the most outrageous things.
I just wrote a horrible run-on, error filled sentence, and for this I apologize to the grammar gods.
The chain is going out of businesses, they can’t afford to waste money they may not have on fancy bags. As for the customer saying “Ive brought so much” etc well that is at 70% discount, and if its the same amount to what the customer would normally spend then they should still have some money left over to buy other gift wrap.
I went to a shop that went into administration, they were only accepting cash, the lady at the till did inform me, I said that was fine and paid in cash. If you want the goods enough from a closing down chain you will pay for them and have them bagged up in whatever bags they have.
The rationing part is what bothers me–if you make a purchase, you get a bag for it. And then once they are gone they are gone and THEN the sign goes up.
But basically what OP (not her fault, I know) said to the customer was “Yes, we have more bags–but YOU can’t have any more!”
The store made an error with the rationing policy.
Cat, that’s a really good idea about selling the bags. It might even be worth it for the store to order a bit more wrapping paper and extra bags if customers are willing to pay for them. It’s unfortunate that the receiver/management didn’t think of something like that.
The way I read the story, only one of their stores ate closing. The brand should be still ordering dust bags, silk pouches and the like fr their other retails stores.
As a consumer, when I’ve shopped high end store closing sales previously, I’ve expected the same level of service and the same respect as when I shopped there at full price. By not treating the items with the same respect, the store is lowering the value of their products. I would much rather have it be a 65% off sale and include the same items thn a 70% off sale and treated like an annoyance for asking.
While I get a salesperson would be aggravated to be asked the same question over and over, your employer put you in that situation, not the costumes.
Wow, you brought back memories of working at a cosmetic counter when I was much younger. Twice a year we would have a gift with purchase. We were under strict orders to give ONE GIFT PER CUSTOMER per transaction. I would get this argument “The minimum is fifteen dollars, but I just spent thirty. I should get two gifts!” I would explain over and over that this was the policy but you can’t imagine how badly some people want that free lipstick and little tiny moisturizer bottle, even if they didn’t like the lipstick color and the moisturizer wasn’t right for their skin. I ended up acting “dumb” “I’m sorry ma’am but the company would get real mad at me and I don’t want to get in trouble”. And yes, I did end up calling management a few times.
Whatever you do, don’t follow Ashley’s solution:
“There really isn’t much OP can do here except grin and bare it.”
You’ll be arrested.
Some of you are missing the point. The store is closing. Even if they are part of a chain, they are cut off now. HQ is not going to spend any more resources on the failed store. There are no more bags or pouches coming, period. The store is closing. They are far past the point of caring about customer loyalty- for one thing, they are just trying to offload the stock with as little cost to them as possible, and for another, the people that are shopping the 70% off sale have probably never stepped foot in the store before, nor will they again. Also, the impression I got from the OP’s post is that this brand is leaving the UK completely. It’s not terribly likely that UK customers will be making travel plans to visit their international locations. Rightly or wrongly, the feeling that HQ has is that UK customers are not going to be making them any more money, so they likely don’t care whether customers leave the store happy or not–they just want them to leave some money behind.
One point I do agree with–management screwed up by rationing. The bags and pouches should have been used normally until gone.
Anyone who says the words “I used to work in retail-I know what you can/can’t do” is LYING. They have never worked in retail, because if they had, they would know how very freaking annoying that statement is. I always kept a big smile on my face, but since it was normally women at least 20 years my senior making that statement, I would sweetly reply “Was that a while ago? Because we haven’t been allowed to /haven’t done it that way in AT LEAST five years–maybe more like seven.” Thank any and all the gods above I don’t work retail anymore. It is the second worst job in the world (restaurant service being the worst) and yes, everyone should be forced to do one or the other for a year, and yes, you absolutely DO owe the worker common courtesy. I’m disgusted that people think please and thank you is optional. I can also tell you that while I may not tell you to say please, I will find some way to punish you if you demean me. (I mean things like withholding secret discounts you might be unknowingly qualified for, or pre-emptively warning management about you so they disregard anything you tell them, not like damaging your product or adulterating your food.)
As I understood it, the whole brand is pulling out of UK, i.e. closing all of its stores there, if it had more than one. Therefore the UK branch would not be ordering any more bags and packaging, if they ordered them by themselves. If these were brand items delivered from the HQ, the HQ might have decided to not send any more.
@Calliope: I think phrasing things as “could you” or “would you” is perfectly polite in this situation. Would I personally say please too? Yes. Would it even occur to me to repremand someone would said “Could you gift wrap this for me”? No. Let alone be to the point where I could barely hold myself back if there were impressionable children around (and I have several impressionable children of my own, who I *would* reprimand..)
@Just Laura: I don’t know, but if I called some place for information and instead of answering my question (however obvious they might think the answer to be) they would play a trivia quiz with me and expect me to google the answers to their hints, I would find that quite rude, and would take my business somewhere else. Not everyone knows what you know.
I feel for OP. I have read some accounts from workers who have done the final days of places such as Borders and Linens N Things, and have been absolutely appalled at the greed that store closing brings out in some customers. I can see both sides of “the store shouldn’t have rationed bags in this manner” argument, but it’s a moot one. It’s quite out of the OP’s hands and the decision was probably made so far up the corporate food chain that OP has never even met the people who made it. She just has to do what she’s told.
After working in retail (never at a final days-type thing thank god), I’ve decided that some people are simply bottom feeders and whatever policy is in place, they’ll try to get it bent, no matter how generous it is. My sister worked at a Hallmark store at the height of the American Beanie Baby craze, and they instituted a 5-Beanie-per-customer rule to prevent hoarding and to help their weekly shipments last longer than half a shift. She was stunned at the number of people who would bring their entire extended family and send them in one by one. She and her co-workers could see them because it was a mall location, but there was nothing they could do. I’ve always hoped that the people who made their children sit on a bench outside Hallmark to scam their way into toys they probably weren’t even permitted to play with didn’t get out of the Beanie Baby racket in time and will be stuck listing their Beanies on E-Bay for 99 cents until the sun goes supernova.
OP, it sounds to me like you’re handling these customers pretty well. I’d suggest going out for drinks and trading war stories with your co-workers, or looking up some websites that have tales from the world of retail as therapy. I hope you find a new and enjoyable job quickly. I always feel bad seeing customers exhibiting obvious glee at the sight of all the bargains, right in the faces of people who are about to lose their jobs. In retail, like in every other field, there are plenty of workers who enjoy their jobs and take pride in their work, whether or not they’ve decided to make it their lives’ work. It’s a shame to see anyone be unemployed in this economy.
I probably am sometimes what some sales people would call a difficult customer but I’ve encountered a lot of sales persons who do not know what they’re doing, some even do not know what they’re selling. I believe that its usually the salesperson that is clueless rather than the customer being difficult. The arguing part, I hate to argue but sometimes there is a need to. Also, salespersons should know that when a customer is arguing, it’s time to call for management. In this case I think, the rationing part was wrong. Bags should have been used normally until gone. Or, instead of using a 70% discount, you should have done a buy 1 take two strategy so you automatically just issue one bag per three items. Whether or not it’s a clearance sale, the store should have enough packaging material. And since there is no sign, it’s normal and expected for customers to ask especially if they would know of this only after the purchase. For the OP to get pissed off because of customers asking questions is being rude.
Interesting – I’m from Australia so I have an idea of what this brand is. I’ve also worked at a store that went into receivership. People were so angry when we told them we couldn’t honour their gift vouchers, because the administrators had forbidden it, and plenty of other annoying things.
Once a store is closing down you lose control of everything that is happening. You’re basically just selling off the rest of the products until they’re gone. I think the OP is doing the right thing.
@abcd but as I read it, OP wasn’t pissed off because customers were asking questions. s/he was getting frustrated because they were refusingto accept the answers to those questions, which is diferent, and far more reasonable.
I *personally* agreee that it would have been simpler, and probably a better idea, to continue to use boxes and bags as normal until they ran out, but that wasn’t OPs decision to mak. It is not rude to tell a customer they can’t have what they want, if what they want is against store policy. It *is* rude to try to bully a saleperson into giving you something or changing a policy for you, even if you disagree with the policy.
And Op asn’t rude to the curtomer. It sounds as though s/he continued speak to them politely. S/he is fre to *think* whatever s/he likes about them wiithout it being rude.
And as a customer, surely the polite and appropriate thing to do in the sort of situation you are describing is for you, as the customer, to ask for a manager, rather than trying to argue with the salesperson who, in many circumstances,doesn’t have the authority to change anything.
Tell them that you are a green company and that by them purchasing from you, is helping reduce their own carbon footprint. If they contest, well it’s your companies policy to help save the world and if they still don’t want to be a part of something proactive. Give them a dollar and send them to the dollar store. Always make the customer feel like they are helping. Go green.
Abcd, if you would like to speak with a manager about a store’s policy, why not simply ask for the manager instead of arguing with a sales floor employee? In my experience, dissatisfied customers who ask politely and calmly to speak with a manager are treated much more generously than those who act “difficult” to get what they want.
I agree with Brockwest that the store should provide a bag with each item until they are gone. There is no benefit in rationing them. Just provide the service as always until you can’t.
Then, when there are no more bags, no one is getting any, there are no bags to further inquire about or suss out what rules may be employed to dole them out.
It gets rid of the problem.