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Chris Amirault

The Lost Art of Grocery Bagging

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Maybe Trader Joe's actually trains people to bag.

That's likely. The cashier or bagger opens every carton of eggs and checks for cracks.

Playing the pessimist for a moment, they're not checking to see if the eggs are cracked. They're checking to make sure it contains only eggs, a la the Five Finger discount. It's the same reason why sales people/checkers always open a purse when you buy it...to make sure it doesn't contain any hidden items.

I'd be willing to bet TJ's is going for the customer service.

I was at my local TJ's a few weeks ago. I had previously purchased a a jar of peaches where the safety cap was already popped. I mentioned this to the cashier, but then realized I had left the offending peaches at home. The cashier told me to go get another jar and not to worry about bringing in the bad ones.

Another time, when I was there, my cashier gave me a 3 beers for free so that I could try them. And it wasn't like he was doing anything underhanded either, as he called the manager over to approve the transaction.

In my experience, TJ's stands behind their products. It's easier for them to check for a broken egg then it is for them to have a customer feel like they got screwed.

Plus they can pack a bag competently (Whole Foods can as well). I guess that is what comes when a company is willing to pay a living wage.

Personally, I like the IKEA model where not only do they force you to pack your own bags, but they make you pay for the bags you use.

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I usually bag my own stuff, but my local supermarkets (in a rare grocery-centric neighborhood in NYC) have a handful of very attentive cashiers.

Occasionally when I'm bagging, I'll get a little frantic because the stuff is piling up and everyone in the line is kind of glowering in that New Yorky way, and start packing a little haphazardly. One time this happened, and the cashier--one of the attentive ones--started tsking, and took the stuff out of my hands and repacked it for me, very carefully. Very nice! (This is the same woman who, years ago, complimented me on buying so much fresh produce!)

Not quite the same, but there's an excellent high-school-age girl at my other store who stopped me as I was laying things out on the conveyor belt. "I have a system," she said, as she unpacked my basket for me. Then she said, "Stand back. I go fast!"

Whoa, she did! Her system involved putting all the like with like, and scanning _incredibly_ fast. So fast that I couldn't even begin to keep up with the bagging! So slightly counterproductive, but if I were in her shoes, I imagine I'd develop a similar game, just to keep the job mildly interesting.

I wish, now that we're using more non-disposable bags here in the US, stores would install the little swinging dividers at the end of the belts like they have in Europe. All your stuff gets channeled down one side of the divider, so you can stand there and bag in peace while the cashier moves on to the next customer, whose stuff rolls down the other side of the divider. Does anyone have those at their stores yet?

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...I wish, now that we're using more non-disposable bags here in the US, stores would install the little swinging dividers at the end of the belts like they have in Europe. All your stuff gets channeled down one side of the divider, so you can stand there and bag in peace while the cashier moves on to the next customer, whose stuff rolls down the other side of the divider. Does anyone have those at their stores yet?

Surprisingly enough......on the Left Coast here, we do, sort of. But here in SoCal, it's in the lower echelon, cost-cutter (read *upscale ethnic*) markets and only one chain. The large, mainstream chains do not. The first time I'd ever seen such an arrangement was at a Food-4-Less in southern Oregon when I was visiting a friend. Don't remember if it was in Medford or Central Point where she lives, but it was definately a Food-4-Less. At that time, Medford/Central Point (this was about 15 years ago......) was very rural, and very lower socio-economic scale. I remember watching in awe as Judi bagged a HUGE order of her groceries (she has a passel 'o' kids......). I was like........wow......at home we have "people" to do that.

The next time I saw such a creature was when Food 4 Less started expanding into SoCal, but they only have opened in the less than chi-chi neighborhoods. They seem to be targeting a niche between the traditional mega-mart chains and the traditional, single-owner, or small chain ethnic grocers. Interestingly enough, Food-4-Less is owned by Kroger.........the MEGA-ist of the mega-marts.

Also interestingly enough, most of the traditional, *upscale* mega-marts in my piece of the fading yuppie/preppie paradise that was SoCal, have self-checkouts. I use them often. That is, when I don't go to TJ's where their cashiers/baggers ROCK !

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...I wish, now that we're using more non-disposable bags here in the US, stores would install the little swinging dividers at the end of the belts like they have in Europe. All your stuff gets channeled down one side of the divider, so you can stand there and bag in peace while the cashier moves on to the next customer, whose stuff rolls down the other side of the divider. Does anyone have those at their stores yet?

Surprisingly enough......on the Left Coast here, we do, sort of. But here in SoCal, it's in the lower echelon, cost-cutter (read *upscale ethnic*) markets and only one chain. The large, mainstream chains do not. The first time I'd ever seen such an arrangement was at a Food-4-Less in southern Oregon when I was visiting a friend. Don't remember if it was in Medford or Central Point where she lives, but it was definately a Food-4-Less. At that time, Medford/Central Point (this was about 15 years ago......) was very rural, and very lower socio-economic scale. I remember watching in awe as Judi bagged a HUGE order of her groceries (she has a passel 'o' kids......). I was like........wow......at home we have "people" to do that.

That's funny--now I remember bag-it-yourself was a "feature" of the early warehouse-like grocery stores, before Price Club/Costco/etc. Wish I could remember the name of the one we went to in Albuquerque when I was a kid. But yeah, it seemed exotic and kinda fun (for a kid).

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Wow.  I bow down to your superior organizational skills.  That is truly genius.

Don't. It's self defense. I used to live 45 minutes from the nearest grocery store, and I have three kids, seven dogs, and a husband who are SURE if they don't get my attention the second I walk in the door after my "vacation" at the grocery store the world might end. None of the important stuff would get put away if I didn't make sure it was noticeably bagged.

It's a pure self defense mechanism.

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I always leave a space between the meat items, the cold stuff, then all the rest-and its just a few inches but the cashier always thinks I'm paying for three different orders. I also hate when a cold item is placed with something like sugar-thin paper that gets wet easily. Once I had a cashier try to line my reusable bag with a plastic bag; talk about defeating the purpose! Or when I'm buying just a couple items, they put it in 2 bags and I tell them to just put in 1 so they do that and then throw the perfectly useable bag away. Or when...

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As I have been keeping count, I can say with confidence that, today, I said for the one thousandth time in my life, "No, thanks, really. I'll bag." Sometimes I say it in a friendly, "let me do that for you way," but sometimes I'm just nasty about it. Frankly, one thousand times is one thousand times too often.

Bagging groceries is a lost art. Poor arrangement, no accounting for fragility, and fear of lawsuit from overloaded bags are my three biggest pet peeves. Anyone with me, or am I just a grocery bag dinosaur?

I am that way, too. I hate when anyone bags my groceries - they throw things in the bag, they put soft food on the bottom - it makes no sense. Bagging is a totally lost art. I try to go to the same cashier where I usually shop and she knows I prefer to bag, but sometimes someone is helping. I say no thanks, I'll bag my own. But sometimes when they start doing it I get angry and start unpacking what they have already done and tell them I'll do it myself. One yelled at me!


Edited by GwennP (log)

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