Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The Lost Art of Grocery Bagging


Recommended Posts

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?

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Heh. Whenever I shop, I carry a Trader Joe's cooler bag that holds about two grocery bags worth, and an extra canvas bag if I need more space, and I usually pack them myself. I hate the accumulation of plastic bags and the inane way they are usually packed, considering that, like most New Yorkers, I'm going to go home on foot or by public transportation.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm totally with you. In the "million bags" topic we discussed a related sub-peeve: using too many bags.

Occasionally I come across a great old-school bagger, but it's rare. Usually, I do a much better job, and I'm not even that good at it.

In general, the skill sets of retail employees have declined dramatically over the past few decades. Cashiers are often barely literate, so instead of numbers cash registers in fast-food restaurants have a picture of a hamburger on one button, a picture of french fries on another, and in most other retail establishments they use scanners. Not that scanners are bad -- they're great for inventory -- but the people who program the scanners aren't terribly competent either so scanners turn out to make plenty of mistakes too.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, some basic concepts related to density, fragility, and geometry seem absent. For a while I thought that, if I organize the cart items so that the heaviest item rolled down the belt first and the lightest, most delicate last, the bagger might get the gist of things. No such luck. And using boxy items to anchor the corners of the bag? Fuggedaboudit.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a while I thought that, if I organize the cart items so that the heaviest item rolled down the belt first and the lightest, most delicate last, the bagger might get the gist of things. No such luck.

I make this mistake all the time. I can't stop myself.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At my market, they bag differently if I bring my own bag(s). If I don't, they give me 6 bags for 10 items, with all the heavy items in one bag and each other one with eggs only, or bread, or one package of meat. If I bring my own bag, they seem to consider it a challenge to fit everything in the bag I've brought, even if I say they can use another bag. Either way, I often end up out in the entryway where the carts live, rearranging my bags so I can walk home with them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For a while I thought that, if I organize the cart items so that the heaviest item rolled down the belt first and the lightest, most delicate last, the bagger might get the gist of things. No such luck.

I make this mistake all the time. I can't stop myself.

I've done this too, with equally dismal results.

I have nothing but praise for the teen cashiers and baggers at Caputo's. The cashiers can identify produce -- most Asian and Mexican -- that, um, even I can't, and they can know before you open your mouth if you're a native Spanish, Italian, Polish or English speaker. Heck, they can look at your basket and figure out if you're Vietnamese or Thai.

And the baggers -- actually more like boxers, because we always go for the box rather than bag option -- are like acned hormonal physicists, so beautifully do they pack.

Trader Joe's has good baggers too, as well as the "Bag or box" option.

Edited by maggiethecat (log)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Indeed, to be fair, when I bring my Trader Joe's cooler bag to Trader Joe's, they do pack it intelligently, putting the frozen and cold items in the bag first and setting aside the items that don't need to stay cool in case there isn't enough space in the cooler bag, so I can deal with the toddler in the shopping cart.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe Trader Joe's actually trains people to bag.

I have nothing but praise for the teen cashiers and baggers at Caputo's. The cashiers can identify produce -- most Asian and Mexican -- that, um, even I can't....

That's impressive. I had this exchange recently:

"What's that?"

"Lamb."

"Lamb. Huh. Is it meat?"

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The art has not been lost. You just have to move to Japan to find it being practised.

In Japan, customers bag their own groceries at most stores, but in stores where the clerks or baggers do the bagging, they do an excellent job (in terms of efficiency and packing).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Boy, did this strike a nerve! It's not only the lack of bagging skill,

but often just a general disregard for the way the items are handled

during the checking process. I've had plenty of bread, rolls, fruit

destroyed by ham-fisted checkers who seem to think that moving

the stuff as fast as possible across the scanner is the goal.

I _always_ bag myself, and at certain markets that offer self-checkout,

generally opt for that as well.

I have nothing but praise for the teen cashiers and baggers at

Caputo's. The cashiers can identify produce -- most Asian and Mexican --

that, um, even I can't, and they can know before you open your mouth

if you're a native Spanish, Italian, Polish or English speaker. Heck, they

can look at your basket and figure out if you're Vietnamese or Thai.

Wow! I'll have to pay a visit next time I am in your area...

Trader Joe's has good baggers too

this is my experience as well... and the few times I've had stuff bagged

for me @ WFM it was also well done.

====

mark

Link to comment
Share on other sites

this is my experience as well... and the few times I've had stuff bagged

for me @ WFM it was also well done.

Yes, at Whole Foods bags are packed correctly.

At my local "grocery" store, it's the bizarro world.

I also think plastic bags inherently lead to terrible bagging. Paper bags,

when unfolded and set-up for bagging, practically beg to be packed correctly.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find that at my local Korean market the baggers at least keep hot, cold, and frozen in a logical way. At my local big market Pavillions which is a Vons/Safeway "upmarket" I can see the rules posted next to where they stand. It tells them a minimum number of items per bag. They must also be counseled about bread and eggs because they will consolidate fairly well and them I have these bags that only have eggs or bread. I must say that someone out there (I think they call them trainers) have been doing a decent job in the chains. I occasionally see them at work and they are really thorough; explaining what the kid did wrong or how to be more aware. Another reason I cut the chains some slack is because at least in my area they have a large proportion of slightly mentally challenged kids working. So when they ask me three times in the span of 20 seconds if I want help out or how am I today, I just keep smiling.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I worked at Shop-Rite, in high school, as a cashier. I had to go to "Shop Rite School" for a week, before they let me behind a register. Five days of classes, 6 hours a day...one of the days was just about bagging. I learned how to set up two rectangular boxes, then put a specified amount of cans or jars in between, then a few light items on top...I learned that one of the most common things that breaks is yogurt cups. Yogurt gets sat on top of the egg carton, and a loaf of bread laid in sideways. Very specific stuff here, and I was a cashier, not a bagger.

I was chatting with a cashier at that same Shop Rite a few months ago, asking if they still went to "Shop Rite School" and she gave me a blank stare. Turns out, not only do they not go to school, the week of in store training has been cut to 3 days.

That pretty much answered all my questions.

I bag all my own stuff, all the time. Saves time on unpacking. I sort it by where the stuff gets put away.

It's nice, when you bring your own bags, you save yourself a conflict. Baggers (unless you're at TJs, but they're good anyway) leave me alone with mine. Some of those reusable bags are enormous. I can fit 4 plastic bags worth of stuff in a Whole Foods reusable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This has been annoying me for years. As a bagger in high school myself, I definitely remember being "trained" on how to bag things appropriately. And like other posters, I've tried the "send the heaviest items first" trick as well as the "feel free to pack them heavy" trick and I've also met with very limited success. And unfortunately, the "pack them heavy" trick usually results in twice as many plastic bags as I actually need. I actually spend time at the front of the store de-bagging and disposing of the extra bags in the recycle bins.

The biggest thing that strikes a nerve is when they pack something poisonous with perishable food items. That's just downright dumb! :angry:

Flickr: Link

Instagram: Link

Twitter: Link

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the smartest things I ever did back when I has disposable income was order a dozen LL Bean canvas bags. All different colours. Black has "CLEANERS AND SOAPS" monogrammed on it. Green has "FRUIT AND VEGETABLES". Yellow is "BREADS and EGGS". Red is "Dairy".

And then I have a boatload (no pun intended) of regular canvas bags.

First, I shop backward. Heavy stuff first.

Secondly, I set the bags in my trolley, open, pack right into the bag.

When I get to the clerk, I send the heavy, unbaggable stuff through first and as that is going, I unpack each bag onto the belt, setting the empty bag down in FRONT of all the stuff.

I love that Wegman's produce bags, the plastic ones, AND the labels, are biodegradable.

Edited by pax (log)
“Don't kid yourself, Jimmy. If a cow ever got the chance, he'd eat you and everyone you care about!”
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The biggest thing that strikes a nerve is when they pack something poisonous with perishable food items. That's just downright dumb!  :angry:

Your peeve is second cousin to my peeve: packing fruit or other ready-to-eat, minimally packaged items in the same back with uncooked meat or poultry. Gross; yes, I can wash the fruit before I eat it, but the burger buns in their flimsy bag are hard to disinfect. Same goes for the outside of the milk carton--I'm gonna touch it with bare hands, please don't put it next to the raw chicken. I now swipe plastic produce baggies and use them to pre-package everything I get from the meat counter.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm so glad this thread exists - this has got to my single biggest pet peeve of grocery shopping. Bread and fruit do not go under the canned goods! Keeping cold stuff together has it's virtues.

I take public transit when I shop, so the horrible practice most baggers seem to have of putting 3 items into each bag (so you have to carry 12 instead of 2) is ridiculous.

I bring my own bags and have been bagging my own stuff for years now... what happened to the good old days when common sense prevailed?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One of the smartest things I ever did back when I has disposable income was order a dozen LL Bean canvas bags. All different colours. Black has "CLEANERS AND SOAPS" monogrammed on it. Green has "FRUIT AND VEGETABLES".  Yellow is "BREADS and EGGS".  Red is "Dairy".

And then I have a boatload (no pun intended) of regular canvas bags.

First, I shop backward. Heavy stuff first.

Secondly, I set the bags in my trolley, open, pack right into the bag.

When I get to the clerk, I send the heavy, unbaggable stuff through first and as that is going, I unpack each bag onto the belt, setting the empty bag down in FRONT of all the stuff.

I love that Wegman's produce bags, the plastic ones, AND the labels, are biodegradable.

Wow. I bow down to your superior organizational skills. That is truly genius. I am fortunate to shop at Caputos most of the time, where they can intelligently pack a box that is then reused at my house for recycling. When I do go to the chain store, if I remember my reusable bags and load the belt in the order things should be packed, I get pretty good results. It seems to be common enough to bring bags that they don't hesitate, but still new enough that they actually take time to think about what they are doing. I also agree Trader Joe's usually does a nice job.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Although I place items on the conveyor belt by type (cold, canned, non-food, etc.), it doesn't seem to matter. The baggers appear to have their own agenda as to what goes in which bag. It appears that they place by weight (and how many of us have had bags that rip at the most inopportune time), which does have its advantages. However, rooting through many bags at home is a pain. No matter how I try, I always think I"ve found all the cold items, placed them in the fridge/freezer, and then always have to reopen it for the one missing item buried at the bottom of a bag. :shock: I remember the 'old' days, when it was a priority to bag items in as few bags as possible (keeping in mind weight and category).

Burgundy makes you think silly things, Bordeaux makes you talk about them, and Champagne makes you do them ---

Brillat-Savarin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I went shopping this morning and got the most attitude from a bagger ever.

I had a bunch of meat items that I wanted packed together so I could transfer them to a cooler for travel. So I said, "Would you please pack all the meat items together?" And she said, if you can believe this, "Sir, I know how to bag. I'm a lady."

I don't even know what that means. Is bagging knowledge considered a ladylike attribute? In any event, I can't believe this lady is employed anywhere, especially with unemployment so high. Surely there's someone out there to replace her.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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.

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

Link to comment
Share on other sites

wow -- our regular grocery store has self-checkout lanes, where you scan and bag everything yourself (said lanes are common around here in the bigger chain supermarkets). I usually opt for one because there's less of a lineup and checking out is faster (and I don't have to deal with people), but this thread is making me grateful that a side-effect is I get to do my own bagging too.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...