Saturday, July 31, 2010

An open letter to grocery baggers

When I started going to the grocery store with my mother as a child every store employed baggers. They were neither the newest employee in the store nor the stock clerk who had nothing to do. This was the job they were hired for and they took pride in how they bagged the groceries. A professional bagger would never smash your eggs or squash the tomatoes by putting heavy things on top of them. Nor would he or she ever fill one bag with all the heavy items. In one store I remember that my mother would choose which checkout line to get in based on who was bagging.

The day of the professional grocery bagger is long gone. There are so few stores that still bag groceries for the customer that I feel almost elitist when I shop at them. But the real reason I avoid them is because I am fairly fussy about getting my groceries home in good condition.

When I am at a store with baggers I do what I can to make the job easier for the bagger. When I unload my cart onto the conveyor belt at checkout I am careful to separate my groceries. The first thing I place on the belt are my cloth bags so the bagger doesn't even have to ask paper or plastic. All the heavy, wet, refrigerated things like frozen foods, meat and dairy go together so they can be bagged together. Likewise canned goods and other nonperishable foods, paper items, cleaning supplies, etc. Each category is placed on the belt with like items. I think this might indicate to the bagger that they should be bagged with similar items.

But more often than not I find fresh tomatoes under canned corn, bread flattened by a 10 pound bag of potatoes, toilet cleaner with the eggs, and both gallons of milk in one bag. Sometimes I catch the bagger in the act so they can fix any bagging problems. More often, however, I have to do some re-bagging when I get to the car and discover I can't lift the bags from the cart to the trunk. In addition to that, the baggers don't always notice the cloth bags or reach past them and have half my groceries bagged in plastic before either the checker or I notice what they are doing.

So, a few suggestions to all you grocery baggers out there.
1. Pay attention to what is in front of you. If there are cloth bags it is very likely the customer wants you to use them.

2. Be courteous. Place like items in bags together. Imagine how you would feel if you got home to find your new magazine soaked through by the condensation on the bag of frozen peas. Take care not to put squash-able and crack-able things like eggs, fresh fruit, bread and light bulbs under heavier things.

3. Be compassionate. Remember that not all of your customers are as young and strong as you are and even if you load the bags into the customer's car, the customer is still going to have to carry those bags into the house. They may even have to climb stairs with the groceries. Look at the customer and if he or she looks old to you then pretend that you are packing the bags for your great-grandmother to carry. (BTW, a gallon of milk weighs 10 pounds. It should probably be in a bag by itself.)

Believe it or not, your job is very important. The act of bagging their groceries is an act of service, a way in which you get to help your neighbor. Your courtesy and care for the customer could make all the difference in their day. You could be just the friendly, helpful encounter they need to make a hard day easier.