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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


The Lost Art of Grocery Bagging

Used to be, the grocery bagger at the end of the checkout line actually packed your purchases into a grocery bag in some sort of logical order. The short width of the bottom of a paper bag is pretty much the same as the long width of a six-pack, so you could put three six-packs into a paper bag and they'd fit just right. Nowadays they'll put one six-pack into the bag then put stuff in around it. This puts all the weight and pressure onto the center of the bottom of the bag and makes it more likely the handles will break when you lift it.

When I load stuff from my shopping cart onto the checkout counter I put the salad and vegetables together, the dairy products together, canned goods together, cleansers and soaps together, bread and crackers together, hoping they'll be packed together. That way, when I get home, I can take matching products from a single bag and shelve them all at once.

But inevitably when I get home I find that there'll be two cans of tuna in with the cheese and a box of crackers. In another bag will be one more can of tuna, my container of salad, and a loaf of bread. Another bag will have the final can of tuna, a six- pack of Dr. Pepper, and a box of cereal. Whatever was within easy reach of the bagger as he grabbed stuff as it came down the counter was what went into the bag.

No order, no logic, no care.

Speed is of the essence.

Get it all into a bag as fast as possible, plop it into the cart, move 'em out.

And if you get plastic bags, it's worse. For every two or three items, you'll get a bag. Sometimes I get one item per bag, so when I get home, not only do I have to find everything that should have been bagged together, I get a truckload of bags, too.

The only exception I've seen to this process is at Whole Foods. There I've observed the bagger actually setting things aside as they came down the counter, looking for ways to pack the bags logically and with reason, putting like items in one bag, putting heavy items on the bottom, lighter items on top, placing things squarely so they don't flop around, keeping the salad horizontal so the container doesn't leak and make the bag soggy, placing the bags into the cart so they fit without piling other bags on top.

Smart. Like the old days when grocery bagging was an art.


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