My wife and I have this on-going joke about the baggers in conventional grocery stores and how they get all flustered when you bring in your own reusable bags. This afternoon we brought in two bags from Whole Foods and were anxious to see how the baggers at the conventional grocery store handled this little complication.
Note: I’ve realized that you really have to make sure you get your reusable bags on the conveyer belt before your groceries. If not, you will pay the price as 80% of your groceries will be already bagged in plastic by the time you finish unloading your cart.
This time I watched in a little more depth. First off I noticed how the baggers (yes, we had two) had to wait for the groceries to pile up after the scanning. I guess they needed to analyze which items would go in first, last, etc. There seemed to be a bit of dialogue between the two baggers and some confusion as to which items go in which bags. It was obvious that this was not something they were accustomed to.
Finally, the bagging was complete. We had two Whole Foods bags and about 10 plastic bags (they couldn’t get it all to fit which is fine). We thanked them and left the store.
Upon our parking lot inspection, we noticed that an entire reusable bag was devoted to a pack of english muffins, a loaf of bread, and a package of sourdough rolls. The other bag was packed much better, but was still under utilized. This is when I began to think about the culture of reusable bags and why Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods can fit my entire cart into two bags.
I don’t blame the baggers, they are just doing what they are taught—best practices I presume? By why do these conventional stores seem to not care how many bags they use? We had a number of bags with only two items in them—what a waste.
These stores have made the mistake of putting speed (efficiency) above quality (think bagging Tetris). The culture of the stores is to blame. The mantra is to bag fast and don’t smash the bread. Why not bag slowly and make it easier on the customer. (I have my own qualms with plastic bags: like the apples sprawled all over my trunk, or the milk that falls over, the environmental impact, etc…) But seriously, who wants to go back-and-forth to their car 10 times to grab 50 plastic bags of groceries?
Anyway, this post is not about plastic bags, it’s about the culture of über-efficiency in lieu of quality. Plastic bags are convenient for the grocery stores because the workers can bag faster and handle more customers. For the corporations, this saves money on labor costs as they can hire fewer workers.
For the consumer, it means dealing with recycling, reusing, or storing. It means loose apples rolling around the trunk. It’s no longer the stores problem.
I really appreciate the care that goes into bagging at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. They rubber band the egg cartons and clamshell berry containers because they don’t want you to be disappointed when you get home.
And, most importantly, they have never smashed my bread!