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This really isn’t rocket science, I promise…

January 10, 2013, 1:28 AM

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the act of placing groceries in bags and giving them back to the customer is really not rocket science.  And in Montgomery County, Maryland, a jurisdiction where there is an excise tax on disposable shopping bags, i.e. a financial incentive to use reusable shopping bags, I don’t believe that it is unreasonable of me to think that a grocery store cashier should know how to handle reusable shopping bags.  Apparently this is an unreasonable expectation.  I went to the Safeway store in Olney this evening after I went swimming, and the cashier did not understand how to handle reusable bags.

This what I bought:

My haul from Safeway in Olney

(And for those of you who are wondering, I took this photo in the store with the intention of posting on Instagram.)

Then when I go shopping, I present my bags and such like this:

How I present my stuff

In this photo (taken in my kitchen) and a few subsequent ones, imagine that my kitchen counter is the cash register belt, and the scanner is at the end of the counter to the right.  Also imagine that these are my groceries.  I put my black bag full of green reusable bags (I have eleven) at the front of the order, so that the cashier can scan my selections, and then remove the green bags from inside the outer bag as needed to bag my groceries.  At the end of the scanning and bagging process, I expect to get my groceries back, properly bagged in the green bags, and then have my outer bag returned to me with the unused green bags inside.  The outer bag is the bag of last resort, i.e. all of the green bags inside have been filled, and there is no other bag to put stuff in.  That is the only time that you ever use the outer bag.  Seems easy enough, right?

For some reason, Julie, my cashier for this evening’s ordeal, did not understand this concept.  Julie’s first act upon taking the bags was to dump all of the bags out onto the register and start placing groceries into the black outer bag.  Thus if I hadn’t stopped her, my grocery order would have looked something like this at the end of the process:

How it would have looked if I hadn't stopped the cashier

What you are seeing is all of the groceries in the outer bag, and the green bags loose.  You see the problem, I’m sure.  The outer bag, which is the container for the green bags, is being used as the grocery bag, and the green bags are loose, having been evicted from their home.
Now remember, I do have some experience with the whole bagging-of-groceries concept.  I worked at Walmart for a little over three years, where, as a cashier, I scanned items and placed them in bags.  I would do this all day, for which I was paid a shockingly small amount.  So I know what I’m talking about here.  In this hypothetical grocery order, I would have bagged the items like this:

A properly bagged grocery order

A properly bagged grocery order

Note one bag, and the remainder of the green bags in the outer bag.  With the products from my actual grocery order, I would have bagged them like this:

How I would have bagged my groceries

Note all of the peas, together in one bag (to try to keep the cold stuff cold for longer), and all of the other stuff in the other bag.  Even though I stopped her after she dumped the bags out, Julie still managed to use four or five bags to bag all of my stuff.  And the peas were spread across several bags.  Not good, for reasons explained earlier.

See, when my groceries are bagged properly, this is what I look like as I’m leaving the store:

Another satisfied customer!

See?  Happy as can be.  Note the bags of groceries in my bags, and the remaining bags in the outer bag.

Now compare to how I look if you don’t bag my groceries right:

I think I'm going to call this my "What the f---?" look.

I have the groceries in the black bag, and the green bags wadded up in my hand.  Note the expression, kind of like, what the hell?

And if you think I’m coming down hard on Julie the cashier, I just really find it amazing that a person working as a cashier in a jurisdiction where disposable bags are taxed (and thus where use of reusables is strongly encouraged) does not know how to handle a bag full of reusable bags.  It really blows my mind.  To pull all of my shopping bags out, set them aside, and then use the outer bag for groceries just baffles me.  This is not hard.  Giant cashiers understand this concept.  Target cashiers understand this concept.  Whole Foods cashiers understand this concept.  Roots Market cashiers understand this concept.  Safeway cashiers don’t seem to get this, as I’ve had this problem at Safeway stores a number of times before.  I’ve noticed that Walmart cashiers also have this problem, as I’ve had to stop them from doing this before as well.  It’s as if these folks think that the green bags are just filler material that’s in there in order to make the outer bag look full when it’s not full of groceries.

And I really, really, really don’t understand why people do this.  It seems simple enough to me.  And remember: I’ve done this cashier thing before.  It’s not that hard.  And a very important thing about dealing with customers is that if one is at all doubtful as to what action to take, ask the customer.  I swear I won’t bite you if you ask.  I greatly appreciate a question asked up front about how to proceed vs. having to stop the cashier from throwing my bags around.  There has been an occasion where all of my green bags didn’t make it home because a cashier threw them around.  That’s why I have eleven green bags, and not twelve.  I don’t know if this is a matter of stores’ not giving the proper training to their employees on how to handle reusable bags or what have you, but it’s ridiculous, and unacceptable in my book.  And to see this same behavior happen time and time and time again is frustrating.  And I’m normally a pretty nice guy when I’m out in public.  I’m quite pleasant, and actually try to make the cashier laugh a little.  But this bag issue pisses me off.  I’m sorry, but it does, and that’s why I sound annoyed in this Journal entry.

So, yeah, I really don’t think that handling my bags in the way I describe above is all that unreasonable.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to put a bag full of reusable bags up on the belt and expect the cashier to know how handle the bags properly.  The stores should be training their cashiers on how to do this.  It is not my responsibility to train the cashiers on how to bag the groceries.  If I have to do this myself, I should start sending stores an invoice for consulting services, and charge the store $200 an hour.  For a minute’s worth of time to train a cashier on how not to dump my bags all over the cash register and the floor, that’s about the cost of a bag of frozen peas.

I also welcome questions about how I want my bags loaded.  I like my bags loaded very full, and my green bags will take two gallons of milk in one bag like a champ.  It fits, and the bag won’t give out – I promise.  I might give out if I carry too many at once, but the bags won’t.

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.  Has this happened to you before, where cashiers do things with the bags that make absolutely no sense?  Is it unreasonable for me to expect cashiers to know what to do with my reusable bags?  Is removing bags one at a time, as needed, that hard of a concept to grasp?  Am I completely off my hinges here?