Packing the Grocery Bag: It’s Not Rocket Science

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When did grocery stores stop filling bags to capacity?

I’ll buy three items, and leave with three bags. I don’t know if an old lady complained about her bag being too heavy once, but I actively have to ask the cashiers to fill each bag to it’s limit. Otherwise, if I buy an avocado, a box of cereal, and a yogurt, I’ll walk out with the avocados in one bag, the cereal in another, and the yogurt in a third. All would have fit nicely in one bag, but nope. It’s as if Big Plastic went in and bribed the cashiers to use more product.

To combat this, I purchased a few cloth bags. Reusable, environmentally friendly, durable. I’m not overly particular how they should be packed, but I do know the general rules to stacking anything: heavy/sturdy on the bottom, light and awkward after that.

I find fewer and fewer cashiers subscribe to this rule, which lead to my making an unfortunate comment to one of them.

It began innocently enough. I removed my items from the cart and placed them on the conveyor belt in the order that would make the most packing sense. I placed my cloth bag atop the first few items, where it could be seen easily and put to use.

The cashier got the second part right—seeing and using the cloth bag—but failed miserably at the first: packing.

Since pictures are worth more than words…

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Here are all the items of the day. Nothing too exciting. Napkins and paper towels, because this household is a messy lot. Two half gallons of organic, Omega-infused milk for the kiddos; one gallon of regular, Bovine-Growth-Hormone laced regular milk for the adults—my brain and body are shot already. No point in wasting extra money buying anything special for the disaster called “me.” Protein drinks, because I like to pretend I go to the gym and will someday have muscles…

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The cashier began by placing the napkins into the bag, which would have left room for little else. I quickly and pleasantly said, “Oh, I can take those!” and put them in my cart. Big items never go in a bag; I thought that was a cardinal rule.

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Even though I had placed the milk and “tough guy” protein drinks at the front of the conveyor belt, she went for the smaller items behind them. I recreated it the best I could, and as insane as it looks, that’s what she was going for: tiny items on the bottom, with the boxed and heavy items still to go.

Here’s where I feel bad. Noticing she was packing like a goofball, I gently asked, “May I?” and reached for the bag.

With a questioning eye, she handed it over and watched as I proceeded to take all the items back out.

Now, I should have kept my big mouth shut and let her think me an eccentric nut, but instead said, “You want to put the larger, heavier items in first.”

I was nice, but it was inappropriate. I was correcting her at her job, something no one likes.

The cashier responded tersely, “I know how to pack a bag…”

And I bristled.

I said nothing, because I knew it had been inappropriate for me to correct her in the first place, but every fiber of my being wanted to say, “No, you actually don’t. If you did, you wouldn’t have botched it twice in a row.”

Did I play too much Tetris as a child? Was I born with the magnificent gift of “Common Sense?” I don’t know.

I do know that I very quickly placed the two half-gallons of milk in, followed by the protein drinks. This lined the bottom. I then added the other boxed items, and completed everything by sliding the oddly shaped purchases down the sides into nooks and crannies, topping it off with the big bag of dinosaur chicken nuggets.

(The difference between chicken nuggets and dinosaur chicken nuggets? You get to say “RAWR!” when serving the dinosaur nuggets to your children.)

Sure, the gallon of milk and the paper items didn’t fit, but they’re not supposed to.

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Either way, it was neatly packed, didn’t take any extra time than had she just put items in as God intended (it’s Adam and Eve, not deodorant and then milk… or something like that. Ask a Christian), and wasn’t overly heavy.

I obviously have too much time on my hands, or I wouldn’t be taking pictures of groceries and writing blogs about the way bags are packed these days.

But seriously, stores: give your cashiers at least three minutes of training. This is common sense stuff, not brain surgery.

Now get off my lawn.

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Comedian Nathan Timmel

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