• LET INGA TELL YOU:
Dear grocery store bagger guys:
Could we talk? I mean, this conversation is way overdue. Here’s the problem: You guys are young and strong. I am not young, and, after having my chest broken by a drunk driver, not strong. It doesn’t matter whether I bring my own re-usable bags or you bag it in the store’s plastic ones, you guys put ALL the heaviest stuff — like both half gallons of milk AND the half gallon of juice — in the same bag. Then, instead of putting that bag in the child seat where I might have a fighting chance of wrestling it into the trunk of my car, you stash it under the child seat where I’d need a forklift to haul it out.
Now, I know the word “heavy” is really subjective. So when I say, “Would you put the heavy bags on top?” I realize that to you, none of them are heavy. Which is why all the heaviest stuff seems to end up in the bottom, or worse, in the rack UNDER the cart. I really, really hate when you do that because I really, really can’t get it out of there.
An avid recycler, I initially purchased a bunch of your store’s re-usable bags. But seriously, I could never lift a single one of them by the time you’d finished stuffing the contents of my entire grocery cart into just two of them. Fortunately, I happened to make a donation to the World Wildlife Fund and they sent me four smaller recyclable bags. But it’s still amazing how much stuff you guys can get into even those.
I really hate to complain, because you guys are generally adorable. And really trying hard to please. And you have to deal with the general public, which is going to whine no matter what you do. I’d shoot myself after one day of working in retail. Which is why I’m trying to be really nice about this.
I actually have more sympathy for your job than you know. For two years starting in 2005, my husband and I lived in Sweden. There, you not only bring your own recyclable bags to the supermarket, you bag your groceries yourself. I didn’t understand that at first, and stood there smiling at the grocery clerk who wasn’t smiling back. Neither was anyone standing in line behind me shooting the equivalent of rabid moose darts into the back of my head.
Even after I caught on, I squished a whole lot of groceries in those early weeks. You really had to be bagging your stuff fast so you wouldn’t hold up the line. Really important not to let the tomatoes get under the laundry detergent. Or the herring, either. Really hard to get that herring smell out of your bags.
But bagging was only the first step. There were still plenty of opportunities to make fruit salad out of your produce before you even got it home. After you bagged, you had to pack it all into your Swedish shopping trolley and wheel it home. Loading your shopping trolley for optimal food survival was an art all in itself.
When we first got to Sweden, I noticed that everyone left their shopping trolleys in the front of the store by the checkout stands while they shopped, but I didn’t want to leave my shiny new one there since I was sure someone would steal it. You just don’t leave anything of value unattended in my neighborhood in La Jolla if you ever want to see it again.
It soon became apparent that the Swedish national ethic frowns on stealing shopping trolleys. I should have known. When we were at a wedding in northern Minnesota (serious Swede country) some time back, Olof and I were aghast to see people leaving expensive fishing gear and bicycles in the parking lot of the motel where we were staying. Finally we said to the owners of this stuff, “Aren’t you afraid someone will steal it?” And they looked at each other and shrugged, “City folk.”
But I did become a pro in the field of grocery-bagging while we lived in Sweden. It was a comforting feeling to know that if my boss laid me off while I was gone, I’d be a shoo-in to work at Vons.
So I’m way more empathetic to the tribulations of your job than you might realize. So when I ask you to not make any of the bags “too heavy,” I mean no more than one-half gallon of any beverage (adult or otherwise) in any bag. And could we spread out the canned goods, too? Maybe give that box of laundry detergent a room, er bag, of its own?
Or, maybe I should quit whining and bag it myself since I actually know how. Duh.
— Look for La Jolla resident Inga’s lighthearted looks at life in La Jolla Light. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org