Bagging: The cornerstone of great customer experience and the foundation of many supermarket careers. In most checkout interactions, the art of bagging is often invisible, overlooked. But if done poorly, the customer will remember the broken eggs and crushed bread. In other words, there is great skill involved in doing it right.
Since 1987, expert baggers have had an opportunity to show off these skills at the National Grocers Association’s Best Bagger Championship, held as part of NGA’s annual conference.
Dubbed the “Texas–Oklahoma Checkout Shootout,” the very first event featured two contestants and former NFL Quarterback Terry Bradshaw as the emcee. Since then, NGA has grown the event to feature more than 25 state qualifier contests, where the best of the best of each participating state compete for a slot in the national competition.
This year’s Ohio contest took place August 6th at Baker’s IGA in Newcomerstown. Organized by the Ohio Grocers Association (OGA), the event featured 30 employees trying their hand to win $1,000 and an all-expenses paid trip to San Diego, California and NGA’s annual conference to compete at the national level for the $10,000 grand prize.
OGA purchased the items for the competition, which included an array of food products from soda to chips and of course, eggs. Using reusable IGA-branded cloth bags, contestants were judged by the speed of bagging, proper bag-building technique, weight distribution in the bag, as well as their own style, attitude, and appearance they brought along.
The food items were placed in the same positions in makeshift check stands that were housed under a large tent set up in Baker’s parking lot. All the products were donated to a local food pantry afterward, said Baker’s General Manager Mark Cutshall, who helped oversee the event.
Even though it was a competition, the overall goal for event organizers was to make it fun, too, said Cutshall. To pump up the mood, they had a DJ playing music throughout the day, and provided the baggers with a meal, ice cream, beverages, and goody bags they could take home, Cutshall said. The 3-hour event also attracted 70 or so spectators who came to watch the drama unfold.
At the end of the day, Katie West from Dorothy Lane Market was declared the winner, and will represent Ohio at the 2020 national competition.
Cutshall knows firsthand what it’s like to be in the spotlight. He was the Ohio winner in 1989 and went on to win the national championship in 1990, and even appeared on Late Night with David Letterman.
Over the history of the competition, Baker’s IGA has had six state winners, and one national title. With the last win almost 20 years ago, Baker’s is due for another win. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a winner,” said Cutshall. Maybe 2020 will be the year? For now, Cutshall was content with helping to make this year’s event a fun-filled day. “OGA does a wonderful job with the program. We were glad to participate and help,” he said.