Reusable Shopping Bags and the Art of Conveyor Belt Strategy

Die look

(This is my impression of the cashier’s “just die” look.)

Today I bravely took my reusable shopping bags to the grocery store.  I didn’t take all of them, just eight.

Normally, I go down the street to the ghetto market that shall not be named, grab a cart, plunk my bags inside and nod to the armed security guard who stands at the doors.  I pick out my items and find my way to the registers.  I’ve learned, at this unnamed store, that I must first put my reusable bags on the conveyor belt before the groceries; otherwise, the bagger and cashier will “not notice” the bags in a large pile in front of them and will “accidentally” only use the plastic bags.

There is a definite strategy for placing things on the conveyer belt.  Here are the three golden rules to follow:

  1. Do not piss off the cashier right away.  Fruits and vegetables have PLU codes that must be typed in or looked up should never go first.  They should not be left for last either as this gives the cashier an impending sense of hopelessness.
  2. Do not piss off the bagger.  Grouping like items beforehand is a must. If it is smashable, breakable, or in some way fragile, make sure that it is following the fruits and veggies or its own clearly defined pile.  Never, under any circumstances place fragile items after frozen or refrigerated items.  They will not make it.
  3. Do not avoid weightlifting.  If you have ever used reusable bags, you know that to try and please you, the bagger–out of both spite and accommodation for your green anal eccentricities–will load the bag up as much as possible.  Therefore, one bag will be 50 pounds and the other 3.  If you do not hit the gym regularly, consider measured piles.

The problem is, I had to learn these rules through trial and error.  I should have realized sooner that it was my reusable bags that made the baggers suddenly scatter to the winds every time I plopped them there.  I finally became aware of my errors the time that I was the recipient of the unmistakeable “just die” look that the cashier gave me when her baggers disappeared and I handed her the bags.  To drive home her point of temporary hatred, she made sure to place all of the canned foods on top of bread and tomatoes, and the jug of milk on top of the eggs and bananas.  This certainly taught me a valuable lesson.  Never expect anyone chewing gum in an ill-fitting vest to do her job.   Who would have ever thought that being environmentally conscientious would be inconvenient?

From this lesson, I have learned to announce boldly before the bagger darts away “I will bag it myself.”  This method has proved great results.  The baggers still leave (now thinking I’m anal, but happily bowing out), but the cashier smiles at me and doesn’t throw all of the fragile stuff around.

Fast forward to last Thursday.  I brought my 8 reusable bags and headed to Giant.  It was refreshing that when I came to the counter, not only did the bagger do a great job and was very friendly, the cashier was nice and I got a discount for each of my bags.  They also had a raffle for anyone using reusable bags.  It was nice to not be punished for trying to do something helpful.

And to top it all off, the cashier very thoughtfully asked, “Hey, do you know you have something white on your face?”

“Yes,” I replied. “I have poison ivy.  The white stuff is supposed to be there.”

“Oh, okay.  I thought maybe that was it.”  She shrugged.  “But you know how you want your friends to tell you when you have broccoli in your teeth?  That was what I was trying to do.”

I bet at the unnamed store, the cashier would have just kept stealing sidelong glances and said nothing.