Is it rude not to pack my own groceries?
August 6, 2017 7:27 PM   Subscribe

When I go to the grocery store without a self-checkout option, whether it's Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, there always this awkward moment where my groceries start piling up next to the register and I wonder if I should swing over to the side and start bagging my own groceries. Am I supposed to do this?

I don't really want to do it -- I like letting other people make decisions for me in situations like this because I feel like I am making decisions constantly as it is, which uses up my energy and patience. (It's the same principle behind why Obama wore the same suit all the time.) Plus I feel like bagging is part of their job and they probably expect to do it.

But I think back to when I worked at a grocery store when I was 16 years old and how I loved when people bagged their own groceries. I bagged groceries and lifted them into people's carts all day long and it started to really hurt my back after a while. If a customer did it themselves, it was a nice little break. So, these days, I feel guilty -- the groceries are sitting right there waiting to be bagged while the cashier is scanning the rest of my stuff. Is it rude not to bag it? Are they expecting me to?
posted by AppleTurnover to Human Relations (102 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Yes and yes.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:32 PM on August 6, 2017 [12 favorites]

I don't like doing it either, but most of the time these places never seem to have a bagger around, so waiting for someone to come help me doesn't usually happen unless I am still bagging once the checker is done.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:34 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I do it sometimes, just to keep things moving along when it seems like the store is busy and short on baggers. However, I don't feel obligated to do it. The bag-your-own stores offer cheaper prices in exchange for fewer niceties. The Jewel can start expecting me to bag when they start cutting their prices.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:37 PM on August 6, 2017 [14 favorites]

If everyone bagged their own groceries, that would put the baggers out of jobs.

I was also a bagger in high school, and I am happy to now leave that job to the pros.
posted by maurreen at 7:41 PM on August 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Not sure what it's like in the US but in my home country it depends on the supermarket. Some supermarkets the cashier will bag each item as they scan it so in those cases I let them bag. Other supermarkets the cashier scan and pile the items to the side, in those cases I move over and bag them myself because it seems like that's what you're supposed to do.

If I remember correctly you bag your own groceries in a lot of supermarkets in the UK.
posted by milque at 7:43 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I've decided that I'm old and decrepit so I let others do things like bagging groceries, changing tires, installing blinds, etc. I do still check the oil and change the air filter, though.
posted by MovableBookLady at 7:46 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

For me this entirely depends on if the bags are in reach. This only happens at TJ's, but some of them are set up so the bags are behind the register, and others are on the side and behind the counter. If I am to bag groceries, the store needs to make that signal clear that's a thing, and there's no way I'm getting up in an employee workspace because of bags.

This has changed recently though; if will take me longer than to use the chip-reader enabled machine than it will them to ring up and bag the groceries...welp, congrats. Bag time.

Having had worked in grocery for just under a decade, I think about this stuff way too much.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:48 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

If I've brought my own bag, or if it's the sort of place where the cashier puts the item on a conveyor belt that leads to a bagging area, I'll bag. This usually turns into a dance where the cashier is done scanning well before I'm done bagging, so then I have to abandon bagging and go back up the aisle to fiddle with the card reader.

At my local TJ and WF though, bags are kept on a shelf or something behind the counter, on the employee side. You're not charged for them, but there's no way I'm going to reach over and take a bag. In that situation, employee bags while I do the card reader fiddle. Most bag as they scan anyway, and TJ employees especially are magic at the Tetris of maximizing bag space.

(On preview, what furnace.heart said.)
posted by basalganglia at 7:53 PM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I generally do all my payment stuff (assuming I'm paying with a card, which is almost always) first. If, at the end of that, there's still bagging to be done, then I'll bag. It annoys me to be behind someone who's holding up the line because they are taking a long time to finish paying, so that's always my priority -- especially since the cashier can bag my groceries but can't enter my PIN/sign my receipt.
posted by lazuli at 8:01 PM on August 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Typically I *think* there are bags at the end of the cashier station, facing out into the area where people leave the bagging area. I believe they are there because sometimes, when it's busy or when they have cashiers with empty lanes, they show up and start bagging. So I am sure I could grab the bags. But no, they are certainly not set up in a way where they may it seems like it's something customers are supposed to do. And I always look around to see if people are bagging their own groceries and honestly it seems pretty rare. So then I tell myself, hey, this obviously isn't something I should be doing because no one else is doing it.

But I don't know, maybe it depends on the size of the order? With a small one, the amount of time it would take for me to pay and sign with my credit card would cover the bagging time, so there would be no point. But with a bigger order, I would have time to self-bag. I typically never buy more than two bags of groceries at once though. Today, my order was three bags (more like two and a half), which is rare.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:02 PM on August 6, 2017

If there are no baggers in sight and the bags are easily accessible, I consider bagging my own groceries to be a kindness to both the cashier and also to the people waiting in line behind me.
posted by lalex at 8:07 PM on August 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

I don't really want to do it
Then that is a good enough reason not to do it!!
Bagging groceries is completely within their job description - you are not asking them to go out of their way to do something special for you.

I think most people who bag their own are doing it more to save the minute or two of time that it would take to wait for the clerk to do it. But we don't all have to live in such a rush-rush world.

It may be a treat for the cashier to have the occasional customer who bags their own (like your 16 year old self) but I see no reason to put yourself out to make them happy at your own expense, especially when it is their job to make you a happy customer.

So - don't do it and don't feel guilty. Allow it to be a small gift to yourself to just zone out and let someone else figure out how to get the stuff in the bags. It's a small thing, but if it gives you a moment of pleasure then go for it.
posted by metahawk at 8:10 PM on August 6, 2017 [21 favorites]

Here in my neck of the woods, if they ask me how many bags and I want (we typically pay 5c/bag) and scan those and throw them on the conveyer belt with everything else, it's clear I bag my own. Or if there is a conveyer belt after the register with the bags at the end. Other than that, they bag. Unless it's Costco, then it's a free for all where sometimes there is staff and sometimes there isn't, and there's no bags only carts and giant mountains of used boxes.
posted by cgg at 8:20 PM on August 6, 2017

If there just aren't enough baggers because the store is busy or the baggers are off doing other things, I start bagging my groceries myself. I do it mostly because I don't feel like waiting for the cashier when I'm just standing there doing nothing. I'd rather start packing my own stuff if it means I can get out of there faster. I don't really get anything out of someone else bagging for me that would make me wait for someone to do it. I don't necessarily think it is rude to not bag and I honestly have no idea if they are expecting you to, but I bet that when it's super busy, if I were a cashier, I wouldn't mind it.

Having said that though, I really don't have a problem paying for people to do stuff for me -- changing batteries in smoke detectors, cleaning my house, washing my car, assembling furniture, etc. These are things I have done countless times in the past, but now, I just don't want to so am happy to fork over some cash in order to save myself some time.
posted by SoulOnIce at 8:29 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've noticed that when customers bring their own cloth bags (D.C. has a five-cent bag fee), cashiers often but not always don't bag and expect the customer to do it. When the bag is supplied they do the bagging.
posted by jgirl at 8:32 PM on August 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Maybe it depends where you live. In San Francisco, I put my reusable bags in the cart or basket, and the cashier puts my items in these bags. This happens at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods and all others except the food co-op. Having been a grocery-store cashier a long time ago, I notice what customers and cashiers do at different places. I do see some customers bagging their own stuff, but the majority don't.

When I was a cashier, my co-workers and I didn't like it when people insisted on bagging their own groceries because it usually slowed down the line. But those people were few -- it was more normal for the self-baggers to accept help once the cashier's hands were free.
posted by wryly at 8:33 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I bag my own stuff as a courtesy to the people waiting in line behind me who I imagine are as busy and time crunched as I myself am, and who would like to get on with their lives rather than spend time waiting for the cashier to do what I could have done myself. My caveat to this is I am an able bodied person, I would certainly not expect someone who was physically unable to bag their own groceries.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:41 PM on August 6, 2017 [16 favorites]

I suck at it. Really. Squashed bread, busted chips, bags that tear because they're too heavy. There really is a science to it and with all the part time jobs I've had in my life, that is a skill I just never acquired, so I leave it to the pros.
Most baggers do carts too, so if you want to help them out, always return your cart to a corral.
posted by NoraCharles at 8:49 PM on August 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

When I'm in line behind someone who is just standing there, if there's no bagger and the cashier is clearly going to have to spend more time on them to bag up their stuff once they're done ringing them up, I think very unkind things about that person.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:49 PM on August 6, 2017 [17 favorites]

Where I am, I put my cloth bags on the conveyor belt, and the cashier automatically grabs them and sets them up to bag as they ring things up at both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. If it's busy, they have extra people on to bag.
posted by lovecrafty at 9:00 PM on August 6, 2017

I'm not bagging my own stuff. I'm TERRIBLE at it. Think whatever unkind things about me that you like! (I do grab stuff occasionally and toss it on top of already packed bags/take gum that goes in my purse, etc.)

I think it's more important to always return your cart to the cart corral, frankly.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 9:05 PM on August 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Something I do to try to speed the bagging -- I unload my cart onto the conveyor belt in the order it should be bagged. So, heavy canned/jarred/bottled stuff first, moving to hardy root vegetables, then citrus, then lighter vegetables, then fruits and fragile vegetables and chips and such. When the checker or bagger doesn't care, it doesn't help; when they know what they're doing, it speeds up the process a lot. I tend to consider that pre-bagging sorting as my contribution to the bagging process most of the time.
posted by lazuli at 9:07 PM on August 6, 2017 [10 favorites]

At most places these days there are fewer baggers than lanes. So when a cashier is done, they switch to bagging. In my mind, they should switch to finishing up the bagging, which you started.

I am always amazed at the amount of folks who just let all that stuff pile up (as it certainly does as you noted) and don't make a move to start getting it taken care of. I see it as a common courtesy thing, there are probably people waiting to get rung up themselves and its easy to put the things you put in your cart into a bag. It also certainly helps the cashiers physical toil for the day. Its just nice.
posted by stormygrey at 9:14 PM on August 6, 2017 [13 favorites]

To your question about whether or not the cashier is expecting you to bag the groceries, given that they often say thank you when someone does, I would guess that they don't expect it - but as you say, it's a nice thing to do. It speeds things up for everyone, it gives the cashier a little bit of a break, and really, we've probably all learned many skills more challenging than this one - the more you do it, the better you'll get. There are probably even internet directions out there! It's a simple way of putting a little bit of pleasantness into the world.
posted by DingoMutt at 9:20 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

You are paying a premium to shop at stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. They are not discount grocery stores. I have always considered grocery bagging to be one of the services I pay a premium for at such stores and have never felt guilty about having the cashier do their job and bag my groceries. They are almost always better at it and faster at it than I am anyway.
posted by saeculorum at 9:30 PM on August 6, 2017 [12 favorites]

In addition to whatever else you may or may not care about, bagging your own groceries saves time for everybody behind you in line.
Also more than half the time I start to bag on my own a professional bagger shows up and cheerfully says ' I got this ' and take over the job and all the hard decisions that entails.

This is especially true at upscale markets like the ones you mention.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:33 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Even shopping at the low-income end of the spectrum, the general view is that the people bagging their own are the ones that are picky about how exactly their groceries are packed...

Other than that, it's their job, whether they have a bagger to help, or they're a checker alone.
posted by stormyteal at 9:33 PM on August 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'll usually at least start bagging my own stuff at TJ's because it's usually very busy and I want to help keep the line moving. The cashiers always thank me for helping bag (and several have also remarked that it's always optional for the customer to bag).

At non-TJ's stores, I'll start bagging whenever possible for the same reason (i.e., to keep the line moving) but also because about half of the baggers at the local non-TJ's stores are terrible -- like throwing random canned goods on top of tomatoes, with a carton of eggs shoved in sideways for good measure. If the bagger seems competent I'll let them finish, but if they aren't I just keep going.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 9:44 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love bagging my own groceries. I have a whole system in how I unpack my stuff onto the belt so that the right things go together and I also prefer my own bags or paper if I've forgotten my bags. So I'm on the opposite side of this sort of. Generally, if it's a cashier by themselves, they don't mind. If someone walks up and starts bagging before I'm done unloading, it feels rude to take away their job (and I had an awkward interaction with a bagger about this just last week when I said "I've got it!" to them twice before realizing they really wanted to do it and I felt bad. Although they didn't do a very good job so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). If the lines are long, it seems like the cashier would prefer I let them just put three things each into the plastic bags at the end of the belt rather than messing with reusable bags or paper because it goes faster for them, but I hate how wasteful that is.
posted by MadamM at 9:49 PM on August 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

This is a fascinating discussion.

I usually bag my groceries because I want to get through the transaction as quickly as possible. This is as much about my time as the time off those around me. If the set up is clearly intended for somebody else to bag and that it would be physically difficult for me to do it, I twiddle my thumbs and feel like I'm a giant time suck.

At my local grocery store, it's usually packed on the weekends and there's a 30% chance you might get a bagger as you check out. Usually the cashier bags if there isn't a bagger. If there's a bagger when I'm being rung up and they're on top of it, I let them do their thing but I also make sure I loaded the belt efficiently for bagging and put my bags on the belt. If there's no bagger, I'll do it.

The things that drive me crazy about people who don't bag is that often they seem unaware or unconcerned by the people behind them. It's that attitude of, "I'm paying for a service so I'm going to enjoy every second of being waited on" that I don't get. I wish people (especially at this particular popular store) had designated lines if they wanted that service. They don't bag, they don't start paying until the whole thing is rang up, and they often take their time putting their wallet back in their pocket or bag, well after the next transaction began. It's a bottleneck but I also see it as a sign that they don't think, let alone care, about anybody who isn't on their radar - which is most people around them.
posted by kendrak at 9:49 PM on August 6, 2017 [17 favorites]

I have ALWAYS been fascinated by the science of bagging, but having never been a bagger, I'm still terrible at it. I'll try to bag my own groceries, but I'll also ask tons of questions and try and get trained a little bit at a time. They usually are not interested in teaching and will take the bag away from me and pack it themselves. They're really better at it.
posted by rhizome at 9:50 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Wow, I guess I'm the outlier here. I start the payment process and if there's no bagger then I'll move over to bag my groceries, Usually when it's time to finish paying the cashier will take over, but I'd feel really weird just standing there, waiting for someone to else to do it. A little bit like bussing hour own table at fast food places; yes, technically it's someone's job to do it.

I've been bringing my own bags for years, and have watched supermarkets greatly reduce the numbers of baggers. The cashier's job is harder now, too.

The cashiers at TJs always seem to be really quick and beat me. I have no idea now if I'm the only one who does it, or if it's an LA thing. I'll have to start paying attention. But I never expect that someone else will bag my groceries, except at really fancy places, like Gelson's on Bristol Farms.

Besides, it like a giant game of Tetris!
posted by Room 641-A at 9:50 PM on August 6, 2017 [7 favorites]

I prefer bagging myself because I like to bag items in a certain way to make unpacking at home easy (freezer items grouped together to keep themselves cold, pantry items by shelf, fridge items by shelf, eggs by themselves etc) and at the local Japanese-brand supermarket, they bag everything very nicely, compact and evenly distributed, but at some stores they just chuck it all in.

Our local cheap store that introduced customer self-payment ran big in-store tv ads of actor-customers debating customer bagging vs staff bagging, and a staff politely explaining how customers are dimwits who take too long to pack, so please let the staff do it and you just swipe your cards.

My trick with them is to fill my shopping basket in the order I want my bags filled in reverse so that at the counter, I can usually wind up with all my bags roughly filled up according to my packing system.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:57 PM on August 6, 2017

I always bag my own groceries unless someone swoops in to take over. I don't even think about it. I kind of like bagging, because I like getting everything to fit together nicely.

Half the time, the cashier thanks me for bagging my own stuff. I get it. I used to work at a grocery store, and yeah, bagging groceries was part of our job as cashiers, but it's not like we were getting six figures for it. We had long shifts standing on our feet, often with a steady stream of customers that didn't let up until we got a break or our shifts ended. The little, nice gestures that customers would do made our day that much less exhausting. This applies to any retail job, really (restocking is part of the job description, too, but you bet I'll appreciate it if you put something back yourself so I don't have to walk halfway across the store). These jobs can kind of suck sometimes, and it's nice when people make them suck a little less.

I wouldn't be overly burdened with guilt if you don't bag your own groceries, and I don't think anyone expects or demands that you do it. I can at least say that from the perspective of the cashier, bagging your own groceries (or whatever) is a nice thing to do.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:13 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

I really think this is regional. In wealthier parts of the US, the standard local chains all have baggers at every checkout. In poorer parts including rural areas but also the urban Midwest and South, you are very clearly expected to bag yourself (there's an actual bagging area at the end of the checkout). If you're at a Trader Joe's, where it's ambiguous, you should follow the local custom. When in Rome bag like the Romans.
posted by miyabo at 10:16 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

If there is both a cashier and bagger, no, I don't bag. But if I'm standing behind someone who is watching intently as their full cart turns into a pile of items all tumbling up into a mountain of unbagged goods while they whistle dixie, god help them, for I am intensely judging them. Folks who work as cashiers make terrible money and, on average, are treated poorly by both management and customers. I'll do anything to make their shift easier, and make the line go faster for those behind me. I think if folks only did what they were absolutely obligated to do, the world would suck even more than it already does.
posted by missmary6 at 10:18 PM on August 6, 2017 [17 favorites]

then I can't see how this is my problem.

This is how societies fail!

But seriously, it's just a nice thing to do for the cashier and the people behind you. You don't have to do it, that is absolutely your prerogative, it is indeed your right to send an email or gaze at the ceiling or watch the cashier bagging your groceries. If your aim is to teach people to plan better or enjoy standing in line, that's not going to happen.
posted by lalex at 10:29 PM on August 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

As a former bag boy who was promoted to cashier, my attitude was that I was paid by the hour so I don't really care too much if my line was slowed down by a big order that was going to take longer for me to bag. Either way, I had to do my thing until 9pm or whatever. As long as people were nice I didn't care if they wanted me to bag their stuff. Management put a bit of pressure on me to keep up pace, but honestly showing up on time was much much much more important.

I generally let the cashier do it unless it's a big order, like more than 4-5 bags, it's often awkward to do so, most stores aren't set up to make it easy for customers to do this.
posted by skewed at 10:32 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that in the USA and Canada one isn't expected to put unpaid stuff in bags, unlike Europe. .
posted by brujita at 10:33 PM on August 6, 2017

Oh, Lord. If I am paying someone (in part) to provide a particular service, I am not a bad person if I let them do it, not me. I suspect many people objecting just don't like the perceived inefficiency. I'm not sure whether that's a legitimate concern (again, we're all paying for the same service, and, if you don't like going to a full-service supermarket, you usually have other options), but let's not project that into a concern for the poor oppressed staff.
posted by praemunire at 10:33 PM on August 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Entirely depends on the specific store.
posted by so fucking future at 10:43 PM on August 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

The stores I go to generally don't have baggers, so bag myself. It's a good division of labor, the checker checks and I bag. I just want get out of the store as fast as possible. The only time I don't bag is when a bagger starts bagging before I finish putting stuff on the input belt, or if the store has installed those stupid rotating bag holders, and there's no place for the checker to put stuff after it's scanned.
posted by Marky at 10:50 PM on August 6, 2017

Another former bagger. I let them do it at the premium store. I do it myself at the local produce store that sells everything on a discount.

Usually, I only bagged when people were buying one or two full carts of stuff. So it would definitely speed things up if you bagged things yourself.

But unless you're there at rush hour, just let them do it. Rush hour is right after work ends and everybody shops on the way home. We would open all the registers and still have long lines. In that case, I do feel like it's inconsiderate to make people wait.
posted by ethidda at 11:10 PM on August 6, 2017

I don't usually buy more than a bag of groceries at once and the stores I shop at have baggers who float to any line that needs them. With that said, usually getting through the payment is what takes the longest when I grocery shop so it would never occur to me to switch to bagging (mostly because I'd be slow). When I've shopped at places where you do your own bagging, I'm one of those people who takes ages and leaves with their stuff squished. I suppose it all comes down to how you shop and where.
posted by toomanycurls at 11:44 PM on August 6, 2017

I have all the feelings on bagging. I bring bags 99% of the time and always, always put things on the conveyer belt in the way I want them to be bagged. Often times the cashier puts certain things aside and messes up my OCD bagging preparation. I feel that they are trained or experienced in packing certain types of bags in a certain way (for people using carts and getting into cars) and it just doesn't work for me.

When I have my bike bags (tapered and the bottom) I always hope there's not a bagger, because even when I tell them the bags need to be balanced in weight they try to pack them like they're a paper bag. Usually I just end up half re-packing on the sidewalk.

Short story long, if there's a bagger I let them do it and try to ask if they will pack a certain way. If there is no bagger I step in and do it because I think it's fun and faster. I think it's okay to wait for someone to bag for you (in the U.S.) but if it's someone older or not as physically capable as me and they appear to be having a tough day I think it's nice to help out.
posted by Bunglegirl at 1:02 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

What is the culture of your grocery store? Do most people bag their groceries? Why not take your cue from those around you? That's probably a good metric for how the store is set up to work.

Also, I am assuming that there are actual baggers at this store, and that you're not waiting for the cashier to ring and bag, which I've seen people do. If you're waiting for the cashier to ring and bag your groceries, you should stop that.
posted by Frowner at 1:45 AM on August 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

My philosophy is that if I am bagging groceries, I would be putting some people out of much-needed jobs. If there is an economic need for baggers or cashiers who bag items, then you can be sure that companies will provide said service. I'm not going to subsidize corporations by contributing my manpower for free in bagging groceries. This is just plain economics.

You may argue that while in theory, this works, but in practice, it falls apart. You may say, it's not the corporations who will suffer, rather, it's the cashiers with increased workloads. My corollary argument is that there's nothing I can do directly except to vote and advocate on behalf of workers, and indeed I vote in every election for better labour/ worker rights.
posted by moiraine at 2:57 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I feel like the answers (including mine) make assumptions about different conditions (bagger, no bagger, being able to access store bags, etc.) but I just wanted to highlight this, which sums up my position nicely:

Frowner: Also, I am assuming that there are actual baggers at this store, and that you're not waiting for the cashier to ring and bag, which I've seen people do. If you're waiting for the cashier to ring and bag your groceries, you should stop that.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:24 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Weird. I almost never bag my own groceries unless I've brought my own bag. The supermarkets where I normally shop don't put the bags within easily reach of customers--sometimes they are even behind the counter! If they aren't behind the counter, they're on the far end, so that I would have to leave the payment area to start bagging. I almost never see people bagging their own and feel like I'm getting in the way if I try.

(They usually have baggers, just not one for each lane, so the bagger will walk up and down and pick where to bag.)

And this isn't just me shopping in one particular area or just in rich supermarkets; this is true of the three Midwestern towns I've lived in, in supermarkets in different areas/for different clientele.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 4:05 AM on August 7, 2017

One of my kids works at Trader Joes; the expectation there is that customers will bag their own stuff, although it's not any type of issue if they don't*. Like, when they go out for beers after a shift they're not going to complain about the asshats who just stand there staring into space while the chocolate-covered pretzels mount up. They save their grar for the adults who let their toddlers take those little carts and run around the store, screaming and plowing into people and displays, and for people who take refrigerated meats but then change their minds and put them on a shelf near the chips.

He said if you ever see empty bags sitting at the end of the TJ checkout counter, yeah, it is sort of a hint that you will get busy bagging if you have nothing else to do.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 4:14 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I disagree that this is a fancy store/regular old store distinction! I live in an affluent area and shop at a lot of different grocery stores, and they always bag my groceries at Market Basket (major discount store, always tons of people with 100% full carts, dedicated baggers at all lanes to keep the line moving) and Stop & Shop (quieter store, baggers seem to be adults with mental disabilities) and only rarely at WF and TJs. I don't go to the REALLY fancy grocery stores, though.

I'll bag if it's convenient for me to do so, because staring off into the distance at the grocery store is less enjoyable for me than packing my groceries, and I don't feel like the "professionals" do a better job than I do. If there's no bagger and the cashiers are looking stressed, I'll be more likely to bag. I have zero expectation that grocery shopping will be a pleasant experience and I generally am just trying to get in and out.
posted by mskyle at 4:26 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's a different TJs culture in NYC because the cashiers will bag your stuff and sometimes even ask how many bags you want, with the expectation that you are walking and taking mass transit to get home. Contrast that with the suburban stores, where the customer just as often bags as the cashier.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 4:27 AM on August 7, 2017

Yes, I would like a clarification. Are you talking about not bagging when you have people behind you in line, and a cashier but no designated bagger? You should bag. Your small amoubt of effort is not going to cost anyone's job and you will have given that cashier one less thing to grumble about.
posted by pintapicasso at 5:12 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

If there is no bagger at the end of the aisle, I bag my own. If a bagger is there, I let them bag. If a bagger shows up while I'm bagging my own, I let the bagger finish.

Stress-free decision tree.
posted by kimberussell at 5:32 AM on August 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

When I'm at TJ's I generally help with bagging for two reasons. First, it speeds things up. Second, I like my stuff bagged efficiently and logically. Frozen stuff together, refrigerated stuff together, pantry stuff together, and so on. This is possible at TJ's because they scan all the items, and then bag them all, so I can get a jump on things.

At more traditional grocery stores in my area, items get bagged immediately after scanning by the clerk, so there is not really an opportunity to help. The downside is that these are usually teenagers who don't have to unload lot's of groceries each week and so they underfill bags and don't put like things together. The only place I've seen get this right is Wegman's, which unfortunately don't exist in my city.
posted by noneuclidean at 5:36 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's totally not rude. Are other people going to look at you and decide you're being rude? Possibly. It's hard to figure out the setup in some of these places though. At my nearest Whole Foods, they make it pretty impossible for customers to bag by the way the checkout line is set up. At Trader Joe's they seem to have varying expectations about what customers should do. I can't even tell if you are supposed to take your own groceries out of the cart and put them on the (usually too small) area in front of the conveyor belt. When I start, they often quickly say, "No, no, I'll do that." So I'm certainly not going to judge anyone. It may be one more piece of mental effort than they can handle at the moment.
posted by BibiRose at 5:46 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Frowner: Also, I am assuming that there are actual baggers at this store, and that you're not waiting for the cashier to ring and bag, which I've seen people do. If you're waiting for the cashier to ring and bag your groceries, you should stop that.

This can change depending on how long the payment process takes, though, especially now with the chipped cards. I often do wait and watch my stuff pile up, because I've inserted my card and I'm waiting for the prompts to slooooooowly come up on the screen. Generally by the time I've finished paying, the cashier has also bagged my groceries. I find it annoying to have the person in front of me doing all their own bagging before they've even put their credit card in, because it's often the payment process that takes forever. (Though, obviously, in the grand scheme of "annoyances in my life," this one is minor and fleeting.)
posted by lazuli at 5:52 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I usually bag unless there is a dedicated bagger. However, I think that verifying the prices that display on the register may be a better use of my time as a customer.
posted by Radiophonic Oddity at 6:05 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I bag my own groceries because I am not comfortable standing around doing nothing while everyone around me is working/active. Trader Joe's is the exception - the physical setup of their checkout lanes discourages it I would gum up the works if I insisted on reaching around/over to "help."

Either way I feel zero obligation to bag my own groceries in terms of courtesy - it is the cashier's job to take care of the customer.
posted by headnsouth at 6:13 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Everywhere I've lived (Scotland, Toronto) you'd bag everything yourself. Cashier is already moved onto the next person once they give you the receipt, and if you're not packed and gone the rest of the line grumbles. Also, not bringing your own bags is weird.

The times I'm in a shop with a bagger I feel uncomfortable: how do I interact with this extra person? The only times in Scotland that there were baggers were charity weeks, when boyscouts bagged your stuff for donations, or in Safeway in the 1970s.
posted by scruss at 6:13 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I bag my own groceries because I am not comfortable standing around doing nothing while everyone around me is working/active.

This, 1,000 times this.
posted by cooker girl at 6:24 AM on August 7, 2017 [5 favorites]

Does this rise to the other MeFi issues (sit/stand, the shower mat, now bag/not your own groceries).

I bag my own anywhere I can (eg Wally-Mart's system you can't access the bags, but TJ and local groceries you can). I do it to be courteous to the cashier and the folks behind me in line. I'm horribly inefficient (use more bags than needed probably, but I don't put eggs in then the canned goods etc).

Except for Costco, nowhere locally has baggers -- it's the person running the register that also bags up. (Maybe when I shop at grocery rush hour, a manager or cart-wrangler will get roped into bagging to move people through, but 95% of the time I shop, no bagger)

It bugs me to have someone in front of me in line just sit there watching stuff pile up. So I will judge you for being a lazy butt that's holding up the line.
posted by k5.user at 7:03 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

My experience in Toronto: bag yourself. It would be weird not to. (And bring bags or you'll.pau for them)
posted by stray at 7:12 AM on August 7, 2017

I grew up being 'trained' to bag my own groceries because the big discount supermarkets encouraged bagging your own groceries (to save costs), and had longer than average conveyor belts to ease congestion at the register. These days, if a grocery operation has self-checkout, it's definitely bag your own, without the conveyor belt.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:12 AM on August 7, 2017

I have a lot of empathy for people who find [thing that I personally do not find challenging] challenging. Maybe because I have a brother with a disability, maybe because of multiple dear friends' battles with anxiety, depression, etc. Some things are hard for others, and we might not see why they're hard. Some people will be understanding of that, and some people won't.

My personal view is that you should do what makes you feel comfortable/safe (as long as it isn't actively harming anyone else), and try not to care if some other people around you may be judging you for it.

If I see someone not bagging their groceries but otherwise being pleasant to the cashier (or alternately seeming anxious or worried or sad or distracted), who am I to judge? Maybe they are shouldering more than I can imagine right now. I count my blessings and - if I am able to - bag my groceries when it's my turn (partly because one of my issues is being a bit of a control freak about how my groceries are bagged).

The resentment only creeps up if I see someone being unpleasant to the cashier, ordering them around, tapping their foot and looking at their watch, or gabbing on their phone, while the cashier bags. But anything that is not this, I think almost nothing of it.
posted by pammeke at 7:14 AM on August 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

When I worked in a grocery store (collage town, super huge, super busy store) as a cashier, a customer who bagged his/her own groceries was my friend for life.
posted by james33 at 7:15 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Locally, we have no baggers except at the co-op or the posh grocery store. Where there is an available bagger, I let them bag my groceries on the theory that I don't want anyone's job eliminated. At the Cub, where I do most of my shopping, the conveyor belt is longer and the bags are right there, and it's designed so that most customers do their own bagging - the cashier's work station is not structured so that they can easily reach the groceries or the bags.

What I would totally 100% side-eye would be a situation where the store was not set up for the cashier to bag - like the Cub - and someone stood there idly on the theory that it "was the cashier's job" to leave the register and bag the groceries. Very occasionally I see someone do this.

I mean, I work in an office doing accounting. It's not "my job" to bring people coffee or schedule meetings and my job is not configured so that I can do this, even though I sit in an area with a coffee machine and have access to both email and calendaring software. My question about a cashier's job is "is their job structured to include bagging, or is this just one of those things where middle class people assume that working class people's work is basically to do whatever they're told by anyone higher up the economic ladder".
posted by Frowner at 7:21 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would dearly love for grocery stories to employ baggers, but it seems like this is a vanishingly rare practice. I can't recall the last time I saw baggers in any of my local grocery stores here in Philadelphia.

Like many others upthread, I make the call based on everyone's convenience and efficiency (including my own.) If the cashier is on top of it, I let them bag. If the cashier is super busy, or seems to have a lackadaisical bagging approach, I'll cheerfully swoop in. (I truly mean this with no judgement toward the cashier, no eye-rolling or sighing. I'm not the greatest bagger in the world either.)
posted by desuetude at 7:28 AM on August 7, 2017

It's their job to pack them. They are paid to pack them. So if you don't want too, absolutely, do not.

That said, I really, really dislike letting others pack my groceries. I learned to pack my own in Europe. I became very fast and good at it, so I don't hold up the line. I have a system and cashiers always use 100 bags, or pack things together in a way that makes it more difficult for me to unpack them at home. Cashiers glare at me because they are told to pack for the customer, so at stores where they might get in trouble, I refrain, but I would much prefer packing my own.

So it's completely up to you if you want to pack them or not. You are certainly not in the wrong if you don't, not in the States, anyway.
posted by Crystal Fox at 7:49 AM on August 7, 2017

I know from experience that just because a store is perceived to have "premium" prices does not mean that the employees are making higher wages. The grocery business has very tight margins. If the products are more expensive, that is because the store paid more to bring them in than they would for less expensive items. So I personally would not factor upscale-ness into the question.

Also, I developed a serious repetitive stress injury from being a grocery cashier, so for me this is less a matter of "is this in the cashier's job description?" (yes) than "will the world be a tiny bit better if I help the cashier out?" (quite possibly). But yes, cashiers are aware that bagging is part of the gig (depending on the particular store), and they won't hate you if you don't, unless you put on entitled airs about it. Say thank you.
posted by Comet Bug at 7:55 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

In Australia, the bags and wire bag-holder are frequently hidden on the cashier's side of a tall counter, so it would be rude, and difficult/impossible to bag ones own groceries...

They scan and bag, scan and bag as they go...
posted by Murderbot at 8:11 AM on August 7, 2017

I have to add, Florida, read, lots of older folks here, so it seems to be customary for all stores, whether TJ, Wal-Mart or Publix, or Sweetbay when that still existed, to bag for the customer. So I almost never have to wait for a bagger, like some describe; there always seem to be baggers around. At TJ here they definitely pack for you. No putting the empty bags out, no hints. This applies to both coasts. I cannot speak for central Fl however.
posted by Crystal Fox at 8:12 AM on August 7, 2017

Wow, I had no idea this was such a fraught thing!

I shop at the local co-op, at Trader Joe's, and at Cub (the local grocery store). I pack my own groceries at all three. Sometimes the folks at the co-op or TJ's will ask if I want help but I usually turn it down. I don't shop anywhere fancy enough to employ folks whose sole job is to bag groceries. I pack my own.

My reasoning is that I divide the food into bags depending on where they're going: kitchen fridge/freezer, kitchen cupboards, basement deep freeze, basement storage room. The checkout folks have no idea where this particular can of beans is going.

I am not a fast bag-packer. I must have missed the day in school in which they taught us how to do it. But I've got a system and it irks me when the system is interrupted or corrupted by someone else trying to figure out whether I want the bag of beans in this bag or in that bag. Let 'em take those few extra non-packing seconds to rest their poor wrists - scanning groceries is a repetitive task and it takes a toll.
posted by Elly Vortex at 8:53 AM on August 7, 2017

It bugs me to have someone in front of me in line just sit there watching stuff pile up. So I will judge you for being a lazy butt that's holding up the line.

I hate waiting in line as much as anyone (possibly more, since my fucking diabetic feet are probably killing me). But honest to God, I never, ever even notice whether or not the person in front of me is watching their groceries pile up for the cashier to bag.

I will, however, judge the fuck out of some smug old lady proudly counting out exactly 96 cents in change while the rest of us stand behind her and fume, and then stand smack-dab in front of the cashier station to carefully button, snap, zipper her wallet and carefully place it back in the purse and button, snap, zip.... (OMG COME ON!!!)

I grew up in Ohio and moved to Illinois, for reference. I grew up shopping at, and still often shop at, mainstream grocery stores, most of which have baggers most of the time. As I stated above, I will sometimes jump in and bag, if there is no bagger available, because I want to keep things moving along. But I was somewhat uncomfortable the first time I did it because I felt like the bagging station at the end of the conveyor was an "employee area". It took me a while to get over the feeling that I wasn't supposed to be doing it. It would have been like jumping out of your car at a full service gas station and attempting to pump your own gas. Back in the day they didn't want you to do it. (Yes I am that old. Also note that since self-service became a thing, there are no more jobs pumping gas...)

We also have Aldi, and it is widely understood is that they do not employ baggers because that is part of how they keep prices so low. It's their gimmick, which doesn't really work logically if you are actually supposed to do your own bagging everywhere.

So there are times I am willing to put in the effort to bag at Aldi in order to save money, and other times I pay higher prices at the mainstream grocery because I don't feel like bagging that day. That's the deal that was presented to me in my youth.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:25 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

How many other types of stores are there in the U.S. where a bag is used and the cashier doesn't put your items in the bag for you, really? The cashier bags at Target, at CVS, at Best Buy, presumably because bagging is a service the company finds it worthwhile to offer. So this is a very standard expectation of cashiers generally, not some weird importation of an idea that a cashier is obliged to get your coffee or park your car because they're a cashier and so must perform any and all labor for you.
posted by praemunire at 9:28 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was just thinking about this yesterday! This is my experience based on places I've lived:

Northeast: bags available at end of register, social norm is to start bagging your own groceries
Pacific Northwest: no bags available at end of register, social norm is not to bag your own groceries
United Kingdom: The cashier is there to ring up your groceries. They do not touch a bag under any circumstances.
posted by Automocar at 10:22 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

Report from Vons, an average market in LA:

Today there were two lines open and two baggers, so I took the opportunity to ask Kim, the cashier, about this question.

Q: If there is no bagger, do customers wait for you to bag the groceries?
A: A lot do.

Q: Do you like it when customers do it?
A: Oh yeah! It makes the line move faster; it helps everyone. But there are also some people who like to do it themselves.

Q: Is that a problem for the baggers?
A: Not at all. They can cover another aisle, help with go-backs....

FWIW, in my experience CVS and Best Buy aren't at all analogous. At most stores like CvS, 1) most people only buy a few things, and two, the stores aren't at all set up to do that. Like some supermarkets described above, you'd have to jump over the counter. At Best Buy, no one is expected to bag their own TV. Also, neither have a culture of employing baggers.

OP, it's easy to mark the answers that support you, but since the expectations and etiquette seems to vary, why don't you just ask if it would be helpful?
posted by Room 641-A at 10:29 AM on August 7, 2017 [8 favorites]

(At Target, I always start bagging unless the cashier beats me.)
posted by Room 641-A at 10:30 AM on August 7, 2017

As you can see, norms on this vary in unpredictable ways-the norms are different at two grocery stores that are right next to each other in my neighborhood. Do your best to figure out the norms and then accord with them. Often enough, that will mean bagging your groceries, if possible.
posted by Kwine at 10:50 AM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

this always seems so fraught! Our grocery (medium fancy; sub-Whole Foods but fancier than Jewel/Kroger) has baggers, but not on every line, and sometimes the baggers who are there are so slow and terrible that the piling up happens anyway, and it seems super weird to bag my own groceries when there is a bagger RIGHT THERE.

I have never figured out the exact right way to handle it. If there is not a bagger I generally bag mine as soon as I've wrangled the chip reader. If there is a bagger, though, I won't. But I usually feel bad about it, because the cashiers will often have to bag the majority of items while the bagger faffs about doing the worst job possible.

And then I re-bag my stuff before leaving because they will have smashed ALL of my items. But I try not to re-bag where they can see me.

I hate the grocery.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:55 AM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also: Our city has recently instituted a bag tax so you can truly only bag your own if you have your own bags, otherwise they look at you like you're trying to steal 14 cents and get them fired.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:57 AM on August 7, 2017

I used to be a cashier - I always appreciated the help bagging, whether it was from the customer or a floating bagger stopping by my lane. That said, it's not something that is required or expected of the customer.

As a customer, I often take initiative and start bagging, unless there's already a bagger there. Often, the cashier will thank me for it. Sometimes a bagger shows up when I get started and I gladly let them take over.

So, long answer short: no, it's not rude not to, and no, it's not fully expected to do. It's nice - it's a nice thing to do. Sometimes. I don't think that you should feel guilty and I doubt you wanted people to feel guilty when they didn't help you, back when you were a cashier. But ... it's nice to be nice sometimes...if you want!
posted by destructive cactus at 11:06 AM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

Another Torontonian here, saying that the norm here is to bag your own. They will actually ask you how many bags you need, because it's 5 cents a bag.

I worked for almost 3 years as a grocery store cashier in my teens/early 20s and have zero bagging experience, because it was not part of my job.

Most people bring a partner or child as a shopping companion - usually one person gets started on the bagging/boxing while the other person stands by the cash register and observes the screen to make sure the prices are what they thought.
posted by spicytunaroll at 11:16 AM on August 7, 2017

Here in my neighborhood, the cashier-not-bagging thing seems to coincide with with the advent of customer-owned bags in response to the D.C. bag tax.

A friend and I have speculated that cashiers prefer not to touch the likely infrequently washed (at most) dirty cloth bags that float around in car trunks, sit on the ground at crosswalks, and so on.
posted by jgirl at 11:20 AM on August 7, 2017

I am so, so glad that my local Giant has Scan-and-Go guns - I "bag" my groceries directly into a collapsible plastic box/bin as I scan each item. Checkout takes about 30 seconds* and I take the cart out to my car, load the box into the trunk, return the cart and drive away. It cuts down on the hundreds of plastic carrier bags I would otherwise have cluttering up the house. At least, it would, if I did all my shopping there instead of about 2/3, the other 1/3 I do at the (somewhat closer) Weis Market who bag as they scan (unless I specifically ask them not to) and use far too many bags...

*I particularly enjoy the dirty looks I get from fellow shoppers when I go to the "12 items or less" self-checkout lane, scan my one item (the scanner gun) and am complete before they finish scanning their fourth item.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 12:16 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think people are misunderstanding that my concern was for the cashiers, not people behind me in line. Thanks to the cashiers and former cashiers who chimed in -- I've marked those answers as the best ones. I realize that when I was 16, people rarely bagged on their own, which was probably why I noticed when people did, so I suppose I actually answered my own question. Just to clear myself up, I don't think I am under an obligation to feel rushed at the grocery store to save, like, a minute or two at most for people who don't want to wait in line at the grocery store. Whether it's people screwing up payment, chatting with the cashier or disputing prices, waiting in line is a risk you take in going to the grocery store. Clearly, people have different feelings about this and I've touched off quite the debate, but I've never felt rushed or anxious to get out of the grocery store, so I will continue to enjoy my stress-free shopping experience. As long as cashiers don't think I am some sort of asshole or uncivilized moron for not bagging, I will instead do my payment and watch the prices and let them bag. And I have to reiterate, I almost never see customers bagging their own groceries and I am surprised so many people in this thread are pro-self-bagging, but c'est la vie, again my concern was for what cashiers expect. Thanks again all.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:02 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

FWIW, I was a bagger, cashier, and head cashier at Whole Foods. Things are very different now so I didn't base it on my experience back then, just on what I do now.
posted by Room 641-A at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2017

It's interesting that different Trader Joe's seem to have different bagging cultures and expectations. At mine, all the cashiers scan and bag as one activity, so even if I were inclined (I'm not) I couldn't bag myself. (And I suck at it, so even when I'm at an HEB without a designated bagger for each lane I'd rather wait and let a professional do it.)
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:15 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

I watch my items being scanned, because so very many times I catch things that have the wrong price in the computer. At one store I used to go to, it happened every single time. Needless to say, I stopped shopping there.

After they're done scanning, I do the pin pad thing, and then I go help the cashier bag whatever's still unbagged.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2017

No, it's absolutely not rude to let them bag your groceries. Still, if there's room to do so without crowding the checker's area, I prefer to bag my own groceries because the majority of checkers and baggers today can't bag for shit! I'm talking soap or cleaning products squashed in the same bag as meat, frozen items next to hot food, glass bottles crammed together without any cushioning between them, bread and other soft items placed on the bottom of the bag, etc.

It seems that most baggers these days exercise very little common sense. On my last trip to Trader Joe's, I brought three cloth bags and one paper bag. The (male) cashier crammed all of my groceries into ONE bag, even though the other three bags were right next to it. It was bulging obscenely and so heavy I could barely lift it out of the cart. Same experience at Costco, the cashiers (usually male) ask if you want your items boxed and then proceed to cram your order into as few boxes as possible, without regard to how heavy or awkwardly balanced the boxes are. They don't notice or care because they don't have to lift the bags or boxes once they're packed in your cart. This leaves me steaming mad, but I don't say anything at the time; I just push the cart out to my car and re-pack everything in my trunk.

I worked as a bagger and checker for a major US grocery chain during my teens back in the dinosaur days and we actually had to go to "Bagging School" and "Checking School" for the first week of our employ. The training location was usually in city far from where you were hired to work, so we newbs would carpool. We were paid for that week (five days, eight hours each) and had to learn how to properly bag groceries: no chemicals or cleaning products next to food, no hot and cold foods in the same bag, no lopsided or super heavy bags (we were taught to "square" the bags off with boxed items like cereal and fill the middle with roly poly or irregular shaped items like produce, etc.) It was treated very seriously, with daily contests for the best baggers and a cash prize at the end of the week. This was back when the United Food And Commercial Workers unions were strong and working in a union grocery store was a decent job.

Things are very different these days.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:48 PM on August 7, 2017 [4 favorites]

I will add - yet another comment - "Europe" to me was Italy and Austria, places like Billa and Spar. Nobody was bagging anything for you there. Toronto/Mississauga - same thing. Contrast that to Publix, where the minute I touch a bag a cashier materializes and all but pushes me out of the way. I really get the sense that they get reprimanded for not insisting on bagging for the customer, which is why I leave it be. However, now and then Publix is short on staff, and then cashiers thank me for "helping" them (I'm like, that's ok. Helping myself mostly.) I guess it just comes down to what store and who is paid to do what and if there aren't any baggers in sight, it is probably easier and less stressful, assuming you are able bodied, to just do it yourself. It just comes down to judging the locale and situation and acting accordingly.
posted by Crystal Fox at 3:11 PM on August 7, 2017

i do most of my shopping at TJ's, where they WILL bag your stuff, but i choose to do it myself most of the time. the reason is that i've worked enough service jobs to understand how exhausting it is and am glad to make their job a little bit easier.

when they invariably thank me, it makes me feel good and like i did a small thing to make their day a little bit less of a pain.

my $.02.
posted by hollisimo at 4:09 PM on August 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

haha in the UK no baggers exist, but you can ask people to do it for you. I'm a cashier. I love doing it for the old and disabled. The one thing i hate (which doesn't mean you shouldn't) is eg person puts stuff on belt, doesn't reply to you. (Have to greet all customers. And i mean blanks you, not grunts or smiles.) Stuff starts going through till (i wait till they're stood there). Ask if they want bags. They say 'yes' or 'five' or similar. Get them out and open. Person pulls out phone and starts making phone call. It just starts piling up. The other thing i hate is when people - by which i always, here, mean the young and fit, the obviously fine - ask me to pack while they chuck it on the belt - and then wander off to do more shopping while i pack the whole cartload. I above all mind it when there's a huge queue behind them and they come back after i've finished. I mind it for the other customers. (You aren't supposed to wait long in a normal uk supermarket.) I do worry about where my bad attitude came from, i wasn't like this to start with, i've got really entitled. I enjoy doing it for the shy, the poor, mothers or fathers with small children etc. It's just the vibe off some people... it's not rich people particularly, while most of our customers are dirt poor, some are filthy rich, and still lovely (pretty rural area of poor locals and second-home-owners and retirees). Most of the filthy rich are lovely. I think the main reason i don't like it is, that like most cashiers i've got bad golf and tennis elbow in both arms and they always buy things it's painful to pack and lift, and which you have to because they always put them first: huge bottles of soda pop especially, crates of forty cans of beer, etc. As far as i'm concerned, if it weighs well over 3kg you can pick it up yourself, my back's bad too, but i'm happy to lean over the trolley with the hand scanner. And i hate watching people lifting leaning over the trolley and lifting huge heavy weights. Why do people put everything in one huge bag (huge permanent shopping bags) and then twist while leant over a trolley? They want slipped discs? I can't bear watching this, as someone with a bad back, it's awful. Please, do not do this.
tl;dr = about 0.1% of customers who want me to pack for them, i get secretly cross about doing it for, and i never enjoy packing 3kg bottles of pop, tubs of lard etc (i said it was rural, we sell a lot of lard)

Of course, in true angry rant mode, the answer should be: "Bags? Plastic bags? How DARE you! Do you KNOW what they're doing to the environment" [sermon continues at great length] haha
posted by maiamaia at 4:18 PM on August 7, 2017 [2 favorites]

I lived in Illinois when Cub Foods (noted encourager of self-bagging) opened a few stores in the Chicago suburbs. In their home markets, no big deal, but not in Chicagoland. After a few months, they added baggers to match the service at Jewel and Dominick's (RIP).
posted by ZeusHumms at 4:26 PM on August 7, 2017

nb packing for people makes a nice change and cashier is lush job, it won't last it'll all be self-scan in the trolley soon, it's a privilege not real work, and it's far better paid too than the real jobs i had up to now (carework, kitchens, cleaning - you work your eirse off in those, now i do nothing really). It's not that i mind packing, it's that i hate the painful heavy stuff, and i hate when people blank you completely - why don't you go to self-scan? (the norm nearly everywhere now in the UK, we're very old-fashioned (rural) I genuinely otherwise don't mind at all, it's fun.

I think self-scan is nice for people mainly because you don't have to queue, you have that one general queue but nobody at all behind you, all pressure is gone, if you want to go slowly with your kids you can, if you want to make a phonecall you can. With self-scan into trolleys and fully contactless payment processing, there's no need for an unsought interaction with a stranger in the middle of shopping now.

Nb why do people start texting while paying at the keypad with a queue behind them? Why don't they wait twenty seconds and do them consecutively in half the time? Because i'm old, i don't understand this
posted by maiamaia at 4:30 PM on August 7, 2017

but let's not project that into a concern for the poor oppressed staff.

OK and lets not shit on people's expression of genuine concern for other people, OK?
posted by WalkerWestridge at 5:15 PM on August 7, 2017 [3 favorites]

What country? This is completely different in the US vs. France, for instance. In the US, the employees bag your groceries. In France, the customer does it.

It's not "rude" to let customer service workers do their jobs.
posted by John Cohen at 6:51 PM on August 7, 2017

Hmm, I often bag my own stuff at CVS too, and even at a lot of other small retailers! I mostly shop in cities with various types of "bag bans" though, so there's a strong expectation that you'll have your own bag, and that even if you don't you'll want control over the bagging process so that you don't get charged for more bags than you need.

Bag bans also mean you *have* to wait for a cashier or bagger to at least start to bag your groceries if you haven't brought your own bags.
posted by mskyle at 7:02 PM on August 7, 2017

You should just go to Safeway. They always have baggers handy.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 8:12 AM on August 8, 2017

At my (suburban) Trader Joe's, the bags are already unfolded and double-bagged, waiting by the cashier. The expectation is not for the customer to bag because of they way they have it set up, primed to go. I'd have to reach over the register to get to a bag.

That said, and Publix or Costco, the other two places we shop at the most, I am usually only buying 5-10 things at a time, so I don't really need to assist the grocery clerk, as it all goes into one or two bags. I will, however, arrange items on the belt in order (produce with produce, boxes with boxes, cold things together, delicate things at the back) to assist with bagging and make it harder for things to get bagged inefficiently.

The beau, however, works at Costco, and because of it, he'll often start bagging the groceries at Publix or Whole Foods (or even Costco when he's off the clock) because that's what he does as part of his job, and he's used to it. He's a professional, so I leave him to it.
posted by PearlRose at 8:22 AM on August 8, 2017

In the US, I bag my own items if there isn't a bagger around, and sometimes even if there is. I developed the habit when living in the UK, Germany, and France, where it's the norm. FYI, in a lot of European supermarkets, the area where the cashier places an item after ringing it up has a swinging divider, so that the cashier can start ringing up a second customer while the first is still bagging items.
posted by brianogilvie at 1:08 PM on August 8, 2017

I'm baffled by the answers saying bagging your own groceries will save time for the people behind you.

Generally, when I try to bag my own, I'm not able to keep up with the rate the cashier is scanning them, and then it's time to pay and I have to notice that the cashier has given me a total (I'm generally distracted by the Tetris of bagging), step back to the payment area, and fumble around getting my wallet out. Generally by the time this is done the cashier has finished bagging and they and the customers behind me are expectantly waiting for me to finish.

I find the people who do it all the time are a lot faster, and the process works better for everyone if I stay out of their way.

I do put the groceries on the belt in a sensible order, so the heavy items get scanned first and eggs, bread, etc. get scanned last.
posted by yohko at 3:16 PM on August 8, 2017 [3 favorites]

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