Thank me for bagging?

When I was growing up, I was used to (being an American) having cashiers bag groceries for me. I wait in line, wait for the cashier to scan my groceries, and then wait for the cashier to bag my groceries, and then pay for my groceries.

Then I studied a semester in England and found none of the grocery stores had cashiers who bagged groceries for customers (at least not on a regular basis—there were some exceptions). At first, I thought this was outrageous. I want customer service. I’m paying for these groceries. You bag them for me.

Now I don’t know if things are different in England now (it’s been a few years since the last time I was there), but recently I’ve been bagging my own groceries and the cashiers all thank me (“Thanks for bagging”). They always act surprised and a little relieved. The line moves faster. They have a little less stress, and it didn’t really take that much effort on my part.

Now, I guess, I have a little different perspective. Instead of feeling entitled to having people bag my groceries for me, I think it’s ridiculous when I see people stand around doing nothing while their groceries are being rung up and then standing around even longer while their groceries are being bagged. I always appreciate a good thank-you, naturally, but they are my groceries, after all. If anything, I should be thanking them when they bag my groceries for me.


  1. I always bag my groceries when I shop at a grocery store where I’m able to do so. And I agree, when I watch people just sit there and do nothing while the cashier bags, I’m always a little annoyed, because it is ridiculous and slows things down.

    That being said, I worked as a cashier for a few years, and I always managed to visually scan the items as they were coming up on the belt, decide on a good order to bag them, and then grab-scan-bag all in one fluid motion. So it’s also kind of weird/annoying to me that other cashiers seem incapable of doing that too. *shrug*

  2. I think part of the problem is assumption. Over time, the logic seemed to have creeped into you that, because you were paying for groceries, you weren’t just paying them for groceries, but to have them bagged as well, whether true or not.

    Methinks people get used to certain things, sometimes tiny things like this, and end up making a not necessarily true link between the two. Because they do this for you, rather than being out of tradition or kindness it becomes assumed that that’s what you’re paying for, and becomes a demand, no matter how small.

    It is a bit silly though. Of course it should be the other way around. Customer service is most often about courtesy, not rights or demand. I always think of the customer is always right in a kind of guilty until proven innocent kind of way. A kind of guaranteed courtesy (in law a right, but in shop? courtesy), until of course, you are actually found to be guilty, or in this case, wrong. It’s not about the customer being infallible (as many customer horror stories seem to show some people taking it), but merely as a courtesy, and to not be presumptuous.

  3. Whoa this has been something that has bugged me since birth. I feel so incredibly uncomfortable while somebody bags my groceries. I can handle it if it’s some high school kid but especially at the nicer grocery stores, having someone who could be my grandmother do that for me just seems… well, rude. And it’s even worse when the cashier and bagger are the same person, so you just stand there, watching them work, like some 21st-century version of an overseer. Creepy.

  4. Yes, the normal thing in th UK is to bag your own, but the cashiers now always ask ‘Do you want any help with your packing?’ and an assistant would be summoned… Mrs. Z prefers to pack herself…
    Oh, and occasionally a Scout Group will be present to do your bagging, in the hope of a donation to charity or their funds..

  5. I assume because you live in San Francisco that you bring your own cloth bags when you go shopping?

    We live in Canada and have been carrying our own cloth bags for 25 years. They are our own bags and so naturally we pack them ourselves at teh cash, as we know what they hold best. I just wish we could get others to do the same.

    The real tragedy of plastic shopping bags is not often brought home. I was a peacekeeper and lived in the Egypt’s Sinai desert in 1989/90. It is the location of some of the holiest places on earth and is covered in plastic shopping bags dumped everywhere, just blowing around.

  6. I do bring my own cloth bag sometimes, but sometimes I don’t because I want the grocery store bags to use as garbage bags (unfortunately, San Francisco has outlawed plastic garbage bags, so we have to get plastic bags from non-grocery stores).

    I believe most people don’t need plastic shopping bags, but if we don’t have plastic bags, we’d need to buy plastic garbage bags to house our wet garbage, and how is that any better?

    So we use the plastic bags we get from non-grocery stores for wet garbage and the paper bags we get from grocery stores for dry garbage.

  7. Regarding your comment, not your post, buying plastic bags for wet garbage is much better. The reason is you buy what you need; nobody is going to have a zillion little tattered crumply plastic bags sitting around and have to throw them away from time to time like I do. I always prefer paper (if I haven’t brought my own) and yet still they plastic-bag dairy, cold things, or leftover half-bagfulls in plastic. Making the consumer buy the plastic they use does two things, it creates an economic incentive to use less, and it reduces waste.

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