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Why do produce guys baby apples & baggers don’t?

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POSTED January 18, 2009 1:09 a.m.
Ambrosia apples are without a doubt the best tasting apples I’ve ever had.

They have a honey-like taste and are crisp as they are firm like a red apple.

They don’t come cheap. At $2.99 a pound, my weekly habit of at an Ambrosia a day costs $10.94 or about a tenth of my weekly food bill.

The supermarket produce guys take super care handling apples. They understand why they come packed layered between cardboard shaped to minimize them being jostled about and getting bumped. The reason is simple. Bruising isn’t good for an apple. Once it occurs, it accelerates its deterioration.

Nothing frosts me more than paying S1.35 or so per apple for a week’s supply and five days after I’ve bought them the apple is partially ruined thanks to a bag boy — or cashier — that believes speed is everything. If I wanted to throw $1.35 away, I’d toss it in the trashcan outside the store’s entrance.

My weekly grocery bill comes to an average of $80. The only thing I don’t buy at a regular supermarket are my two-a-day Boca burger habit. For those, I stock up at Costco.

Half of that $80 consists of fresh vegetables and fruit. The more they are tossed around — such as bagging a cantaloupe on top of broccoli heads or tomatoes — the more irritated I get.

The same is true for those folks who toss yogurt whips into a bag like they’re pitching watermelons. It doesn’t really damage the yogurt, I guess, but if I wanted it tossed about and broken up instead of being smooth when I go to eat it I can do it myself.

It is one of the reasons why I opted a long time ago to purchase the store’s reusable shopping bags.

They stay relatively rigid and I can pack everything I buy into three bags.

I forgot to mention, but I pack my own groceries. I gave up a long time ago trying to explain to bag boys why I’d appreciate it they didn’t toss the apples around as if they were baseballs and crush fruit and vegetables with heavier fruits and vegetables. I never tried to explain the yogurt, as it would sound anal-retentive. However, presentation — even with diary products in a container — is just as important as taste.

One time I went ahead and let a bagger bag my groceries after he said he understood what I wanted done with my fruit. It was fine except for one thing. He got about two thirds of my stuff packed in the three reusable bags and then asked whether I wanted the rest in plastic or paper.

The idea behind reusable bags is to not use plastic and paper. I bought my usual stuff but in the bagger’s haste he didn’t use the bags to their optimum.

It is like packing a trunk. If you do it right, you can get a ton of stuff in there.

No qualms with the baggers — or the cashiers — except one.

Most cashiers and baggers respect my wishes to let me bag my own without arguing. Once in awhile they’ll ask why, and I’ll explain politely but still stress I want to bag my own. They’re cool with that and so am I.

One time, though, the bagger got a bit indignant and told me he’d bag them.

I replied, “No thanks, I’ll do it myself.” He came right back and said he’d do it. The cashier interceded and told him I preferred to bag my own. He then told me it was his job to bag the groceries.

At that point, I became irritated. I told him it was my money buying the groceries which made them my groceries and that I’d bag them myself. He said he’d do it and I shot back “no you won’t do it.” He left none too happy.

I have to admit I wasn’t thrilled about the encounter either.

My goal isn’t to cost baggers their job. It is to minimize waste — use of plastic and such – and to make sure my purchases aren’t ruined.

Again, the store I go to has great cashiers, clerks, and baggers. I’m sure the guy who was insistent had been told the store prides itself on being service driven which means bagging groceries for their customers. He was only trying to do his job.

It would be nice, though, if stores made sure their cashiers and clerks take as much care with the fruit they sell as the produce guys do.
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