Kirk Dotson, an employee at Foothills IGA, placed third at the annual Georgia Food Industry best bagger contest in July. The contest came down to eight finalists from eight different stores including Piggly Wiggly, Quality Foods, Publix, and Kroger.
In the Georgia finals four check-out stands were set up on stage and used in four rounds – one round with four baggers for plastic, and a second round with the other four baggers for plastic, then a second set using reusable bags. Each bagger is given the same 20 to 30 items to work with. “You might get a box of cereal, some oatmeal, then some cans and jars,” Dotson said.
According to Dotson, the competition is judged on speed, technique, style, attitude and appearance, with speed being a main focus. “In the plastic round you had to bag it in under 40 seconds to get a perfect 10. For reusable you had to be under 53 seconds. For technique it’s things like glass can’t be touching glass and using the boxes to build walls. For style they look to see if you just threw some items in there, look to see if things are standing up or whether the bag was falling over.”
(If you can find a video of a bagging competition this reporter suggests giving it a short watch, because the competition can be strangely compelling.)
Dotson did well, bagging in under 40 seconds for plastic and 54.05 for reusable. “I just missed getting the 10. If I had gotten the 10 I would have had a better shot at winning,” he said referring to the judges speed score. “All three contestants: first, second and third, it came down to tenths of a point. It was really really close.”
To get to the finals each bagger has to win competitions within their store and other stores in the same chain. The winner, who was from Publix, had a long road to the finals, Dotson just had to win his store’s competition.
“I was approached about it and asked if I would be interested in competing and I said sure why not,” he said. “In the store competition I was not very good. I think I did plastic in like a minute 20, so I got zero points for that. Everything else I did pretty good so I squeaked by to win the store competition and then our store manager started helping me out and coaching me up on techniques.”
It all paid off in the end, with Dotson bagging $500 for his third place finish.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I just want to thank everyone here. I had a lot of nice people around me to help me out and I was glad to be able to get a podium finish for them.”
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