Price Chop­per worker bags a trip

Vic­tor of New York’s Best Bagger con­test earns place at na­tion­als in San Diego

Albany Times Union - Sunday - - CAPITAL REGION - By Diego Men­doza-moy­ers Beth­le­hem

Satur­day morn­ing shop­pers en­ter­ing the Shoprite in Slingerlands were met with some­thing dif­fer­ent from your ev­ery­day gro­cery store trip.

A crowd en­thu­si­as­ti­cally cheered as em­ploy­ees from chains around the state took part in New York’s “Best Bagger” com­pe­ti­tion put on by the Na­tional Gro­cers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Eleven peo­ple from six gro­cery chains com­peted for a chance to ad­vance to the na­tional bag­ging cham­pi­onship in San Diego — and have a chance at the $10,000 grand prize.

“You talk about ex­cite­ment and sat­is­fac­tion in the work­place, this is a way for our as­so­ciates to cre­ate ex­cite­ment, com­pete against each other, and the fact they win a trip to San Diego this year, that’s a big deal for some­one,” Shan­non De­freese, a Shoprite area hu­man re­sources spe­cial­ist, said.

This year’s win­ner for the New York com­pe­ti­tion was Erin Pierce from the Can­ton Price Chop­per. Pierce, who said this was her third time in the statewide com­pe­ti­tion, will com­pete in San Diego in Fe­bru­ary.

“I’ve never made it past Kansas.” Pierce said. “It feels awe­some, ab­so­lutely. I prac­ticed a lit­tle bit, but I

don’t like to over-prac­tice be­cause then you over­think it.”

Other com­peti­tors in­cluded John Dohring and Keisha Ragland, rep­re­sent­ing Shoprite. Dohring fin­ished in se­cond place, fol­lowed by Ernes­tine Bynum, of D’agostino’s Su­per­mar­kets.

Tops, Han­naford and Stop and Shop gro­cery stores were also rep­re­sented in the con­test.

The Na­tional Gro­cers As­so­ci­a­tion’s bag­ging com­pe­ti­tion has been go­ing on since 1987, when the first con­test was held in Dal­las.

Each com­peti­tor par­tic­i­pated in two rounds, with the high­est score of the two count­ing for the fi­nal grade.

Judges gave points based on time, but also the weight of each gro­cery bag, the or­ga­ni­za­tion of gro­ceries, and one other cat­e­gory: de­meanor and ap­pear­ance.

“You can see in their heads, the as­so­ciates are bal­anc­ing the com­pet­i­tive­ness be­tween be­ing that friendly as­so­ciate that you would ex­pect from the check­out,” said Michael Du­rant, a com­pe­ti­tion judge and the pres­i­dent and CEO of the Food In­dus­try Al­liance of New York State. “You can see that there’s some in­ten­sity.”

In­di­vid­ual stores held their own bag­ging com­pe­ti­tions, and those win­ners went on to com­pete for the state con­test.

Com­peti­tors lined up at three cash reg­is­ters as friends and fam­ily held signs and rooted the con­tes­tants on.

“It’s a bag­ging com­pe­ti­tion on steroids,” said Carolyn Hue­ber, who rep­re­sented Tops and New York at the na­tional con­test last year. “It’s lights, cam­era, ac­tion, scream­ing, yelling. The whole nine yards.”

Diego Men­doza-moy­ers / Times Union

Carol Gal­lagher, rep­re­sent­ing Stop and Shop, com­petes in New York’s Best Bagger con­test on Satur­day at a Shoprite in Slingerlands.

Diego men­doza-moy­ers / times union

the top three fin­ish­ers in the “Best Bag­ging” com­pe­ti­tion, from left, ernes­tine Bynum, erin Pierce and John dohring were awarded plaques and gift bas­kets. Pierce took home the top prize, and will rep­re­sent new York in the na­tional Gro­cers As­so­ci­a­tion’s Annual na­tional Best Bagger Com­pe­ti­tion in San diego in fe­bru­ary.

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