When Ricardo Cruz started working for Dillons in November of 2008, he never thought bagging groceries would earn him a trip to Las Vegas. But that’s exactly where Cruz found himself this week, as a competitor for the National Grocer Association Bag-Off.
“Honestly I could not tell you how I became so good,” said Cruz, who bags at Dillons’ Westloop store. “I didn’t practice it. I just started (bagging) on a daily basis.”
The national Bag-Off began in 1987. Cruz, who won the state championship in September, is the first employee from Dillons to go to nationals, competing against 24 other baggers at the Mirage Hotel and Casino on the Strip. The winner was Stephanie Teteak of Kaukauna, Wis., who was awarded a $10,000 grand prize.
Cruz explained in a tweet back home that “I just didn’t have enough xp (experience). the other ppl (people) have been doing this for yrs, the girl who won went to nationals 3 times b4 (before).” But he is looking ahead. “Hopefully I can get that legacy started,” Cruz said.
His talent for bagging could have started at a young age, when he played the videogame Tetris. It forces users to take different shaped blocks and arrange them in a line.
“You have to find the right places for right things,” Cruz said of bagging. “It’s like Tetris.”
At the national competition, Cruz did not have to ask paper or plastic. Each of the competitors used three reusable bags.
That’s not the only difference between the national competition and work for Cruz.
“When you’re actually working, customers have different ways they want you to bag,” he said.
The judges, who have been a part of the Bag-Off competition since 1995, looked at five different factors when assessing the bagger’s sack: proper bag technique, weight distribution, style, attitude, and appearance.
Each of the bags has to be framed correctly and weigh an equal amount.
“You want your boxed products on the side, cans on the bottom, and the crushable items on top,” Cruz said.
Style, attitude and appearance are also considered; the bagger must look presentable and have fun with the bagging.
Even though Cruz came up short, he did enjoy his first trip to Las Vegas.
“First night was pretty crazy,” Cruz said. “Went to a bunch of different hotels, went to the strip, went to a buffet, and just did a lot of people-watching.”