How to pack groceries: bagging 101
Kei-Lara Dunigan knows a thing or two about packing groceries.
She started at age 11 and stuck with it for about four years.
In November she launched Bermuda Bagging Academy, a virtual course full of tips and tricks for inexperienced packers. Aside from teaching them how to do the job, she gives lessons on how to dress and interact with customers. She also offers help with budgeting and gives advice on how to stay protected from Covid-19.
Ms Dunigan came up with the idea after a trip to the grocery store last summer where she was appalled to see a young packer place a bottle of bleach in with her regular food items.
“That’s a no-no,” she said. “You are supposed to put chemical products in a smaller bag to create a barrier for any leakage.”
The 31-year-old was able to empathise. She remembers being very nervous when she started at Maxi Mart.
Cashier Rita Tucker took her under her wing and taught her the right way to pack. Ms Dungan’s confidence increased so much she was soon bringing in $80 for four hours of work.
In talking with friends and family last year, she found that everyone had a horror story – about bread being squashed, eggs broken; purchases ruined by packers’ inexperience.
“One of the challenges when packing groceries is knowing when to double the bag to prevent tearing under the weight of heavier groceries,” she said. “I think as you gain more experience you can look down the register and see the kind of groceries the customer has and figure out how you will separate them.”
During last year’s shelter-in-place she took courses in video editing and other similar topics that interested her. Hit with the idea of Bermuda Bagging Academy, she put her newfound skills to work.
“In the videos you will see me but I do add animations, emojis and certain elements that will pop up,” said Ms Dunigan, who runs her business from Atlanta, Georgia where she moved last year looking for new opportunities. “The elements are really helpful in keeping the attention of each student.”
So far, around 100 students have taken the course. Most are in their early teens.
Ms Dunigan thought understanding how to deal with shoppers was a particularly important segment as, “if you present yourself well to customers, you tend to get better tips”.
She felt her course was particularly relevant now, a time when many people have lost their jobs.
“The little bit of money the children bring in might be really necessary,” Ms Dunigan said.
The money she earned was divided between herself, her mother and her younger brother.
“What I had left over was used for my extracurricular expenses,” she said. “Contributing helped me to have a sense of financial independence at a young age. I knew if I needed something, I could go out and work and get it or contribute to its expense. It felt good to be able to do that.”
She believes her course not only benefits packers, but the grocery store itself.
“We can reduce the chances of customers being disappointed when they get home,” said Ms Dunigan, who believes her course is also useful to older people who pack groceries to supplement their income. “The baggers are the last person to interact with each customer. Depending on how that interaction goes, it can really be a sour lemon in the customer’s mouth.
“I just had a mother sign up her child – the manager of the grocery store recommended it to her. I have had a couple of conversations with different grocery stores and gotten encouragement from that.”
She doesn’t have any plans to launch a version of Bermuda Bagging Academy in the US where you have to be at least 17 years old in order to pack groceries and where many stores have self-checkout, which eliminates the need for a packer at all.
“Bermuda’s baggers are not paid employees,” she said in explaining the difference. “They are more like independent contractors. In Bermuda, a lot of young students pack groceries. In the US, they have certain age requirements for children to be able to work.”
Students receive a certificate on completion of the programme.
“One of my early students used it to create his first resume,” Ms Dunigan said. “He was 12. That was so cool. I never thought of that when I started this.”
For $50, people have access to Kei-Lara Dunigan’s Bermuda Bagging Academy for six months. Sign up at www.bermudabaggingacademy.com. Follow on Facebook or Instagram. For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org