Jaycie Knudson can pack three grocery bags in less than a minute.
The 17-year-old Spokane Valley resident took home honors last month as the top bagger for Rosauers’ 22 grocery stores in the Northwest.
Today, she’ll test her skills during the “Best Bagger Battle” at the Washington State Fair, with a chance to advance to nationals in Las Vegas in February.
“It’s pretty fun,” Knudson said of the competition. “You just have to get over the nerves of everybody watching you.”
The baggers receive 34 items and three paper bags. Speed is only one aspect of the competition.
Judges assess how carefully the groceries are stacked, cutting into each bag with a razor. If the groceries spill out, contestants lose points. Judges also put each bag on a scale, checking how evenly baggers have distributed the groceries’ weight.
Baggers also get rated on courtesy and friendliness. The top three baggers advance to a second round, where they are required to fill reusable grocery bags.
Past Spokane baggers have advanced to the national competition.
In 2015, Rosauers bagger David Tochinskiy won the National Grocers Association competition, claiming a $10,000 prize and appearing on the David Letterman show. Jessica Lewis, a bagger at Yoke’s Fresh Market in Spokane, won $5,000 for placing second at the national competition in 2011.
For Knudson, who started working at Rosauers 15 months ago, bagging has become second nature.
“The heavy stuff goes on the bottom,” she said. “Bread and other soft stuff goes on the top. … You can’t have glass jars touching each other.”
“She’s an outstanding employee,” said Tom Day, manager of the University City Rosauers on Sprague Avenue, where Knudson works. “She comes in early. She stays late. I’d like to have more of her.”
Rosauers promotes the bagging competition as a training tool, said Gordon Thompson, district manager for the grocery chain. It teaches employees to work efficiently and practice good customer service, he said.
“Baggers are the last point of contact for our customers,” Thompson said. “We want them to leave a lasting good impression.”
Knudson is a senior at University High School and attends classes at Community Colleges of Spokane through the Running Start program. She wants to be a radiologist.
Knudson will be competing for a $2,000 prize at the state bagging competition. She plans to put any money she wins toward college tuition.
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