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Paper or Plastic?


The competitive world of grocery bagging is the topic of a documentary.
The competitive world of grocery bagging is the topic of a documentary.

A grocery store is an interesting place, and for some, it holds a peculiar importance. It’s an arena of sorts where competitors go head to head in a grueling battle of speed, accuracy and wits.

“Ready, Set, Bag” is a documentary film directed by Alex D. da Silva and Justine Jacob that sheds light on the practically unheard of sport of competitive grocery bagging.

So far, screenings have raised enough funds to provide 18,000 meals to those in need from proceeds.

For those who worry they take their jobs too seriously, this film is certifiable proof they don’t.

Compared to some of the die-hard baggers that compete for the grand-prize at the National Best Bagger competition in Las Vegas, the average person doesn’t even know the meaning of the word serious. The documentary itself isn’t presented in a comical way. But it doesn’t have to be; its subject matter is just so intrinsically hilarious one can’t help but laugh.

Ten fingers isn’t enough to count how many times I was attacked by a fit of uncontrollable laughter as I watched and listened to these strange people talk about their immaculate bagging techniques.

To be the fastest bagger in the United States, and, perhaps some day the whole world one need to be very conscientious of what they are doing.

Right off the bat comes the probing question of paper or plastic?

Once you’ve weighed your options for a good five or six seconds and left your opportunity cost to rot in its worthlessness, it’s off to even more pressing issues.

Canned goods? Put those in first, they will help create a strong base. What about bread? Or eggs? These are the so-called “crushables” and need to be stacked on top.

The entire process is very exact, and some have it wired down to a science.

One scene gives an intimate look into the backroom of a small-town grocery story, where a practice session is taking place.

The store’s manager, with a whistle draped around his neck, looks on as his star employee stacks cans atop cans, dry boxed goods next and finally bread and eggs on top.

The manager, in the manner of a high school football coach, shouts into the bagger’s ears, while the bagger scurries along, stacking under pressure.

When the groceries have been bagged, the manager blows his whistle and stops his timer. “Not bad, Billy, but if you want to win at nationals, you’re gonna have to bag faster than that,” he said.

The documentary is well cut, and though repetitive at times, it’s easy to walk away feeling entertained.

The film is only ostensibly about the sport of competitive grocery bagging. We get a more in-depth and personal connection through the various interviews with the proud parents and the anxious contestants. It’s a slice of life, albeit a strange one, that presents an absurdist take on the American dream.

Catch a screening at Tivoli Cinemas March 25 Proceeds go to Harvesters.


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