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Grocery Stores, etc...

From a logistics perspective, I'm puzzled over something so simple.

Why is it that every grocery store double-bags? Why don't they just make the bags stronger?

Even what appears to be a more sturdy bag from duane reade, for larger items, was just doubled up for my bottle of water... um, am I missing something obvious?

Curious in NYC
Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Because the cashiers don't get to specify the bags.

The accountants at Gristede's World Headquarters live in outer Queens and drive to the supermarket in SUVs, so they don't even understand the concept of carrying home your groceries. They just go for the cheapest possible per-unit cost even though this ends up costing more in the long run, because they haven't been to Manhattan since the big blackout and the riots in the Mid 1970s, except for a brief visit to see the matinee of Oh! Calcutta! one last time before it closed in the 1980s, and they couldn't in their wildest dreams imagine what it's like to carry 12 bottles of Margarita Mix three long city blocks and then up six flights of stairs to your walkup $1700 studio in Hell's Kitchen.

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, March 15, 2004

More proof: at Korean Delis where the owner IS the cashier, they usually have both thick "I Heart NY" bags and superthin "I Heart Tree Branches" bags available...

Joel Spolsky
Fog Creek Software
Monday, March 15, 2004

Maybe double bagging is stronger than the equivalent amount of plastic in a single bag- kinda like plywood.

name withheld out of cowardice
Monday, March 15, 2004

it seems to me that the paper is less likely to puncture, but the plastic is less likely to tear after being punctured, so there may be something to the 2 is better than 1 theory.

Keith Wright
Monday, March 15, 2004

Perhaps two light gauge bags are substantially cheaper than one heavy... economies of scale and all that?

Special Ed
Monday, March 15, 2004

In most European coutries (e.g. Portugal) it's up to you whether you double-bag or not: you bag your own groceries

In the Netherlands it's doubly up to you: you not only bag your own groceries, but you have to bring your own bags. Or buy new ones at the checkout!

silicon valley software engineer telecommuting from europe
Monday, March 15, 2004

Nasa engineers telecommute from earth.

Li-fan Chen
Monday, March 15, 2004


When I used to do most of my shopping at an organic store, conveniently located across the street from my work;  I used to have all of my fruit and veges loose, and when I reached the checkout,  have it all put into my backpack.

Supermarkets give me weird looks when I try and do this kind of thing.

Monday, March 15, 2004

At the new Trader Joe's in Philadelphia, they have the odd situation of being in the center of the city, yet having an actual "free parking" lot, and attracting about an equal mix of pedestrian/bicycle shoppers and car shoppers.

Very quickly the cashiers learned to ask each customer "are you walking?" ... walkers got fewer but more full sturdy bags.  Drivers get lots of single bags with fewer items in each.


Monday, March 15, 2004

It's the opposite of what Joel said with the same result.

People want double bags regardless of how strong the bags are. So, the result is that they just make the bags thinner to save money.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Personally, I always thought it bizarre that the USA hadn't realised the development of handles.

Simon Lucy
Monday, March 15, 2004

God I love those "I <3 NY" bags.

Monday, March 15, 2004

This phenomenon does seem to be driven by the customer. Americans feel they're being ripped-off if they aren't given their full complement of bags -- even when they throw the bags away as soon as they leave the store! (This is just about my greatest environmental bugbear.)

I'm not sure they're so weak either. I've never had a plastic bag break on me.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

I live in Estonia. The discount store chain makes you buy bags, but they cost nearly nothing, and are specified for 20kg (50lbs). You can bring your own, obviously.

And you can use the grocery bags again as trash bags.

Flasher T
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

What product do you purchase and then put the packaging into the product?

Special Ed
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

"What product do you purchase and then put the packaging into the product?"

I just bought a trash can (which came in a box) and did precisely this. I doubt that's what you were thinking

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

So Did I and that's what I was thinking.

Special Ed
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Upon reflection, garbage bags work also.

Special Ed
Wednesday, March 17, 2004

As to why all stores double bag, the answer is they don't. In my part of the world, the grocery store typically single bags groceries. They are strong enough to to get the groceries out to the car, and then from the car into the house or apartment.

In fact, since most people use carts, the bags are put back into the carts after checkout, which are pushed to the cars. The bags need only keep the groceries collected, not hold the weight until the last 20 feet at home, from the car to the kitchen.

Double-bagging is done for unusually heavy items, like large juice containers.

I wager that bags are pretty much the same across America, and single-bagging is fine for most people. But when you must carry these lightweight bags long distances, they are inadequate and double bagging is required.

And I expect it's got little to do with Joel's theoretical bag-riche fabricators. I'd expect that the grocery stores know the bag situation: They order the bags. They know the amount consumed. They know how much double-bagging is done. And the chains are large-enough to require extra sturdy bags if they thought that would save costs.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

David Fischer
Friday, March 19, 2004

> the cashiers learned to ask each customer "are you walking?" ... walkers got fewer but more full sturdy bags.  Drivers get lots of single bags with fewer items in each.

That's round the wrong way and reflects a common inability to understand packaging and logistics.

For walkers it's more important that the bags don't break, so it's better to have more bags with less in each one. For drivers, it's more important that the bags don't fall over, so fewer bags with more in them are better.

Kerry Packer
Sunday, March 21, 2004

I walk home with the groceries three or four times a week. I'm about to do it now.

I have one pair of hands. That means a maximum of two or three bags per hand, and preferably less.

Luckily the haven't trained the baggers in "packaging or liogistics".

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

I am a bagger at a grocery store and I never double bag items unless the customer requests or if I feel that the item(s) is too heavy to be handled in just one bag.
It's more efficient this way and makes everybody happy.

Sarah O'Nan
Monday, April 12, 2004

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