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W.Va. teen is best bagger

March 09, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Frank "Macho Man" Baliga.

Sterling "Groomzilla" Grooms.

Terin "Tiny Terror" House.

Aaron "The Jaw-dropper" Jenkins.

None could quite match up to quiet Mike White.

White, 16, of Keyser, W.Va., won the second annual Martin's Best Bagger Contest, which was held Tuesday afternoon at the Martin's grocery store in Martinsburg.

With a mock wrestling belt strapped around his waist after the competition, White said he watched prior match-ups and planned to strategize in advance about how he'd arrange the 28 items in four or fewer plastic bags.

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Once his turn arrived though, he simply "winged it."

"I just wanted to beat the other guy," White said.

Next stop, Las Vegas?

White simply smiled, but the question elicited a loud and proud "Yes!" from Pattie Andrews, customer operations manager at the Keyser store.

"If you go to Vegas, buddy, I'm going with you," she told White.

White advances to a corporate competition in Carlisle, Pa., said Kevin Dugger, who organized the contest and is the customer operations manager for the Martinsburg store.

Winners in the Martin's corporate contest advance to a national competition, which features baggers from numerous grocery store chains. The last stop is a contest in Las Vegas, Dugger said.

Twelve baggers from the four-state region, plus store managers and two customers, faced off for Tuesday's contest. Each of the baggers had already won a contest at their store.

A large crowd of supporters gathered, with some of them wearing T-shirts and waving signs for their favorite contestant.

Baliga, 17, of Hagerstown, had quite a few supporters, including fellow Martin's employee Kevin Rowzee, who had "COACH" written on the back of his T-shirt.

"He told me to ignore everybody," Baliga said, grinning after his turn at the table. "But (to) have fun."

Contestants were judged in five categories - speed, weight distribution, item arrangement, separation of products and customer service. The baggers had to begin by making eye contact with the judge and asking whether plastic bags were OK.

After the baggers placed the items in bags and into a shopping cart, judges placed the filled bags on the floor and kicked them. If anything fell out of a bag, points were taken away. Also, no points were awarded if the difference between the lightest and heaviest bag was more than 4 pounds, Dugger said.

Items that had to be bagged included a loaf of bread, cans of soup, a jar of applesauce, a bag of cookies, a can of coffee, marshmallows and candy.

Dugger, who started working at the Martin's store on Raleigh Street in Martinsburg 10 years ago as a bagger, said the contest promotes good customer service and is a training tool.

Plus it's a way to recognize baggers, or - as he said he likes to call them - service associates.

Midway through an interview, Dugger heard the emcee calling his name for an unexpected bagging round against his father, Terry Dugger, who was a judge for the competition.

The younger Dugger got off to a seemingly good start - he had a bag of groceries in his shopping cart before his father was able to get one of those pesky plastic bags open.

Neither of the Martin's managers, though, could claim victory.

Of all things, both forgot to smile at their judge and ask whether plastic bags were acceptable.

Trey Rickel, of the Winchester, Va., Martin's, took second, and Erik Kisner, an employee of the Martinsburg store, took third place in the competition.

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