"Don't squish the eggs."
That and other pearls of grocery-bagging wisdom come from this year's finalists in the Best Bagger Championship.
Every year since 1987, the National Grocers Association has sponsored a national competition to find the best bagger in America. The contest works like the Miss America Pageant, except with brown paper bags taking the place of bikinis.
Baggers first compete on the state level. A best-bagger emerges for each participating state. The winners then converge on Las Vegas, where, at the Mirage Hotel, in one orgiastic bag-off, a single national best-bagger emerges. This year's is set for Feb. 11.
The victor last year was Andrew Borracchini of Washington state, holding high the torch for his then-employer, Seattle's Metropolitan Market.
What bagging advice has he for amateurs?
"What I do, usually, is put any cans on the bottom. You put the eggs on top, so nothing gets squished, up there with chips or bread. If there are vegetables, you put those between the cans and the top. If there are boxes, you put those around the other items to form a protective wall," Borracchini, who bested some 22 or 23 (he can't remember which) other state champions, told ABC News.
This, if there had been a physics bag-off in 1938, is the equivalent of E=MC2.
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Borracchini, who won $10,000 for his proficiency, says he immediately put the money in the bank. He's now a first-year college student at Seattle University with a pre-major in business.
The latest extremely excited 20 finalists include this week's winner of the Massachusetts championship bag-off, Cassandra Demoura of Taunton, who beat her bagging competitors Wednesday at Lombardo's grocery in Randolph.
She and her fellow baggers are judged on their speed, personability and skill at distributing weight equally between bags and, oh, not squishing any eggs, she told ABC News.
The competition has a serious purpose, grocers association spokeswoman Eileen Munster said.
"It's a fun event, but the importance to us is that the bagger is probably the most important person in a store, the last person a shopper sees before he leaves," she said. "The winners tend to be very personable, very articulate."