Ready, set, bag!

Local Rays Food Place employee Janese Clark recently competed in the National Best Bagger competition


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Janese Clark from Ray's Food Place in Prineville competes in a five-person heat of the National Best Bagger competition.

When most people head for Vegas, they seek the glitz of the strip or hope to hit the jackpot and come home with a boatload of cash.

Janese Clark, on the other hand, went there earlier this month with another goal in mind. A four-year cashier for Ray's Food Place in Prineville, she ventured to Sin City for the first time in hopes of leaving as the National Best Bagger champion.

Joined by Ray's store manager Walt Blind, Clark battled 27 other competitors, all of whom had won their respective state championships to earn a berth. While day-to-day cashiering has its challenges, she said her job has got nothing on the national contest.

"The stress level is a lot higher," she said. "There is a lot riding on the line."

In addition to earning national champion accolades, the winner earns $10,000 in prize money.

Blind said that the competition is conducted in heats of five baggers. The top five from each of those heats go on to a bag-off to determine the winner.

"You are graded on the way you bag your bags," Clark said of the contest. "You are graded on your speed. You are also graded on weight. They have to be similar or as close as you can get on all three bags."

Grocery distribution is scrutinized as well and deductions from a score are made based on any errors detected.

"They check to make sure you don't have glass on glass, or cans stacked on top of each other, or bread on the bottom," Clark offered as examples.

Lastly, contestants are graded on how personable they are during the bagging race. Participants are encouraged to converse and maintain a customer-friendly demeanor as they compete. Clark noticed that most competitors, herself included, struggled to do so as they were too focused on the details of the bagging itself.

Competitors had to perform amidst a host of potential distractions, including a crowd of spectators and the presence of multiple media outlets, including the crew from the Today Show.

Clark was one of four chosen by the widely-known television program to be interviewed about her participation in the contest. She could not recall who interviewed her, as she is not a regular viewer of the show, but enjoyed the experience nonetheless.

"We had a good time with that," Clark said of the interview, noting that each contestant was questioned about one aspect of the contest. While other interview subjects were asked about weight, distribution, or personality, she handled one on speed.

She noted that the interviewer was pleasant and joked around with her, and correctly pointed out, in the guise of a question, that she was the oldest competitor in the event.

In the end, Clark missed the top five cut, which she readily admits was a disappointing result.

"I spent a lot of time practicing," she said. "If it (the store) was slow, I could take my stuff downstairs and practice. I had stuff set up in the conference room."

Clark even managed to sneak in some practice, perhaps unofficially, during her time on the clock.

"If we get backed up, I try to see how fast I can be," she said of her competitive nature. "I look at the orders beside me and see if I can beat their time out. That is the fun part of it."

Blind said he is proud to have a national best bagger competitor behind the cash register and believe the experience and competition will benefit the company and its customers.

"It makes her a better employee," he said.




Local Weather

Mostly Cloudy

35°F

Prineville

Mostly Cloudy

Humidity: 64%

Wind: 13 mph

  • 28 Dec 2014

    Partly Cloudy 36°F 24°F

  • 29 Dec 2014

    Snow Showers 28°F 5°F