Andrew Borracchini was pretty confident he had this friendly competition in the bag.
Borracchini, 18, the national 2013 Best Bagger, defeated his member of Congress, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), in the National Grocers Association second annual Best Bagger Congressional Competition, an event this week in the nation's capital to promote the profile of independent grocers, especially in the area of service. (See video for the riveting action!)
"[Baggers] are sometimes the first people and last people" that customers see in a grocery store, NGA CEO Peter Larkin said. "They provide a service that is critical to any grocer." He noted Borracchini, who will study pre-business at Seattle University, as "the kind we like to attract" to what Larkin calls a "Horatio Alger industry," in which many executives have climbed up through the ranks. NGA provides a leadership program for aspiring grocery executives.
After donning his bagger's apron, McDermott was asked for his remarks before getting the competition under way. "How can I make a speech when I know I'm already beaten?" he joked to a crowded room - that included other members of Congress - in the Rayburn House Building on Capitol Hill.
McDermott described how he was a bagger for three years starting at age 15, first at a store near his boyhood home in Chicago, then he moved to another grocery chain "that paid 5 cents more, so I was earning a dollar an hour."
The competition rules included all items must be bagged and with accuracy - no cans on top of eggs, for instance - as well as speed. It took Borracchini only 39 seconds to fill three bags. To the gasps of onlookers, one bag toppled over, forcing him to repack two bags. McDermott had no penalties, and managed to fill two and half bags.
Borracchini won his title in February at the NGA Show in Las Vegas. This is the 27th year NGA has conducted the Best Bagger competition. Borracchini, who works at the Metropolitan Market at Admiral in Seattle, said he is mostly self-taught in his bagging expertise, and described as "life-changing" his bagging victories this year, which included a $10,000 prize and an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Details: www.nationalgrocers.org.