Bagging Your Own Groceries in Vienna

bagger source
Featured is Andrew Borracchini as the winner for America’s ‘Best Bagger 2013.’ Photo from West Seattle Herald.

In the US, like most grocery stores, when you go, you buy what you want and head over to the cashier to pay for your items. As your items are taken into the cashier’s hands, they put the price of the item into the computer, then they place the item down the station’s counter to slide or be rolled over to the bagger who puts your items in your shopping bag.

In Vienna, it’s exactly like that except the bagger. There are no paid grocery baggers here. Perhaps in all of Europe they’re non-existent.

This no-bagger thing started to become a bit stressful for me when it became a current thing in my life. Once I paid for my items, I barely had time to put the cash and coins back into my wallet before the next customers items were already rolling down and hitting my groceries.  The cashiers do not wait for you to bag before moving onto the next customer, so I would usually bag my stuff hastily.

This process continued until my husband pointed out the system of how ”Austrians do it”:  As the cashier beeps your item and places it down the counter, you immediately pick it up and put it in the cart or basket you originally had your items in. Then take the cart/basket to the ”bagging area” which is a long counter by the cash registers, and then put your items in your bag.

Bagging Area

If you only bought a few items, then you don’t need to do that since you can bag your items easily/quickly at the register.  Though generally, bagging your groceries at the bagging area is more work and a longer process than we Americans are use to, but it’s another way to get the job done.

I had a brief discussion with an Austrian about this point, and they mentioned being a grocery bagger seems like a ”humiliating job,” as if the customers themselves are incapable of putting their own items in their standbags. Perhaps this Austrian has yet to experience the convenience of the bagging-system — once you pay for your groceries, they are already bagged (or almost bagged) and you can just leave, allowing the next customer’s items ready for the bagger. To me it’s a smoother system.

This is another ”cultural difference” I have encountered in Vienna that I wanted to share with you all today. While at first the no-bagger experience can be stressful to some, eventually you’ll get the hang of it if you stick to how Austrians do it.

9 Replies to “Bagging Your Own Groceries in Vienna

  1. As there a minimum salary and social standards in Austria, jobs like a bagger would not be possible or to expensive for the shops… JFYI
    (Thats also the reason why shops close in the evening and on Sunday)

  2. Oh, how I miss the speedy, no nonsense Austrian cashiers! I was terrified of the process for awhile, but it’s more efficient IMO. When we first moved back to the states I still helped bag, I couldn’t help it. And once you’ve lived there awhile, you might notice how slow checking out in the States is!

  3. I’ve just found your blog and love all these cultural observations! I’m a Brit who now lives in the US, but married to an Austrian, and we were in the UK and Austria before moving here. Having come at this from the opposite way round, when I was first in the US I felt like quite a spare part as my groceries were being bagged – I had already put them on the conveyor belt, but it wasn’t yet time to pay, so I just hovered awkwardly. And attempting to help the bagger got some amused looks (could be just my local supermarket though…). The bagging isn’t always done as I would like, but it’s obviously easier for the shopper and financial arguments aside (which would be a comment in their own right!) it would be churlish to complain!

  4. This was interesting to me as an American because it made me wonder about regional differences in the U.S. Living in Denver, not only have I been bagging my own groceries for several years but I also do my own scanning/checkout. In particular, I think it just depends on which grocery chains/stores you chose to shop in. Where I do most of my grocery shopping (King Soopers and Walmart), I have the choice of doing it myself or having a checkout clerk. Of course there are other chains (like Safeway and Albertsons) where the checking is done for you but at all of the stores, the baggers move from register to register. Sometimes, if you wait for the clerk to bag your groceries, it will earn you raised eyebrows and impatient looks from the people waiting in line. But still sometimes I think that the more I do myself, the more it will become commonplace and the more jobs will be lost. Having traveled all over the western U.S., this “check yourself out” is becoming more and more the norm, rather than the exception.

  5. @ Bagging: A brief hint: Some people (still too few, but we’re getting there) actually don’t want to get several plastic bags every time they buy things. They bring their own bags/backpacks. Having a bagger actually hinders waste reduction.

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