SCARBOROUGH — There will be no crushed eggs, bread or lopsided bags to carry when you check out with the best grocery bagger in Maine.
Alex Matos, 22, of South Portland, won the title – and a trip to compete for the national grand prize of $10,000 early next year – Sept. 26 at the Good Shepherd Food Bank warehouse in Auburn.
All groceries used in the competition were donated to the food bank by the host Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association.
Matos will test her skills against the nation’s best baggers at the 2018 National Championship, during the National Grocer Association Show, Feb. 11-14 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
She has worked as a part-time customer service representative at the Shaw’s grocery at 417 Payne Road for the past five years, where her roles include cashier, bagger, service clerk and bookkeeper.
Matos started working at the store in her last year of high school while attending Portland’s Deering High School, and continued to work at the store during summers and all school breaks while attending college out of state.
She graduated in May from Becker College in Worcester, Massachusetts, with a degree in psychology.
Matos now attends Kaplan University in South Portland, where she is pursuing a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs.
During the state competition, which is open to employees from any grocery store, she competed against eight other baggers – three from Shaw’s, four from Hannaford Bros., and one from Plummers Shop’n Save in Buxton.
Before leaving for the competition, Matos recalled, she told her store director “I got this.”
But despite her confidence she was nervous as they called out the winners Miss America-style, starting with third place. By the time they got to No. 1, two other Shaw’s employees had already swept the other two titles and Matos said she didn’t know if they would award all three spots to employees of one company.
“I was a little shocked,” she said. “There was some good competition.”
According to a news release from the Maine Grocers and Food Producers Association, contestants were judged on “proper bag building technique, distribution of weight between bags, style, attitude and appearance.
Ed Buckley, the Shaw’s store director, said “we couldn’t be more proud of her to represent Scarborough, Shaws’s and Maine. We had a party for her in the lunch room (after the competition). She got the high-fives, and kisses and love from everyone. It was an exciting day.”
Although bagging involves common sense, Buckley said there is an art to it.
Matos said there are the obvious dos and don’ts, like don’t crush bread or eggs. But other there are other things one should keep in mind, too: Cans shouldn’t be stacked on top of cans, glass bottles shouldn’t be placed next to other bottles, and there should be care taken to even out the weight of the bags “so customers aren’t walking out lopsided.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Matos worked quickly and efficiently as she filled bags with groceries, many of them reusable. She took the time to ask the customers their preferences for things like weight.
“We’re the last faces the customer sees before they leave, and we want to make them come back,” she said.
Matos said she is excited about competing at the national competition. “I have to practice more, so hopefully, I’ll win,” she said.
If she is awarded the $10,000 prize, she said she will use some of the money for her education, but she would also like to put some of it toward a new car.
Alex Matos, 22, of South Portland, was named the best grocery bagger in the state and won a trip to compete for the national title and grand prize of $10,000 early next year. Matos works at the Shaw’s supermarket on Payne Road in Scarborough.