(Be sure to read this update: “Controversial ‘Cart to Car’ Service Clarified: No Means No, After All”)

“Welcome to Jewel-Osco, where prices are low and friendliness is mandatory. Really, let us carry those bags out to the car for you. No, we insist. Seriously. Hand over the bags. Do it, now. Security!!”

Getting into an arm-wrestling match over your shopping cart is probably not the most pleasant way to end a grocery shopping trip. But some customers are complaining, after the Chicago-based Jewel-Osco chain quietly instituted a new “cart-to-car” service – and made it mandatory.

Baggers will now cheerfully take your groceries out to your car for you. And if you refuse, well, they’ll do it anyway. “We are doing it for everyone,” a customer service representative said, “to get customers and associates used to this new service.”

Sounds like a nice enough idea. How could anyone possibly complain?

But like a child forced to kiss grandma, or nudged to say “thank you” – is a friendly sentiment genuine, if it’s required? Some independent-minded Jewel shoppers say they appreciate the gesture, but they’ll carry their own groceries, thank you very much. “Two times this past week I have been FORCED to have a bagger help me take my groceries to my car,” one Facebook commenter wrote. “‘No’ means ‘NO’.” She complained that the bagger ultimately followed her to her car and watched her unload her own groceries, then whisked her shopping cart away. Another commenter claimed that, with the new policy, “you’re not going to win customers back, you’re going to chase them away.”


It’s not unusual for some grocery stores to offer help carrying your bags. Florida-based Publix does it (“our friendly associates will check your groceries out quickly and carefully, and then take your bags right to your car”), and Iowa-based Fareway prides itself on its “signature service of carrying customers’ groceries to their cars”. Other smaller, regional chains do it as well – and, like Jewel, most emphasize that tipping is not allowed.

Martin’s Foods even created a minor uproar in Virginia last year, shortly after acquiring the Ukrop’s chain and converting them to Martin’s stores. Ukrop’s never had shopping cart corrals in its parking lots, because it never needed them – for decades, baggers would bring groceries to customers’ cars, and return the shopping carts to the store. When Martin’s began installing shopping cart corrals, customers feared the cart-to-car service was over – and breathed a sigh of relief when Martin’s insisted the Ukrop’s tradition would continue.

So how did a cherished tradition for some, turn into a point of controversy in Chicagoland? Most stores that offer to lend a hand with customers’ groceries, have been doing so for generations. In today’s self-scan, self-serve world, many shoppers have simply gotten used to going it alone. And the more jaded among us may question the motives of such a change – suspecting that it has more to do with corralling shopping carts than helping customers (though Jewel denies that’s the intent). Hence Jewel’s decision to make it mandatory, then, at least until people get used to the idea. “We understand that this is a very different service and it might take our customers some time to understand that we want this to be the norm,” Jewel’s customer service representative said.

The small, 13-store Buehler’s chain in Ohio might just have it all figured out, though. They have an elaborate conveyor belt system in all of their stores – after checking out, shoppers load their purchases into bins, then head to their car and pull up to the front of the store. The bins, carried on the conveyor belt, work their way to the outside of the store, where employees then unload the contents directly into the customer’s car. And the shopping carts never even leave the store.

In fact, at least one Jewel had this feature back in the old days, showing that some customer service ideas may well be ripe for a comeback. But having baggers carry your groceries to your car is a lot easier than installing conveyor belts.

Apparently, though, for some customers these days – it’s a much tougher sell.

(Be sure to read this update: “Controversial ‘Cart to Car’ Service Clarified: No Means No, After All”)

Image source: Jewel-Osco/Facebook


  1. You had to offer the carry out service at the Publix I worked for, but they also emphasized that if the customer wants to do it themselves then let them. I agree that the forced carry out would have the opposite effect of what they’re going for.

  2. It’s really not fair to the baggers or anyone else who has to take out the groceries… like especially when it gets hotter than hell in the summer. It’s just too much to ask to take out every single order.

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  4. Well it seems that, as of this writing, the policy has been clarified. I guess I consider this to be a good offer. If a customer needs help carrying their groceries to the car or whatever, then help is what they should get. If they don’t need it even after a polite offer, then so be it. My mom has often had Jewel/Osco employees help her out without even asking, and she’s been very appreciative. I’ve shopped with her before at a Jewel located near her house, and everyone is always so friendly. This is also true of the Jewel I shop at, which is only about a block or so from my building. One thing that does concern me, though, is if the Jewel/Osco employees with disabilities were to lose their jobs as a result of a decision made by this new management.

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  6. What a joke….Jewel should concentrate on other customer services besides this. No one likes to feel they are being controlled. Sounds more like inventory management to me….Jewel used to be one of my favorite stores to shop but not now. They overcharge on so many things and when it’s a sale, it’s back to regular price.

  7. I like the idea…well except for the fact that it’s mandatory….I think it will help the employees of the stores get to know their customers better although I think ALL employees should get into the pile and do it not just the baggers.

    I also remember atleast one store having the bins and they would give you a placard to go with each bin that held your groceries.

  8. Jewel has always had carry out service… the difference between then and now, is that the checker and/or bagger would ask first, and if the customer declined the help, we respected that and thanked them for their business. No problems.

    This new policy isn’t necessarily forcing the service on customers. Obviously if the customer is insistent on carrying out their own groceries, then yes, the service clerk should just politely back off, but at the same time, they are suppose to automatically provide the service without asking you if you even want it.

    • I worked for Jewel for 5 years. We offered carry-out to our customers, and if they said no, then we would wish them a nice day and move on to the next customer. My son has just started working for the company, and I have to say that I am appalled that this is a mandatory part of the job now. Jewel employs many developmentally delayed employees (like my son), that might not understand to what length they will have to go with this. I am very concerned. I hope they re-think this policy, I really do.

    • When I was asked, I refused. They said it was mandatory, I tried to decline again. When they followed, I asked that they not touch the groceries. They did anyways. And I had to spend a few minutes re-arranging things, because the employee had no qualms about putting cans on top of bread.
      And this was all after I had to bag my own groceries because there was no one to do that inside.

  9. My local grocer has had this policy for a couple of years.
    At 1st it was annoying but we all got used to it.
    The ‘escort’ is not really for the customer-it’s for the cart.
    Those buggy’s are valuable. Both to the grocer and to the local recycler. Like copper-this metal can be stolen and sold.

    I see it as a way to keep costs down and it makes total sense. I have also begun to enjoy the interaction w/ the local High School kids. Who’s going to college, how the football team is doing-one kid has even decided to become a missionary! Good kids, really. Gives one hope for the future of America.

    P.S. Thanks for the spell-checker. What? you got sick of my garbled nonsense? 🙂

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