Gina Traniello is packing her bags for Sin City.
Not just any bags, mind you.
Try brown paper grocery bags.
Traniello, who works for Tops Friendly Market at the chain's signature Maple Road store in Amherst, is representing the chain, the region and state in the National Grocers Association "Best Bagger Competition." Traniello is one of 24 finalists and will be competing for a $10,000 first prize. The competition is set for this weekend at Las Vegas' Mirage Hotel and Casino.
Traniello's road to Las Vegas began last fall, with a series of events held at her Tops' store as well others in the region. She was one of 13 finalists from Tops' district regions. Contestants were judged over two rounds on their speed of bagging, weight of the bags, how well they were packed and how many bags were used. Traniello scored a perfect 100 percent on each count.
"The grocery bagging process is a critical part of the customers' shopping trip," said Janet Perc, Tops Markets LLC, director of customer service. "It's the last experience shoppers have in our stores and we want to make sure we're exceeding their expectations."
Traniello out bagged her fellow Tops' finalists and was selected by the Amherst-based chain to represent them at the New York State "Best Bagger Competition," held at a Price Chopper store in Slingerlands. Again, she bested the competition and earned her expenses-paid tribute to the national finals in Las Vegas.
The Las Vegas competition will see Traniello and her competitors each only allowed to use three bags during the preliminary and final rounds. They will be judged on speed, proper bag building technique, distribution of weight between bags, style, attitude and appearance. They are bagging against themselves for points.
Five baggers will be selected for the final round.
"We're rooting her on in the final rounds of the competition," Perc said.
The "Best Bagger Competition" started in 1987.