Commissaries are your basic neighborhood groceries within military installations worldwide. They sell food, household items, and other necessities that are often cheaper than other grocery stores. These stores are exclusively for servicemembers and their families. But did you know people hired to bag the groceries are not considered federal employees?
Baggers who work in US Military Installation Commissaries are not considered federal employees. Thus, they do not get paid by the hour. Instead, they earn money from tips given by shoppers.
Does the US Military pay Baggers in Commissaries?
Having baggers in US Military Commissaries has been a long-standing tradition. The only difference between a bagger and other employees in the commissary is that they are self-employed and not considered federal employees.
The Defense Commissary allows baggers to work in commissaries and exclusively earn by shoppers’ tips. They work under the license agreement with the installation commander and agree with the store director on standard protocols and conduct. (Source: Army Times)
The commissary provides income to different kinds of people. Baggers scheduled in the morning, early afternoons, and on weekdays are often military retirees or their spouses. While teenagers on camp man night and weekend shifts.
The system has been in place for over 50 years, and each commissary has a head bagger. The head bagger is responsible for hiring, scheduling, and coordinating activities for the position. They also oversee the entire thing. Depending on which installation you are in, head baggers are considerate of your needs. (Source: Military)
In the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the head bagger gives students and school-age kids more opportunities. This is due to the limited options available for them.
Some commissaries have signs that say baggers work for tips only, while others do not. The general understanding and tradition are that they earn from the tips they get from customers. It is not mandatory that a shopper tips the baggers. Baggers are also not allowed to demand to be tipped. The decision to tip relies solely on the shopper. If a bagger acts rudely, or if the shopper feels that they were treated unfairly, that latter is encouraged to report the bagger. Customers can do this by providing the unique ID number that is often seen on the bagger’s name tag.
According to statistics, the average tip a bagger receives per customer ranges from $3 to $5. Shoppers often give more during the holiday or if there are big sales. (Source: Ramstein Air Base)
Testing the “No-Bagger” Lane in Commissaries
Commissaries have self-checkout options in some camps, but commissary leaders tested a no-bagger checkout lane in about 121 stores. This testing was prompted by customer feedback and began in 2018.
According to the Defense Commissary Agency, the testing does not have a specific timeframe. It will run as long as needed to get more customer and store feedback. This would also help customers who feel pressured to use baggers’ services and provide a tip.
The run might also help shoppers who have long pondered how much tip should be provided. Some argue that the tip should equate to the quality of service provided. But baggers say that packing and carrying out groceries is not their only job.
An assistant head bagger in the Fort Belvoir commissary claims that part of their job is to have a quick conversation with the people they serve. He says that some shoppers come into the commissary and shop to have someone listen to them. He also mentions that for some shoppers, a friendly conversation with the bagger might be the only pleasant words that person would hear for the entire day. (Source: Army Times)