Paycheck Chronicles

Working as a Commissary Bagger

Walking across base today, I saw a notice on a bulletin board:  Full Time Baggers Needed at the Commissary.  This notice got me thinking about the job of being a bagger.  I'll admit, my gut reaction was "They must be making a bundle!"  After a few more minutes, I realized that there is so much more to it.  I tried to do some research but was unable to find much information about bagging as a job.  I'm hoping that some readers can help me fill in the gaps.

Obviously, there is the income aspect.  From what I have read, the average tip is between $2 and $5.  To be conservative, let's say that a bagger earns $3 for every load that they bag and carry out.  How long does that take?  Maybe 10 minutes?  Obviously, a bagger doesn't work non-stop all day, and there aren't always customers who need to be bagged, so let's say that they average four loads an hour.  That would equal $12 an hour.  (Again, these are all rough guesstimates.  I'm quite sure that the numbers can be much higher or lower at certain locations, days of the month, etc.)

As independent contractors, baggers are not being taxed at the time the income is earned.  They are responsible for keeping track of their own earnings and paying the taxes due.  Just the self-employment tax is approximately 7% of the income (it is a silly formula but 7% will work for our calculations) plus whatever regular income taxes are due.  Let's say that they are in the 15% tax bracket.  That means that a total of 22% of their income will have to go back to Uncle Sam in the form of taxes, leaving them with 78%.  $12 per hour times 78% equals a little over $9 per hour.  Now, I feel pretty sure that there are some baggers who are not claiming their tips, but it is the right thing to do (plus it's the law.)

Now consider that there are absolutely no benefits to this job:  no health insurance, no sick pay, no vacation days, not even workman's compensation insurance if you are injured while working.  Maybe not so bad for a second job, or a teenager, but certainly not the conditions that favor "full-time" employment.

I've got lots of questions swirling around my head, and I can find very few answers.  Are there any readers who are current or former commissary baggers?  Or do you know someone who is/was?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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