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I Don't Know What to Tip the Commissary Baggers

I was reminded by a recent magazine article to not forget my helper-people during all of my holiday gift giving. You know the ones I’m talking about. The mail man. The garbage guy. My kid’s teacher. And, although the article didn’t specifically mention them … the commissary baggers.

Ah, yes! The baggers! The spirit of Christmas, at the least, means I should give them a little something extra around the holidays. Even as I do my yearly reading of “A Christmas Carol” Charles Dickens seems to be speaking just to me. “Amy, you cheap MilSpouse, give these poor people an extra dollar or two.”

He’s right. I should. But my problem doesn’t end there. Because the truth is that I never know what to tip the baggers to start with.

I’ll never forget the first time I shopped at the commissary. I had grown-up shopping in Safeway where baggers are store employees and aren’t even permitted to accept tips. I had no idea that I was expected to have a few dollar bills for the bagger. So I didn’t. And boy did I feel like a jerk when I realized that I was their meal ticket.

Before writing this I made a phone call over the Defense Commissary Agency’s public affairs office. I wanted to know what, if any, data they had on just how much baggers commonly make. I wanted them to hear “your measly $2 tip is below the national average.”

But they didn’t say that. Instead they repeated the “baggers are not commissary employees and work for tips only” line (necessitated by a 1997 lawsuit in which baggers sued DeCA for minimum wage because, according to this story). They said they have no information. They said they don’t know what baggers usually make.

So I did some extraordinarily informal polling on the subject. I asked every military spouse I ran across for a few days how much they tip their baggers both in general and around the holidays.

What I found lined-up with what the author of this article said – it looks like, in general, shoppers tip somewhere between $2 and $5, with many being much closer to $5 side during the holiday season. One friend said she tips $10 a trip (whoa!!), another said she tips around $.25 a bag (a system that would require me paying attention to one more thing on top of the two children I’m already trying to shepherd).

I admit it. I’m closer to the $2 side.

Maybe I’m going to cheap military spouse hell. Or maybe no one out there actually knows what to tip the commissary baggers, either – holidays or not. You tell me.

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