What Do I Tip the Commissary Baggers?

What Do I Tip the Commissary Baggers?
The commissary baggers are not employees and therefore do not receive an hourly wage -- so how much should you tip them? (U.S. Air Force/Joshua Arends)

Updated: 3/8/2021

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.

You may also have experienced this on your first trip to the commissary. Never fear, you're not alone. 

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 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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