The commissary baggers got new smocks or aprons or ponchos. Have you noticed? The front says something forgettable but the back packs a punch.


I don’t get this but I am new to the military world so there is much, many and mountains that I don’t get. However, this sentiment nags at me. I completely understand and support that post WWII there were agreements about jobs and money that would be contracted for the Okinawans specifically. I like that. I get that. I’m happy to keep the love and peace floating and flitting about.

Yet the baggers aren’t necessarily Okinawans, I’ve noticed. Some are high school kids. And if they have this job why is there no contract or hourly wage? It all seems a little under the table. And under the table conjures up whispers and tip-toes and these new smocks or aprons or ponchos are hardly being sneaky with their bold print.

In addition to my general suspicions about this bagging gig, I also don’t understand why it’s a mandatory service. I have heard tell that this is just the custom. Same story every base, it seems. So, okay, fine.

But then, how much to tip the baggers? In a recent conversation among friends, there was much discrepancy between what each of us did and why. There were multiple (and complicated) equations leading to different tip scenarios.

If car is far and bagger is an old woman then tip…

If there are 18 bags full of back-breakers like milk, juice, and detergent then tip…

If the bagger piled canned vegetables on top of delicates like bread then tip…

I’m a simple girl and, WHOA, I just want some flat-rate tipping is all. If I am required to partake of the bagging services then just tell me what to do.

Here’s my usual approach

1. No tipping at the register. I have only once tipped at the register and that was because I was pregnant and the bagger unloaded my groceries. Most tip-worthy, yes?

2. I tip the bagger two bucks in an awkward exchange at my trunk while I stand idle and wait for him or her to finish up so I can shove in their hand what I hope is a decent tip for a service I don’t even really want before I shuffle off without looking them in the eye for fear of ruining their tip mojo. I mean, if they work for tips alone then that’s a lot more pressure than I am looking for in my trip to the grocery store.

So, yeah, two bucks. And you?


  1. My teen was very lucky to get a job as a bagger after waiting a year. Other than lifeguarding in the summer, there is no employment for dependent teens.

    Anyway, I asked my bagger-child how tips are done at Kadena commissary. Only the bagger on the far side of the shopper gets the tip, whether it is placed at the checkout counter or out by the car. The other bagger is only there to help, but is next in line. I leave a tip roughly based on how much is bagged. I usually give $5 unless it’s only a couple bags.

  2. I usually leave .50-1.00 for a tip or 50-100Y. I don’t let them bring the groceries to my car either. I just feel like if I am well and able to do it myself, why have someone else do it for me? And whenever possible, I go through the self-checkout lane. I wish they had a self-checkout lane that had no limit on the amount of groceries like Ft. Bragg did. It is just so awkward because you feel obligated to tip them and you never know how they will react to the amount you tip them. I like doing it myself so I avoid the whole situation and I can save a buck or two doing it every time. If you go to the commissary every week and tip them two bucks each time, that is $96 a year spent on tips. I just wish they would change it so they are salaried and not working solely on tips.

  3. I’ve always tipped about .25cents per bag. I only do my big shopping at the commissary so that usually amounts to about 5-10 bucks. I also watch to see how well they bag and how personable they are. If they are really nice and working hard, I give more. I do the same at restaurants. I always tip a minimum of 15%. Even if service is bad (which I will let the manager know). Depending on service, It can up. I have tipped 100% in the past for great service.

  4. OMG, stop being so cheap. Its 3.00 per cart standard and if you take your own cart out you should still tip the bagger who bagged all of your groceries. I have been a dep wife for 20 years, and even when my kids were small and we were poor I could always manage a tip. It’s part of our military tradition. If you can’t afford the tip then use the self checkout lane!

  5. The way I see it is if you have what you can carry…carry it out yourself. I asked for a first time if I could take my own bags out and they were fine. I tipped a dollar in the can by the bagger before I left, but I’d normally give them $5 for any amount I had over $100. I was told it’s like tipping in the states. If they don’t get tips, it’s collected at the end of the day/week and sorted among everyone (my pizza delivery friend said that’s why if you give them cash, they skim off the top and only give a little back to the pot so they get more money out of it later). I think they still get whatever is considered minimum wage, but as far as what I’d tip…$5 for over $100 and $2-3 if it’s less…unless I can really carry them out by hand then just a dollar in their jar. I guess it doesn’t help that I’ll take all four kids with me. The youngest with the distracting cute face and the trio with their own distractions, but I do what I can. -Shrugs-

  6. I will admit I hate to tip people for something that I could have very easily have done myself. What I hate even more is the dirty look I get when the bagger looks down at what I have given them, since they don’t seem to think it was worth their effort. And I especially hate when I see all the baggers walking through the parking lot pulling out their stash of money and proceed to count it as they walk back to the commissary. Tipping should be for exceptional service, not because I didn’t have less than 20 items and couldn’t use the self-checkout.

  7. Look, if all it takes is a couple of your dollars to create a good paying job for someone, wouldnt you do it?? Did you vote for Obama?? If you did than give..even if you didnt..stop hating the tip!! The tip, as small as it is from some of you, helps these people, young and old. Helps them in ways you cannot imagine. if you are here in okinawa, you got money, so tip, dont hate. Thanks

  8. An airman that worked for me once described her part time bagging job as “like the mafia”. There was a head bagged and if you ever hoped to get the express lane (she said it was a money maker for very little effort b/c most ppl end up tipping close to a dollar regardless) you had to be tight with the head bagger… Not sure of “tight” definition… :). She did say that for every cheapskate retiree, there was a generous young lieutenant or similar…it all evened out and paid very well…ESP for a pt job… So don’t Lose too much sleep over that extra dollar or not…

  9. I hate it too, always have. They do this at all commissaries. My husband bagged in HS and college and said it was a great job, he made a ton of money. I tip $3 – $5, depending on if I have one or two carts. This is what my husband said was normal. I’ve averaged it out, and they can make quite a bit per hour. The people that pay $8 and up are way overpaying. That could average out to like $40 an hour! For bagging groceries? That is insane!

  10. Personally, the tipping annoys me, but I do it. The reason it annoys me is that the commissary is expensive and my surcharge is usually HUGE! I found an old Walmart grocery receipt in some paperwork a while back and compared the prices of the things I bought from Walmart to what I pay at the commissary today and I was shocked. My average grocery bill at Walmart for groceries that last 2 weeks (family of 6) was $ 250.00-$ 275.00 Here my 2 week grocery bill is $ 350.00-$ 400.00 I just went the commissary yesterday and my surcharge was almost $ 30.00! Normally I write a check $ 5.00 over and tip the entire $ 5.00 to the person that wheels out my two carts to the car. I always help unload as well. I heard a lot before coming over about the commissary being such a great savings for us, blah, blah, blah, but I just don’t see it. I HATE not having a store brand to purchase for a much lower price when it comes to paper towels, dish soap, etc.

  11. I know this is old, but the “tips only” thing is not just an Okinawan thing. They do that at all the commissaries. I hate it. I know I can bag my own and take them out, but even then you get the evil eye. I actually prefer to take my own groceries out. I feel awkward doing nothing while some old lady trails behind me with a bunch of bags. Its strange. It’s also strange to get a dirty look when you tell them you can take it out yourself though. I wish they would reconfigure how they work things and stop doing the whole “baggers work for tips only” thing. I would gladly pay a bit more so I don’t have to feel like I’m hurting someones feelings everytime I go shopping.

  12. Hi,

    So I have been a military dependant just about all my life and Every commissary I have been to baggers work for tips ONLY… As far as I was told way back when my dad was in the Army, it kinda works like waitresses back in the states. They have to report some of there wages on tips and be taxed on them. I don’t know if this has changed or not. But since I was 12 and old enough to notice my mom has been tipping 2-3 dollars unless of course we bagged ourselves. I am now 26 and still tipping 2 dollars unless i forget my cash and scrounge together every last little bit of change in my purse (which makes me feel TERRIBLE) I also help load the groceries and sometimes opt to walk them out myself. In that case I still tip the 2 dollars bc I think it makes up for what i didn;t pay last time LOL!! When I realize i don;t have cash I usually limit my buying and go to the express lane LOL…I do recommend if you have 2 carts or more though tip both the baggers seperately usually with that many gorceries there are 2 .. I always give the bagger there tip in hand. I dunno if that help and i know this post it old but needed to put my 2 cents in.

  13. When I go to the commissary, I only use all my WIC checks on 1 day shopping. Having 3 kids on WIC X’s 3 checks each = alot stuff! And going thru the cashier takes a long time. I always tip $5.00/500yen. During the case lot sales, I only buy paper products, soaps, and maybe if their is a really good deal I will buy others. I stock up for 6mo+ and tip between $10.00 – $15.00. The most I have ever tipped was $20.00 at a case lot sale. I have 6 carts and poor Grandpa had no help carrying cases. All my other grocery’s I buy off base, its cheaper.

  14. Hahaha I couldn’t stop laughing at the commissary today- The ID card checker guy at the entrance saw me with my green reusable bags and asked if they were tagged. I didn’t even know what he meant but he handed me a black marker and tried to tell me I had to individually mark each one (I have like 20) with my initials before i could go in!! As my youngest ran past to the race car cart I was standing there patiently trying to do this and gave up and just put a huge black mark across the top of them all.. At least he didn’t put stickers and trash on them though! Craziness! Does this mean people really have been stealing the green bags? hahaha

  15. My understanding of the tip jar at the end of the counter is to tip if you are taking your bags out yourself (this coming from an actualy commissary employee), which I sometimes do even if I am not on the express lane but I only do this if I have a few items. Loads that require the carts, I use a bagger for the trip to my car.

    I tend to tip 2 buck min and never in yen. If it is a two cart trip or a particularly difficult load, I tip more. I usually help in the loading because then things are where I want them in the car.

    I don’t have a problem or feel awkward with tipping the baggers and there is nothing underhanded or sneaky about how they work for tips only…that is just how it is at all commissaries.

    I usually try to engage them in some conversation while walking out since everyone is very friendly and probably enjoy a little conversation once in a while.

    I bring in my own bags when the trip is not going to be a huge one. They are assorted canvas bags that I have picked up all over. I don’t have any from the commissary so I have not seen the new tagging system for that…seems kind of funny actually. I bring the canvas bags into off base stores and to the PX as well. I just keep a bunch of them in my car so I always have them.

  16. I hate the awkwardness of tipping baggers at the commissary. Here in Hawaii they are rude to my husband and I most of the time they give you stink eye and talk about you in their foreign language, filipino/ thai. No matter what you tip them $1 or $5 they give you a dirty look and walk off mumbling curses under their breath. I’ve had a few run the cart into my ankle and not say a thing. Now we don’t tip them anything if we get bad service.

  17. Thanks for letting us know what that tip jar is for AmericanGirlinJapan! I was always afraid that I too was overlooking someone elses tips. Joelle…When I go it’s usually not so busy for some reason so I’ve walked up and seen my “bagger friends” and they actually lead me to their lane. Isn’t that funny! I just went last Sat and one of them tried to take me in front of other customers which I grimmaced about and didn’t know what to do. I ended up waiting for my turn and still ended up in his lane. I hope I didn’t offend but I could hear the childhood voice in my head yelling “no cuts”!:)

  18. Several of you haven mentioned using particular baggers — maybe I’m just too caught up in getting the groceries out and juggling two boys, but I didn’t think there was ever a “choice” in who you get. Even if I picked a certain lane, there are still 3-4 baggers always standing at the end. Do you point to one and say, I WANT YOU!???

  19. Ok, I haven’t answered because I have been sitting back reading everyones comments. To me it depends on the job they do how much they get tipped. I don’t use the tip jar at the end of the counter, because I want to make sure they get the bags nicely in the car. There is one bagger that I can’t stand. This bagger just throughs the stuff into the back of the car, slams the trunk, and then smiles and looks at your for a tip. How I decide on what they get tipped depends on how much I spent on groceries, how well they packed the groceries(soaps in with food, bags filled to a good spot and not to heavy or to light (I don’t like it when I get a lot of bags and most of them only had 2-3 items in it), how nice they are (most the time do they smile at me and wish me a good day) and also did they gently put the stuff in the car or was it just tossed. I always tip $1/ $100 spent and then go from there. Most the time I go to the ones I know do a fantastic job so they usually leave my car with $8-10. Granted, we don’t go that often so we usually leave with 2 and sometimes 3 carts!

  20. Ok, the tip jar at the end of the checkout line is where they put their tips. Every once in a while you’ll see them come in and empty out their pockets into the jar. They work on a “tip share” system…at the end of the shift they divide the $ up equally.
    As for the actual tipping, I usually only tip in Yen if it’s a national, and usually give 500Y. I just figure it into my budget before I go shopping.

  21. Aviva I use the Red Navy Fed card and that doesn’t allow debits at the counter only credit. But I made a strong effort to the other day to have cash with me when I went to the commissary. I just would love to take my own groceries to the car once and awhile and save myself a buck or more. Using coupons off set the tip I give when I do go. Oh well, at least we don’t have this problem at Aafes.

  22. it is so nice to hear about all of these bag re-users. i have been bringing in my owne bags for a little over a year now. my favorites are some from costco in the states (who does not provide plastic bags to customers. they are large and rectangular and can supposedly hold up to 70 lbs. they were also only $3 for 3 bags. i had my mom send them. anyway, keep up the good work. i was so pleased to see those new cheap green bags offered. i had never thought about the need to tag them though . . .

  23. A couple of weeks ago, the sweetest little okinawan grandma bagged for me. The register girl was having a problem so the bagger had to wait a good 5 minutes to take the groceries out to my car. For some reason, I could not resist giving that little grandma a 5 dollar bill. Her eyes twinkled and she looked up at me with such gratitude that I almost teared up (and I am SO not emotional).

    On a regular basis, though, I tip 3 bucks for about 120.00 in grocery. Heaven forbid I have that sweet lil’ grandma again..I will be out a couple more bucks!

  24. So the STRANGEST thing happened when I went into the commissary yesterday with my green bags (some from the UK, some bought at the Comm. last week) — they had to TAG the green ones that I had bought there. As in, small piece of paper with 2 pieces of tape to show that I hadn’t STOLEN them from the commissary!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Let’s just think about this for a moment…….. We’re using the green bags to help save the environment, yet we’re putting TRASH (!!!!) on them each time to make sure the comm. doesn’t loose out on 70 cents! Bugged.

  25. I used to be a bagger in high school in Germany. I made some good bucks off that gig.(For such a noble cause…my backpacking trip through Europe!) So I’m a big fan of it and feel one with the baggers. People bringing in their own bags used to annoy me because I had a little bag packing system down based on the size and the strength of the paper bags we used back then. The whole weirdly shaped cloth bag thing just threw me off my groove what with their floppiness. Now I think they are great, but seem to always forget them at home when I need ’em.

  26. Interesting, Daniela – I just got some Envirosax bags (they roll up nice & tiny so they are always in the car ready for a shopping trip) because I’m SO done with plastic. Even the commissary is offering $.70 green bags at the front – I’d say it doesn’t annoy them, so don’t worry. Out in town at the grocery stores they’re going to start charging fees for plastic bag users, so it’s way better to bring your own. I hope the commissaries start doing it too.

  27. Well…my husband was a bagger when he was a teenager, and he said that he easily made $20/hr. Think about it…it takes them all of 10 minutes to bag, drag, and unload…so multiply that by 6 and in an hour and with people paying $2-5 per load (average of $3.50), that’s $21! So you pay what is best for the situation… And for those pregnant ladies, I wish I could’ve had those baggers come to my house to unload at my house! =)

  28. If I bag my own nothing of course. If I am lazy always 5,-.
    Another question; I bring my own bags and/or reuse old plastic ones. That seems to throw some baggers off and even annoy them (that’s when I bag myself).
    Anybody else had that experience? That never happens off post. I even had one person thanking me for trying to keep Okinawa clean:)
    I am on the war path against plastic bags!

  29. Great post! I’ve always wondered what others were tipping baggers. Our tips always vary on the situation but I always give whatever I can. I too never carry cash and the commissary won’t allow my debit card to be used as anything other than a credit card so I can never get cash back for them. This just means that I have to plan in advance to raid the house for dollars and coins before I leave. There have been times though where I’ve had to stop at an ATM and break a $20 at a mini mart just for change:) Anyway, I love the baggers! I actually look for specific people so that I can go to the same ones! I’ve had some great conversations with them and even made a couple of friends this way. I also feel really weird at the same time about their service. I don’t like to watch others do something that I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. So, I usually group my items at the checkout so they can be bagged more easily and even though I’m pregnant I still try to unload everything in the cart at my car before they can. Weird huh? I can’t control myself though. It’s like when we were staying at the West Pac upon our initial arrival to the island and housekeeping was in our room daily to clean it. I ran around in front of them picking up everything, making the beds, and gathering up all of the wet towels. They must have thought I was insane! But seriously, what was I supposed to do? I couldn’t just sit on the couch and lift my legs up while they vaccumed under them could I?:)

  30. I always tip them $3 and it is huge load I pay them $5. And call me mean but it annoys me that I should be in charge of their salary! Why can’t they just pay them hourly? Tipping use to be reserved for an “excellent” job and not required. Honestly my opinion on all situations that require tipping is this – Pay your people so I don’t have to. *Sigh* But I still tip everyone and sometimes more that I should because I know it is expected. And I always wonder why am I “required” to tip you?

  31. When we go to the commissary we normaly give 3 to 4 % of the bill … on our $250.00 bill my husband gave $6.00 we also had two cart fulls…..and if I go through the express I give at least $1.00 ….. We tip at the car not the tip jar at the register……….

  32. Just noticed this post today b/c of recent comments – I wasn’t here in early ’07 and didn’t see it!

    Anyway – I agree with most things; tip extra well for going above & beyond, I help load into the trunk (this has never gotten a dirty look, only a smile), and usually I take my own stuff unless it’s a big shop.

    So rather than go by total bought in $ I go by amount of bags. If that thing is really loaded up, I tip $3-$4. (Jenn – you sure can get cash back when using a debit card – as long as you do a PIN-based transaction.)

    I will say – though I think it’s a scam (bag my own groceries and scan them myself and STILL pay a surcharge?) I use the self-checkout now that we have one. And my brand new Envirosax bags too. LOVE IT!

  33. Well I know this post is old, but I only tip seriously depending on the amount of groceries I get. But my problem is I pay with my debit card and you can not get cash back. I am one of those silly people who never carry cash. So when I do finally have cash I usually make it worthy.
    I really agree about the teenage labor laws since my first job as a teenager was being a bagger at a Winn Dixie (more than 15 years ago) even back then I would never accept a tip but I was also getting paid to bag their groceries. I have a hard time with anyone bagging my groceries since I did it for so long as a kid that I can manage myself, plus when you put the soap with the boxed cereal I have major issues. I have been known to rebag the groceries right infront of the bagger. OUCH, I know a bit harsh. Anyway. I totally see where you are coming from for sure.

  34. WOW… I tip $2/3 all the time because I only buy like $30 worth of groceries… However, my mom on the other hand tips the baggers $15-25 all the time. Now… I used to get mad because I figured that the money she gave those teens could have been my allowance that week… haha, but once I paid attention, I do believe that it’s worth it now. But I NEVER felt like $2 was enough when you bought $75 worth of groceries… If you’re not willing to give a good tip, tell them that you dont need them to walk you to the car. That way, they can have a better chance at getting more money from the next costumer. Just some advice.

    • I use to bag groceries as a teen at Puget Sound Naval Station (Seattle) when it was still open and I usually got 2 to 3 bucks a load. We didn’t share it, we just took turns bagging. That job pays very well. Do the math: $2 for about 5 minutes of bagging and loading in a car. So for 60 min I made about $24. $24/hr is not bad for a 16 yr old high schooler. Granted, that we had to rotate so really you only worked half the time ($12/hr), but that beat flipping burgers at McDonald’s for $5/hr.

  35. Am I the only one who helps the bagger load the groceries into my car? Nothing makes me crazier than watching an abled bodied person stand there while an elderly Okinawan loads a basket-full of groceries into the car. The guys who have heavy items in their cart and expect a fraile (looking, I could be wrong) bagger to load it should be ashamed of themselves!

    Btw… I tip $2-$3 and I HELP load.

  36. ok- so i’m reading this blog to learn about oki (can i call it that?)– where i am not yet, but will be in a few months… i’m a little worried about the “new place” as it is, a whole different country! but- just wanted to share my tip feelings… i really don’t care for baggers… but since i’ve got 2 little kids now, it makes it a hell of a lot easier and faster. i tip $1 for every $50 that i spend. if they’re super nice, i’ll give them an extra dollar… super mean or just plain rude, i’ll take one away. what power to choose someone’s salary, huh? should we really have that?

  37. what an eye-opener! I guess I’ve been the norm w/my 3 bucks per trip and a dollar at the register bucket (more if i’ve spent more than $100). Although, i have to admit that I’ve got a big soft spot for those workers who are elderly and asian b/c they remind me of my parents and grandparents, so I definitely give more when I’m helped by them. Nothing irritates me more than seeing someone who’s young and able-bodied walking ahead of an elderly person pushing a cart of gazillion bags and then handing over a 100 yen coin. I figure that I can give a little more with tipping b/c I’m saving on my grocery bills by having commissary privileges. i know, somewhat naive, but makes my commissary trips with 2 little ones worthwhile.

  38. I have been told that the Okinawan’s split their tips among each other (including the bucket on the register). Not sure if that is true, but it came from a mom of a teenager that works as a bagger. She also said 2-3 bucks is pretty much the norm for tipping, according to her teen. I too was feeling cheap with my $3 tip. Again, not first hand knowledge, but it has made my life much easier in the world of commissary tipping.

  39. OK…so I had to jump in on this one. I’ve seen the tip jars at the end of every register as well. I usually split up my tip since I’m not sure how it works. If you tip the bagger who walks you to the car do they share it with the bagger who bagged your bags? Figure if I split it up then I’ve covered all of the bases. I usually give $1 at the register and $2 to the person who walks me to my car and unloads everything. If I do the express lane then I usually give some change. When I’m feeling generous or if I’ve bought a ton of stuff then I’ll tip $4 total…more often than not I’m probably feeling cheap. 25 cents per bag would be WAY too much thinking required for me!

  40. So hubby and I were talking about this and decided that we probably tip about 5% of the bill roughly. Sometimes it depends on what we buy (e.g. diapers are expensive, but light…sodas are cheap but heavy) so for our usual 50-70 dollars of groceries our baggers get about 3-4 dollars. I like the 5% thing because if I escape with 10 dollars of groceries that means I can tip the express lane 50 cents. As to tipping at the register, I don’t. I figure the baggers take turns haelping each other bag and then the person who takes it to the car gets the tip. Could be wrong but the system is too complicated to figure out otherwise. (also bad at math)

  41. Well, I once read that tipping a quarter per bag was the accepted amount, but I don’t go by that anymore. I don’t like to try and count the bags and I noticed that when they switched to plastic bags the amount would double. I didn’t want to tip 20% at the grocery store. So now I tip three dollars for a usual load and four dollars for an extra large load. I am extra frugal so those few dollars slipping out of my hands is truly difficult. However, the non-paid baggers are so entrenched in military commisaries that I don’t dare say “Oh, I’ve got that”. I think the bagger hinchmen might catch me before I get to my car and teach me a lesson about stealing from the poor and down trodden. On the other hand being frugal I have figured up their salary before and based on my tipping they made out pretty well. Finally, there is the tip jar on the fifteen items or less line, but I will have to save that for another post.

  42. Holy cow – Meredith you are SO good about putting things into words that were our very thoughts. Said it before – you have a gift. I too, many moons ago, was taken aback by the ol’ tipping thing. Way back when, my Army hub told me a quarter a bag. I’m bad at math [details+math=much mockery…that was me:) ]I used to panic, trying to count the bags that were already hung and hidden on their handy carts. Now, I’ve settled into probably the same – $2, except really it’s more often 200 yen. So then that started a whole run of thoughts, “are they thinking that I’m doing yen instead of $ b/c I make out better”?
    But then I remember that I’m challenged by math and that maybe they make out better with the yen and I sigh. I will ask my hub what he thinks and send him over to reply. This wasn’t helpful, I know. But boy I feel better having vented about my frustration on the same subject. ha ha. 😛

  43. The man says:
    “I haven’t seen tip jars at every register but maybe I just chose not to notice them. Only seen them at the 15 item or less register.”

    hmm. i’ll be looking for that – while trying to indiscretely fish for my tip – the next time i’m headed to a register at the com.

  44. So three dollars for a usual load?! My fear is true then, I AM stiffing them. Well, me AND your wife, Caroline!

    New question then…

    I believe there are tip jars at every register and not just the express lane. Am I meant to tip in both places? Seems like some of those people don’t carry bags but just bag the bags. Are we responsible for their livelihood as well?!

    The pressure is mounting.