Commissary baggers

  • Published
  • By Kim Smith
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Base personnel and family members rely on the commissary for their grocery and shopping needs, and the baggers at the RAF Lakenheath Commissary supply a little added convenience to this household chore.

Although the baggers provide a valuable service and often go the extra mile to ensure consumers receive that extra bit of convenience when they shop, not many people know that they work only for tips - tips that help feed their families in some cases.

"I have been here six years, at a young 67 years old," said Gloria Gunito, head bagger #15. "I am here 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day. This job allows me to provide a service to our customers and it enables me to send money back to the Philippines to support my family."

Because the baggers are not paid by salary, receiving tips and making customers smile are the best benefits of the job. The adults work 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday. Teens work 4 to 7 p.m. every day.

If you have shopped at the commissary, you may have noticed that the baggers don't wear nametags, but instead wear numbers, and are often sitting on the benches in the front of the store. They are not being incognito or lazy, but instead are operating under a very methodical process.

The bagger's number is on all grocery receipts so that customers can keep easily identify the person who bagged their groceries and they sit in numerical order so that each gets equal opportunities to service customers. When a bagger has had a turn, he or she must return to the back of the line and wait to reach the front again.

"We can wait up to an hour to get the chance to bag again, so if we are not tipped we can work up to four hours and earn $4 dollars - it just depends," said Tom Rickard, bagger #12.

Although the waits can sometimes be long, the baggers say they enjoy their time with the customers and appreciate the support they receive.

"We typically spend 10-15 minutes with each customer," said Trina Sanjuan, bagger #23. "It is really nice when the customers acknowledge and appreciate what we do when we are out in the rain and wind to go the extra mile for them."

The baggers acknowledge that some customers prefer to handle their own groceries and do not require assistance from them. They say they don't take offense to this because they want the customers to enjoy the services they provide, and as such encourage those who are not able or do not want to tip, or prefer to take their own groceries out, to voice their preferences to them.

"It is all about the customer at the RAF Lakenheath Commissary," said Vici Snyder, bagger #10. "We also like it when customers organize how they want us to bag their groceries, so that we can better organize their products. This helps us to enhance their shopping experience, and it makes it a lot easier for them and us."

The RAF Lakenheath Commissary baggers are a multi-talented, diverse group, but they share one purpose: to make sure customers are happy when they leave the commissary.

"I have a music degree from Berkley, one of my co-workers is a certified nurse, and most others are prior military," said Rickard. "And though we could be doing something else, we like being here to serve our military customers and their families."