Goldfein Bags at Commissary

Prompted by customer feedback, commissary leaders have installed no-bagger checkout lanes at 121 stores worldwide as a test program, allowing shoppers to pack their own groceries.

The test began in late January. Cashiers in the no-bagger lanes collect the payment, then customers bag the goods and take them to their vehicles.

Full-service lanes with baggers are still available, and commissaries have long had self-service checkout lanes without baggers. There’s no set time frame for the test, said Kevin Robinson, spokesman for the Defense Commissary Agency: “It will run as long as needed to gather sufficient customer feedback and allow stores to comment on how it’s working at their locations.”

Baggers are a long tradition in commissaries. They work for tips and are not commissary employees ― they are self-employed under a license agreement with the installation commander. They sign an agreement with a store director to conduct themselves in a certain manner when engaged in their bagging and carryout duties.

Often, this arrangement provides a job for military children and others in the military community.

Customers are not required to use baggers. There’s long been discussion about whether customers feel pressured to use their services, and how much of a tip is appropriate.

Some have said they’ve encountered baggers who are rude or aggressive. Many appreciate the services, including elderly shoppers and those juggling young children.

Commissary officials received the feedback from customers who want to bag their own groceries as a result of “personal outreach” to installation commanders and their leadership chain by DeCA’s interim director and CEO, retired Rear Adm. Robert J. Bianchi, said Robinson. Bianchi is performing dual roles, remaining the CEO of the Navy Exchange Service Command while leading DeCA.

Bianchi also asked commissary store directors to meet with their individual installation commanders to solicit overall feedback on their commissary benefit.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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