Mexico: Why You Should Always Tip Your Bagger

Source: Q-Roo Paul

When we first moved to Mexico, I couldn’t help but notice that most of the baggers in grocery stores were senior citizens.

At first, I assumed that they were paid employees of the store, but I later learned that they are all unpaid volunteers. The only money they make comes from the tips that they receive from shoppers.

Some Background

In Mexico, many senior citizens need additional income to make ends meet but it’s not easy for them to find employment.

To help alleviate this problem, the Mexican government created a program in 2003 where people over the age of 60 could work as volunteers bagging groceries to make extra money. The program is managed by the Instituto Nacional de las Personas Adultas Mayores (INAPAM).

INAPAM has established agreements with grocery store chains across the country to provide them with volunteers.

How Much They Make

Typically, people only tip a couple of pesos per bag. Depending on the exchange rate, one peso is the equivalent of 5 cents in the United States.

Daily earnings for a volunteer bagger range from $150 – $300 pesos a day. In U.S. dollars, that would be approximately $7.89 – $15.78 a day.

Let’s Wrap This Up

The other day, I was in a grocery store in Tulum, Mexico and I noticed that most people were paying with credit cards. Without any loose change at their disposal, they just said “gracias” to the bagger and left without tipping.

The moral of the story is this: Even if you’re planning on paying with a credit card, always remember to bring some some old fashioned money — also known as cash — so you can tip these hard-working individuals.

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About the Author

Q-Roo Paul
Paul Kurtzweil (Q-Roo Paul) was a deputy sheriff in Florida for 25 years and retired at the rank of lieutenant in 2015. He moved to Mexico with his wife six days later to enjoy a laid-back, Caribbean lifestyle on a tight budget. In 2016, Paul started a blog to share information with other people who may be thinking of making the move to Mexico. The blog, Two Expats Mexico (qroo.us), has been viewed over a million times.

45 Comments on "Mexico: Why You Should Always Tip Your Bagger"

  1. Tracy and Glenn McDougall | January 20, 2018 at 11:16 am | Reply

    I’m glad you posted this, Paul. So many tourists are not aware. These folks work very hard, and as you say, they are often seniors. But no matter how old or tired, there’s always a warm smile coming back.

  2. Hola and Aloha Paul,
    Many thanks for this info. We are on the plane flying to Cancun now from Kauai and will make sure to keep that on mind and tip generously all over.
    Alison

  3. Great information! A dollar or two USD is nothing to most expats, but means a lot to some of these baggers!

  4. I have a home in La Paz, BCS, and in the bigger stores you will see a line of seniors waiting for their turn to bag. Each is allowed to bag one customer and then they must let the next person come up to the line to bag. Knowing this, I always tip a minimum of 10 pesos.

  5. Sooo glad to learn this.
    Have you done a blog on moving pets to Mecico? If so, how can I find it.

  6. We didn’t know that. We assumed as you did. We have had a lot of groceries recently, and we feel so badly that we were not aware of the tipping. Thank you so much for letting us know, and from now on we will be sure to do this. Evelyn

  7. Great info. Thx

  8. Thank you for posting this, Paul. So many visitors are unaware that not only the baggers but also the guys helping you park and load in the parking lots depend on your gratuities!

  9. I never knew that! Thanks for sharing this info.

  10. Good point about carrying some spare change if you pay by credit card. Another good point too is don’t overtip. Never pay more than double what a local would tip. I got the stink eye many a times from cashier when I gave larger sums to the bagging girl. It can be a significantly larger amount than the cashier is getting paid. Spread the wealth; what ever you would have over tipped can go to other great cause to help the locals.

  11. Janice Michaelson de Valdez | January 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Reply

    Thank you for posting this! When I lived in Reynosa, Tamps., I shopped in HEB and there was a Senior who placed your groceries on the conveyor belt (after politely asking if they may) and another Senior who bagged your groceries. I always smiled, said “gracias” and tipped each 2 pesos. then there was a Senior in the parking lot who put your groceries in your trunk, took your cart back to the cart stall and helped you back out of the parking spot safely. I tipped him 5 pesos, since I thought it was a harder job being outside in all weather. So, all told, my weekly shopping trip cost me 9 pesos in tips…and made me feel good about myself! I now live in Zipolite and do my big weekly shopping at Aurrera in Pochutla. Sometimes there are Seniors bagging and sometimes not. When there are, I always give them 5 pesos. I encourage everyone to tip the Seniors at the grocery stores. They really need it!

  12. Ethel aka Fran | January 20, 2018 at 12:01 pm | Reply

    Knowing these grocery baggers are volunteers, I agree they should be tipped. However, at Publix grocery stores, they pay their baggers and do not want the shopper to tip them. Because so many people probably don’t want to tip, they take their groceries out by themselves and leave the carts all over the parking lot. This just drives me crazy because those carts are expensive. Perhaps that may be why Aldi’s makes you pay a quarter to get a cart and you need to return the cart to get your quarter back. Aldi’s can then have lower prices! Publix shoppers just need to let the baggers take their groceries and if you want to tip them, call the manager and compliment them for a job well done. That is the type of tip they will really appreciate! However, follow the customs in Mexico. I wouldn’t have any problem tipping the grocery baggers if that is what is expected.

  13. Oh bummer! I wish I would have known. Just returned from La Paz and visit to soriana. I now know. Are the kids volunteers also?

  14. What a wonderful system, as long as the gringos are in the loop. And kids can do it, too. Builds a great work ethic. I always carry cambio in my pocket and over tip because they are doing a valuable service for me for pennies. The going rate for our garbsge man is 5 pesos. I always leave 10 pesis for him.
    One thing many tourist may not know is that leaving American coins is next to worthless. Most banks can’t deal with American coins.

  15. I did not know this when I first arrived but now I tip everyone that is a bagger. This does not just pertain to grocery stores. Walmart and other big stores also do not pay there baggers. When in doubt always tip. If you can not afford to tip a few peso then maybe you need to take a look at where you live anblessed with.d what you have been

  16. I am so glad you did a post on this. I’ve always noticed and gladly tipped but I didn’t know that this had been organized. Interesting.

  17. Also tip the person that pumps your gas. 5-10 pesos. Also make sure the pump registers 0000 before he starts to pump.

  18. Great post in both context and detail. We also carry change for the parking attendant, although we always laugh because one time in my enthusiasm to provide the tip, I gave it to another customer!

  19. Hi Paul,
    I am so glad you posted this too- I go to Tulum every year and stay with a friend. I always go to the Chedraui there and never knew to tip but will do so from now on!

  20. I have two comments re: your post:
    Prior to 2016, 90% of baggers at our Bodega in Progreso were teenagers..and most of them were not attending school. It was easier to bag groceries and have some ready cash in hand. Consequently, many of these young people never graduated high school. Not a good start to adulthood. Then everything changed. ALL of the baggers are now adults. And we always tip generously.
    And this is my second comment:
    Let’s not forget the men out in the parking lot who will offer to take your groceries to your car. Help transfer them into a cooler and back seat…then stop traffic in order to safely guide you out of your parking space. These men are volunteers as well and rely on our tips to make ends meet.

    • Parents in Mexico have the choice of sending kids to school either in the morning or the afternoon so all school kids get either the morning or the afternoon off. This is why you always see kids either working or just hanging out with their friends. They are not skipping school, they are just on the other shift.

  21. God Bless you, Paul for bringing a social necessity such as this to our attention. There but for the Grace of God, go, us! So, a simple tip will help a senior and engender a sense of reciprocal caring.!! You and Linda provide such a necessary resource for expats of all backgrounds to segue compassionately into the Mexican mainstream.

  22. Thank you for a very valuable “tip.” We are so used to carrying and loading our own groceries and even pumping our own gas here in the US that we don’t find it necessary to be helped. However, we will gladly adopt this custom on our next trip down!

  23. David J Houston | January 20, 2018 at 4:52 pm | Reply

    Good info Paul. Is this also true of the baggers at the Walmart in Playa? Or do the baggers there get paid an hourly wage? Thought Walmart being a US company would pay even the baggers an hourly wage.

  24. The first few times I visited Mexico I didn’t realize that I could tip them. It’s great that you published this. I hope every tourists gets to read it before visiting.

  25. Yes I I always tip my baggers who in CancunCentro are most always kids in school uniforms. My Mexican friends had told me to do this and I also tip the man who helps me back out of a parking space. Have been doing this for aver 20years now.

    y

  26. Thanks, Paul! I learned this long ago and make sure that any guests that stay at my condo also know this cultural difference. m

  27. Thank you! I did not know this until recently and am so grateful you posted this explanation. Every help wanted sign I have seen traveling specifies ages 18-30 to apply so opportnities are very limited for employment.

  28. We live in a USA border town and often shop in Mexico. We tip as well and the smiles we get in return are priceless.

  29. I’ve always tipped but I’ve also always been curious about why so many of the baggers were seniors. Good info. Any thoughts on how much to tip the gas station attendants?

  30. Thanks for posting this Paul. I have wondered and didn’t know this is a government program. Sometimes the bagger is young Working age. Sometimes a teen. Sometimes in their 20s. Are they store employees receiving a wage or are they also volunteers working for tips?

  31. Don’t forget to tip the people that take your groceries out to your car and load the groceries in it, the gas station attendants, the people flagging your car to back out of a parking spot and a the list can go on and on

  32. Were moving to Akumal in a week and these little things will certainly come in handy as we adapt to living in the Mexican culture.
    Thank again Paul for another great TIP! No punn intended…… well, maybe just a little punn, haha

  33. I have always tipped. Used to be 10 pesos, but with the exchange rate today my standard tip is 20 pesos. Just think about for a second. That’s just over a dollar (US). Restaurants I do more. I’m on a very tight budget and this doesn’t hurt at all, and the appreciation is all over their face. It’s worth a buck to me.

  34. I am curious, when we visited Puerto Vallarta last year we were told that the minimum wage was about 80 pesos a day for an average worker or 4-5US dollars (depending on the exchange rate). If one is tipping the baggers and they get 7-15 dollars a day this is much more than the minimum wage of the average worker.

    I have a moral dilemma, of all the tipping that is expected when we go to Mexico. Tips for everyone…
    Things that we don’t tip for in our home countries.
    We get charged much more for things because we are perceived as being ‘rich’. In a lot of cases when I ask a price of something they ask for more than we would pay for an item in the US or Canada.
    In the small market shops the prices that tourists pay are double what the locals are charged.
    A bottle of hot sauce marked 1.30pesos for the locals is 2.60pesos for us.
    I had several cases where I was not given the correct change, getting one of the tiny silver 50 coin denominations back instead of the gold coloured 50 coin denomination, I should have received.
    If they treated us fairly and didn’t try to rip us off at every opportunity, I wouldn’t have such a hard time with the tipping, but it seems excessive to me, everyone has their hand in our pockets.
    As bad as it is in Puerto Vallarta, the previous year when I was in Cancun, it was much worse.
    I have since learned that overcharging a marked price is illegal according to PROFECO
    I don’t have a problem tipping for good service, but when everyone you come into contact with
    ‘expects’ to be tipped it get to be a little much.

    • In six winters of RV’ing the back roads of Mexico we have never seen any item with two price tags on it, one for locals and one for tourists. Never.

      Hardly anyone works for “minimum wage” in mexico. Even the most menial jobs are advertised as paying 3X min wage or 5X min wage, It is just used as a baseline for determining wages. Wages are low in Mexico, no doubt about it, but not as low as a person might think. This is the reason fewer and fewer people are heading to the US (legally or illegally) to find work, it is possible for a young person to earn a living in Mexico.

      Baggers and car park guys indeed depend on tips and if you watch carefully, everyone tips, even the locals. I tip baggers three or four pesos, five if I have no small change The guy who helps load my car and stops traffic while I back out gets a similar amount.

      I also always tip the Red Cross (ambulance) guys who look for donations at toll booths.

  35. Does anybody think like my? why don’t the big and rich chain stores pay some employees to bag? why do we the customers feel like we should help these poor people to make some ridicules extra money to survive?
    I never feel good giving 10 or 20 pesos to them! I feel like they are “begging” for anything you could spare… and it doesn’t matter how much I am willing to give them, is NEVER enough!

    • “It is never enough”? I have shopped hundreds of times and don’t think I have ever given more than 2 – 4 pesos and I have received a friendly “Gracias” in return every time. Sometimes I wonder if some commenters have ever actually visited Mexico.

  36. Prior to 2003 they had school kids bagging for tips, and spending the money on candy and such. We were very glad to see the change to seniors.

  37. Alicia sounds a little tightfisted. Probably from NJ

  38. Patricia Carroll | February 4, 2018 at 12:38 pm | Reply

    I have always tipped the baggers and parking lot fellows. They always provide an awesome service to me, especially as I get older. I thought Walmart had paid employees bagging, I will certainly tip them in the future.

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