Have you ever thought about tipping the folks who bag your purchases at the grocery store? If you are from the USA, probably not. But things work differently in other countries.
When visiting these places, it’s important to notice and abide by the social mores in your host country. Doing so will avoid any drama or ill will. It also helps to destroy the “Ugly American” traveler stereotype.
Take a look at the photo below. The people in the Santa hats are bagging groceries at the large supermarket near the condo where I am staying in Mexico. Most of the baggers in the store are senior (or perhaps “señor”?) citizens.
Guess what? They aren’t being paid by the grocery store.
They work entirely for the tips shoppers give them.
This type of “working for tips” gig isn’t universal in any country I’m aware of, but I’ve seen it a lot in Mexico, Colombia, and some of the more impoverished South American countries. I’ve only seen it at the very large chain grocery stores.
Failing to tip these aging baggers is a social faux pas. It’s the foreign equivalent of leaving your shopping cart in the middle of a store’s parking lot instead of in the cart corral. People simply think you are an asshole. That’s not cool when visiting a country where you have few local contacts. If everyone thinks you are rude, you will not have a good travel experience.
How do you know whether or not to tip your baggers? Watch the locals. Pull your head out of your phone and observe what the people in line ahead of you do. Follow suit.
You may also notice small stacks of coins near the bagger. That’s another clue.
There are no set amounts for the tip. Most people just give the bagger the coins they received in change after paying for the groceries. If you are paying with a credit card, give up to a US dollar or so.
I always carry some small coins in my pocket when traveling. They are handy in situations like this where you are expected to give a small tip. You will also need those coins to pay for access to a public toilet in much of the developing world.