In prior posts, I discussed my first few jobs:
- As a newspaper delivery boy at the age of 10.
- Doing house chores when I was 11.
- Mowing neighbor’s lawns when I was 12.
My fourth job — a bag boy at Kroger — started when I was 14.
My Fourth Job: Bag Boy
As my 16 birthday approached and I became more aware that I needed to save for a car I realized I needed another job. My other job of mowing lawns was seasonal and, even at its peak of $200/month, was not going to allow me to meet my financial goal. So during the Spring Break of my first year of high school I applied to be a bag boy / bagger / sacker / courtesy clerk at Kroger. While others enjoyed the sun of Panama City, I enjoyed the heat island of a Kroger parking lot.
My responsibilities included putting groceries into a shopping bag (“Paper or plastic?”) and then into a shopping cart. I usually took the groceries out to the customer’s car unless they refused. Every other hour we had 30 minute intervals of “cart duty”, where we collected the grocery carts from parking lot. During this time, the female baggers would be assigned “returns”, where they put items customers initially intended to purchase but changed their mind about at the register back on the shelf.
The job paid Georgia’s minimum wage of $4.15/hr. Later, I would learn that only 4.2% of hourly workers in Georgia made this or lower at the time. In other words, nearly 96% of hourly workers in Georgia made more than me.
My first paycheck — $166 minus witholdings– was depressing considering I gave up my entire Spring Break. Later, I worked after school 4pm to 7pm and usually one weekend day every week, which came to about 15-20 hours/week. That means weekly I could expect about $60 – $80.
Lessons from My Fourth Job: Courtesy Clerk
- Being paid by the hour sucks: No matter what I did or how hard I worked, I got paid the same for every hour of effort I put forth. I could do the most grueling work, be the fastest bagger, or get rave customer reviews, but it wouldn’t matter — each hour was considered of equal value. Today, I’ve learned this lesson by fix-bidding projects or selling based on value. Whether it takes us 40 or 80 hours doesn’t matter — the question is how much is the client willing to pay for the end result.
- Tips are for girls: After a few weeks I learned the dark secrets of tipping. Namely, that attractive, young females will almost always get bigger tips than males, regardless of the customer’s gender. So true was this secret that Publix, which didn’t allow tipping and paid a flat hourly of $6/hour, had more male baggers than female ones.
- Calculate in commute time: Since I lived just short of a mile from Kroger, I would walk to and from there. This added about 30 minutes to my daily commute. Today, however, my 7 mile one-way commute is around 15 minutes by car, or 20 minutes by bike. I should be grateful — Atlanta has the worst traffic in the U.S. where the average commuter spends 60 hours/year stuck in traffic, or nearly one and a half weeks of non-paid work.
Next time, my fifth job as a cashier at Petsmart.