4 Things I Learned as a Grocery Bag Boy

I look back on my days as a grocery bag boy and a grin comes to my face.  This grin has mixed emotion.  Working at a grocery store was one of those jobs where you did it because it was the only thing you could think of at the time.  I remember I was 16 and tired of being broke.  I was sick of asking my parents for money every week.  I wanted MORE.  So, this lead me to walking down to the nearest grocery store and getting a job as a bag boy.  Yes, you heard me, a bag boy.

If you look at the way a grocery store is structured, you’ll notice that the “bag boy” is at the bottom of the ladder.

I was the jack of all trades.  If there was a spill on aisle three, I was on it.  If there were missing carts out in the parking lot, I was chasing them down.  If a customer needed help out to their car, I was the guy for the job.  Sounds glamorous doesn’t it?  It actually wasn’t.  Looking back on all the jobs I had, it was definitely one of my least favorite.  However, this is the one job that had the greatest impact on my life.  There are just some things you can’t learn working white collar jobs.  Here are a few take-aways from working at my local grocery store.

1. If you want to move up, work harder than the person next to you.

Working at a grocery store, actions speak louder than words.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard employees tell managers they were going to do something but never did.  It’s much more impressive to look the manager in the eye, and assure them it will be done immediately and then go carry out your task.  Also, as a Christian, I had a higher calling than simply trying to impress my boss.  God was my boss, and even though I didn’t enjoy waking up at 6AM to go to work, I was going to work my butt off that day.  The hard work paid off.  Within three years, I moved up two positions and ended up landing in the produce department 🙂

2. It’s the simple things that count.

There was something special about helping old grandmothers get a jar off the shelf or even offering customers help out to their car.  Even though I was just a bag boy, offering this extra “service” really made people’s days.  When I saw their expressions, it made a world of difference in my day too!

3. The customer never sleeps.

There was always a steady stream of customers coming into the grocery I worked at.  During the first few weeks, it was overwhelming but I ended up getting used to it.  With the thousands of customers coming in on a daily basis, I could never let my guard down.  This taught me a sense of personal responsibility to keep my “A game” on at all time during the eight hours of work.  A customer wanted not just a product but a shopping experience.  It was my job to provide this for them.  This has carried over into my professional life in the construction industry.  Now, it’s more like the “owner” never sleeps.  While at work, it’s critical to be on top of your game and provide a superior end product.

4. Boring, repetitive tasks build your work ethic.

I had moved up to the dairy department and one of my duties was to stock the entire dairy aisle.  This included everything from butter to milk to eggs.  It’s probably one of the more monotonous jobs I’ve had in my life.  It taught me discipline and instilled the drive to get things done faster and more efficiently.  I remember stocking shelves one time and found a faster way to unstack milk cases to stock the cold refrigerators.  Not only did this make my job easier, but it became a challenge.  That has stuck with me to this day.  Always be looking for areas of improvement so you can work more efficiently.

All in all, the grocery store treated me well.  I still remember that good feeling of getting a 20 cent raise.  Even though it was small, it made my day.  I hope you can take these lessons I learned and apply them to your life.

Comment below and share with us some of your work experiences!

Photo by Polycart

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8 Comments
  1. Laura

    I worked in a department store for a few years. It was nice sometimes, I liked helping people with the simple things too. Working on the floor was nicer than when I became a cashier later. But, it taught me the value of having some space and keeping it. You can be helpful and do for others but you always need to keep something for yourself or you won’t be good for anyone.

    • Yah, if you give too much of yourself, you start to neglect your own duties, and that’s never a good thing! The key is balance and helping when you can.

      Man, I never made it to cashier, they actually make pretty decent money from what I hear!

  2. Matthew

    One of my first jobs was as a grocery store bag boy. I learned the proper way to bag items, which has stuck with me to this day.

    Perhaps the most important thing that I learned from that early job was the importance of relationships in the workplace. During busy times and those occasional bad days you have to support one another. After learning your coworker’s strengths and weaknesses you might discover that you don’t mind doing something they dislike, and vice versa.
    Ultimately, the people can make the job. I ended up quitting because the relationships changed for the worse.

    • Oh no! Yah, I was blessed with some awesome co-workers. There were definitely some tight wads who took things at work a little too seriously.

      I totally agree with you in terms of helping each other out during rough times of the day. Because I did that, people helped me out a lot like taking a shift for me when I needed it. I’m not implying that you should do it just for that, but it’s natural for people to want to help you out if you do it for them!

  3. Thanks for the kind words Sarah! You are so right about setting oneself up for a bright future. The sooner a person learns these principles, the better off they will be. I’m so thankful for it! There is a stark difference between people who did the “dirty” jobs and ones who barely worked at all in their younger years.

  4. Ryan Grant

    Hi Jon, Thank you for this awesome article. Working in pure customer service (lest face it, there was no selling in grocery isles) taught me the value of people, and hard work. I still recount the day pushing trolleys in from the car park, when the Managing Director (in from 1200kms away) pulls in beside me to push some as well, and says: you are never too far up to collect trolleys. That job instilled a pride in my work I have endeavoured to maintain to this day. I am still amazed at the lack of respect some young people have for the valuable life lessons they have at their fingertips. Thank you again Jon!

    • My pleasure Ryan, loved the opportunity to share my experience.

      I had a similar experience when a manager helped me stock toilet paper. I’m sure it was humbling but it taught me to never be prideful in my work. Everyone should do their part, even if it means a higher level employee has to clean up. I agree with the lack of respect, this generation needs a swift kick in the butt haha.

  5. Being a blessing to other people is a very joyful act. Helping them in some simple things really matters even though they seem that it is not. I can tell it because when someone helps me in carrying bags or anything, it really makes my day! I feel blessed and overwhelmed to know that God is still in our lives that makes us eager to help other people. Let us not be tired in helping other people and let us always remember that God can see what we are doing and our labor is not in vain.

    Bless us all by the power of our God!