“Attention Shoppers, effectively immediately ALL Honorably Discharged Veterans will be able to shop the AAFES online store.”
Sounds outlandish? Thinking you are hearing things? Think again! Although the story has only recently gained widespread attention, the AAFES command presented just such a proposal in a May 8th memo.
According to a report in Stars and Stripes, AAFES CEO Thomas Shull claims that allowing the almost 22 million honorably discharged veterans to shop at the online outlet could result in $1 billion per year in sales. Shull calls this a “win-win-win” as the increase in sales would boost the agency’s ability to purchase in bulk, allow more veterans to benefit from the reduced prices, and allow more money to be returned to MWR programs supported by the AAFES.
The bigger question is, what do you think?
Personally, I am split on my opinion.
On one hand, I am a veteran and would be one of the new approved users. I can see the advantages for both the veterans and AAFES. The new users would be able to enjoy the savings offered by the Exchange system and AAFES would benefit from potential increase in revenue which in turn would be funneled into the MWR program.
Besides being a veteran, I am also the spouse of a now retired member and we already enjoy the benefits of shopping at the nearby Exchange and Commissary. Each weekend we do our regular grocery shopping at the local base; my eldest daughter even works at the Commissary. Although we do not utilize the Exchange as much, mainly because of its size, but when we do it is usually for high ticket items on which the savings is greatest – especially when we do not need to pay state sales tax.
It is because of these weekly shopping trips, or rather what I observe during these trips, that causes me concern in regards to opening the system to more users. It is a common practice for authorized users to have multiple family members, sometimes multiple generations, shopping with them. Pushing 4 and 5 carts through the store, filled to the brim with a half dozen jugs of milk, 8 loaves of bread and a quarter of the meat cooler, it is obvious they are shopping for more than one household. Despite ID card scanners at the checkout and attempts by the staff to police abuse, it occurs none the less.
What is to stop this same abuse if the Exchange system is opened to more users? More importantly, what is to keep similar changes from happening at the Commissary or MWR facilities?
Proponents argue that the expansion would be limited to the online store only. But, if profits can be increased via additional foot traffic at the brick and mortar stores, I believe it is only a matter of time. Again, proponents state that it would be too difficult to allow access to veterans, who lack the proper ID card for base entry. However, some system of verification would be necessary for the online store as well – what would stop bases from using this same verification system to allow these veterans visitor access?
Bottom line is, I do not know if this is a good idea or not. I hope that prior to making any changes, the AAFES command would avoid a knee jerk decision and evaluate the long term effects. More importantly, I hope they would ask the current users for input.
Disclaimer: The opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of this website. This author accepts all responsibility for the opinions and viewpoints in this article.