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Commissaries Change Visitor Policy

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 3, 2000 – Thanks to a recent change, authorized customers can now bring guests in while they shop at most commissaries.

Under the policy, identification cards are checked at the checkout lane instead of the door. This still limits purchases to authorized customers. Visitors are not allowed to purchase commissary goods, officials said, and only visitors accompanied by an authorized shopper are allowed to be in a store. Commissary officials maintain the right to spot check for unauthorized people in their stores.

The new visitors policy allows access to the benefit for patrons who otherwise might be inhibited from using what is rightly theirs, John F. McGowan said. McGowan is chief executive officer for the Defense Commissary Agency.

For instance, commissary officials said, shoppers have asked if they could bring in relatives visiting from out of town rather than making them wait in the car. DeCA had also heard from military spouses who found it difficult to use the commissary when they provided home day care, officials said.

This policy was established as an enhancement to the quality of life of our commissary patrons, DeCA spokesman Timothy C. Ford said. Many patrons, both active duty and retired, have complained about having to leave a visiting mother, father, brother, niece, or other family member at home or waiting in a car while making routine grocery purchases.

It also became increasingly difficult to justify not permitting visitor access to commissaries in cases where visitors are allowed in almost all other service or retail facilities on an installation, he said.

Commissary officials added that installation or higher- level commanders may still require ID checks for entry because the policy allows exceptions due to security concerns.

To date, about a dozen of the more than 300 commissaries worldwide still require ID checks at the door, Ford said.

For example, commissaries working with local commanders in Okinawa, Japan, tried the new policy, but will return ID checks to the front doors in response to customer concerns, he said.

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