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WWW.Huh?: Commissaries.com Offers Services, Convenience

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

FORT LEE, Va., March 21, 2000 – Say, for instance, your family has just moved to a new base and you need to know how late the local commissary is open. You could try calling and dealing with the endless choices offered by the mechanical voice on the base switchboard. But wouldn't it be much easier to punch up info about your local store on the Internet without having to go through an elaborate search?

Well, now you can. The relatively new (launched in Fall 1999) Commissaries.com offers just about any information you could be looking for about your local commissary in one central site. Individual links will take you to any commissary store in the system.

Individual store sites are a wealth of information about what's available in your local store. They give basic information such as store hours, directions to the store, which credit cards the store accepts, and the store manager's e-mail address. The sites also have space for the local managers to personalize and bring attention to any special features their stores offer.

For instance, the Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, store offers a full-service deli and bakery, featuring made-to- order deli sandwiches, party trays and special-occasion decorated cakes. The commissary at Fort Belvoir, Va., features a full-service seafood department, an in-store bank and rotisserie chicken.

The Belvoir store's site also boasts that their commissary was the winner of the best meat department in a northern commissary in 1999. This type of information might be particularly helpful to someone trying to decide which commissary to patronize in the crowded Washington, D.C., area. And these are just two examples chosen at random.

The great thing about these individual sites is that the individual store managers edit them -- not someone in the Defense Commissary Agency headquarters in Fort Lee, Va. This allows the stores to put up more personalized information about their features and allows them to make changes instantly. If the info about an individual store is wrong, the store managers have no one but themselves to blame.

Besides information on individual stores, the site has a number of helpful features. Perhaps the most useful is a listing of sale items for the current week. Commissaries are prohibited by law from advertising their prices outside the stores, but this site lists sales by the percentage off the regular price. The site lists nearly 200 sale items, which might be a valuable resource to use in planning a shopping list or menus for the week. The sale items are broken down into convenient categories, making navigating the long list fairly easy.

Other useful pages on the site explain the history of the commissary system, how much commissary users can expect to save over civilian grocery stores, and what the 5 percent surcharge is used for.

As a service to customers, the commissary folks have also included links to nearly 30 free recipe sites, 40 other government sites, and several grocery, food safety and small business sites.

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