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Exchanges Offer Best Prices

By Staff Sgt. Alicia K. Borlik
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 2, 1998 – Military exchanges want your business, and they're lowering prices to get it.

Officials of all the services' exchanges said their stores offer price match and best-price guarantees. If a customer finds an item cheaper locally, the exchange will match the price. Also, the exchange will refund the difference if a customer buys something in the store and then finds it advertised cheaper locally within 30 days.

"Local" includes the exchange and its customers' general shopping area -- usually within a 50-mile radius.

All three exchange systems require no proof or verification of price differences under $5. For larger amounts, officials said, customers can verify their claim by bringing in the competitor's advertisement. If an ad isn't available, the exchange can call the competitor to verify the price.

"Price surveyors check the local competition to make sure our prices are competitive," said Steve Fair, senior vice president of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Sales Directorate. "In case we've missed something, our customers can use the Best Price Program."

AAFES price surveyors, for instance, receive monthly price comparison lists from the service's Dallas headquarters. The list contains at least 450 items ranging from health and beauty aids to electronic equipment, one price surveyor said.

Surveyors compare and report their findings to the local store manager. Prices on small items are automatically marked down if the exchange's price is higher than the competition, the surveyor said.

"I try to get our customers the best price in town," she said. On larger items, however, the manager decides whether to match the price immediately or leave it to the best price program, she noted.

In most cases, the check-out cashier needs only to see the ad to honor the lower price. The exchange office handles refunds and cases where an ad isn't available.

All the exchange services exclude commissary prices. AAFES also excludes fine jewelry, alcohol and catalog and clearance items.

The Marine Corps and Navy exchanges exclude prices from double- and triple-coupon specials, clearances, percent- and dollar-off items, and going-out-of-business sales. The Marines also don't match prices on gas, special orders, alcohol and tobacco products; the Navy excludes auto repairs and gas.

Due soon is the Navy Exchange's new "Nobody Beats" price policy. One possible addition to its program is price comparison with Internet stores and catalogs, said Michael Mongin, Navy Exchange retail acquisition specialist. Neither AAFES nor the Marines offer this service.

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