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Commissary Shopping Can Mean Extra Bonus for Shoppers

By Bonnie Powell
Special to American Forces Press Service

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala., Sept. 15, 1999 – Cars, shopping sprees, trips. Those are just a few of the side benefits of shopping at the local commissary. Just ask Linda C. Prejeant of Panama City, Fla.

Prejeant recently won a nationwide contest just by sending in an entry form found in one of the many coupon magazines that shoppers can pick up at commissary entrances. She and Betty Metcalf of Hill Air Force Base, Utah, Kay Luevano of Fort Hood, Texas, and Joseph Fortuna of Carlisle Barracks, Pa., won trips to Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla. The prizes include airfare, passes to Universal Studios, and accommodations.

Prejeant plans to treat her widowed, handicapped sister's daughter. "My little niece has had a really hard time of it. This gives her something to look forward to in December," she said. Prejeant shops regularly in the commissary at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. "I'm a disabled veteran so I'm a frugal shopper. I enter everything (contest) that's there."

Millions of authorized shoppers know they save 20 percent to 30 percent on their grocery bills by using their commissary store, but shoppers have also won cars, all-expenses-paid trips and millions of dollars in shopping sprees at stores all over the world, all through manufacturer- sponsored promotions.

Sgt. Earline Jackson LaGuerre of Fort Bragg, N.C., found out about entering contests when she won a new car at her post commissary. "I have two growing boys, so it pays to shop there," she said. She sent in a contest entry from a pack of cookies on display. "I don't enter contests that much, but I had been praying for a new car so I sent in a couple of entries." She received the keys to her new car in April.

At Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., top enlisted honorees of 1999 received shopping sprees. "We thought this was a fun way to honor the best of the best at Eglin," Commissary Officer Barbara Sannino said.

Grocery manufacturers and distributors foot the bill for commissary prizes and sprees, not the Defense Commissary Agency, its stores or other shoppers. All shoppers win when they take advantage of special sales or promotions, often held in conjunction with the contests, agency officials said. DeCA operates 291 commissaries worldwide, so the savings -- and the prizes -- add up to millions of dollars annually.

"Many of the promotions are done by individual commissaries so it's difficult to track the exact dollar amount of shopping sprees that manufacturers give away," DeCA zone manager James Perleth said. "But it's safe to say our customers win sprees totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. So next time you're at the commissary, don't pass up that contest entry box or coupon magazine. You just never know what you might win!"

[Bonnie Powell is the public affairs officer of Defense Commissary Agency Southern Area at Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.]

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