Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Air Force Academy Spirit

Commissary tours to help shoppers stash cash

By Ann Patton

Academy Spirit staff

Pinching pennies until they scream?

Shoppers eligible for commissary privileges can save a bundle, and the commissary staff is going to show them just how to do it with upcoming informational tours.

Tours are set for 1 p.m. both Thursday and March 28.

“The tours are to educate our customers on the commissary,” said Academy Commissary Manager Judy Rodriguez. “It is their commissary.”

Among other tips, guests of the tour will learn how to compare prices and how to take advantage of red, white and blue sale specials. They may also gain an inside look at what goes on in the back of the store where items are received and stored.

The Defense Commissary Agency, which determines prices, prohibits publishing price lists but Ms. Rodriguez said tour guests can feel free to jot down prices on their own for comparison.

Ms. Rodriguez said shoppers can save more than 30 percent on their food bill by shopping there regularly and taking advantage of case-lot sales.

“We sell at cost,” she said. “What DeCA pays for it is what we charge.”

The marketing and business unit of DeCA at Fort. Lee, Va., determines if there is a market for items. It may phase out one item and replace it with another more in demand.

Prices are reviewed every two weeks.

Shoppers can benefit by what is called a vendor credit memo. A supplier can give them a price break and then make up the difference in price to DeCA.

“We are stewards of government funds. We have to take care of taxpayer money,” Ms. Rodriguez said.

She offered some tips for saving money on grocery shopping.

“If you can get something cheaper somewhere else, do it,” she emphasized. “Shoppers have that option, but don’t buy anything else you don’t need.”

She cautioned patrons on what other stores call “lost leaders,” or items deeply discounted to lure shoppers into stores where they may be tempted to purchase other items as well.

Shoppers can also save money by using coupons, during regular store hours and during case-lot sales.

Case-lot sales offer savings to customers buying in bulk on items like paper and canned goods, pet food, condiments, beverages and a small line or perishable items for home freezers.

“Go with the sales. Use coupons,” Ms. Rodriguez said.

She also encourages shoppers to take time to plan what they are going to buy and leave the kids at home, perhaps taking them a treat rather than having kids beg for a large number of items in the store.

Gift certificates, or Certichecks, will be accepted in the store until July 29.

There are three other commissaries in the Front Range area, one each at Peterson and Buckley Air Force bases and Fort Carson.

The Academy commissary has about 85 employees on a normal day. If the Academy is closed for weather, it also closes but is open if essential personnel must report.

The number of commissaries world-wide has decreased from 400 to about 300.

“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” Ms. Rodriguez cautioned.

To sign up for an upcoming tour, call 333-6393.

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