It’s about time for my regular, unscheduled rant about the price of the products that are carried at the military exchanges. We’ve just come back from five years living at places with very limited exchange offerings. Now that we’re back to full-size stores, I am disappointed with the choices available. More importantly, I don’t see how the choices (and prices) meet the mission of serving military families.
For your reference, here are the missions of the two exchange systems:
Navy Exchange mission: to provide authorized customers with quality goods and services at a savings and to support Navy quality of life programs for active duty military, retirees, reservists and their families.
AAFES mission: We go where you go to improve your quality of life through the goods and services we provide.
In the whole moving from uniforms to regular school clothes, one of my children has found herself with not enough clothes to get through the school week. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on her clothes because she is 13 and isn’t likely to get a lot of use out of them before she grows. Plus, I just don’t like to spend a lot on clothes. We’re usually thrift store and consignment shoppers, but time was of the essence, so I thought we would go to the nearest Navy exchange.
Well, goodness, that was disappointing.
The selection wasn’t great, but more disappointing was the prices. The store has some really nice products – really, really nice. We’re talking Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, and Ralph Lauren. But you know what…I don’t need those brands. I need basic, serviceable clothing at an affordable price. Now, the store does offer some more moderate brands, but even those aren’t cheap. Even scouring the clearance racks, I couldn’t find a pair of trousers for less than $25 a pair. I know that a lot of people think that is a perfectly reasonable price, but I don’t. And being familiar with the military pay charts, I’m pretty sure there are significant number of military families that aren’t budgeting $25 for a pair of trousers for a 13-year-old.
Which brings me to the same questions I always ask: For whom are the Exchanges purchasing these products? And if military families can’t afford to shop at the Exchange, where are they shopping? Does the product mix being offered by the military Exchange stores meet the missions of the stores?