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Consumer Watch: Exchanges must pay fuel taxes, but on-base gas is still a good deal

May. 17, 2012 - 11:33AM   |   Last Updated: May. 17, 2012 - 11:33AM  |  
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Specialty catalogs

The complete list of specialty catalogs out now:
Catalog       Good through
Spring Style        May 22
Home Décor       May 22
Electronics       June 12
Outdoor Living       July 3
Summer        Aug. 28
Kitchen Kids Exchange       Sept. 25

Everyone is on the lookout for the cheapest gas prices. So now and again, a reader will write to ask: Why do gas stations on base charge roughly the same price for fuel as their competitors in town?

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Everyone is on the lookout for the cheapest gas prices. So now and again, a reader will write to ask: Why do gas stations on base charge roughly the same price for fuel as their competitors in town?

"If we are not to be charged federal or state taxes for items purchased from [exchanges] on base, why do the prices reflect the fuel prices that have the tax added in off base?" asked a Marine staff sergeant stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Actually, the services' military exchange systems do pay taxes on fuel. The Hayden-Cartwright Act requires that all the exchange services "pay federal, state and local motor fuel taxes, as well as underground storage fees, and other costs of running a gas station," said Bryan Driver, spokesman for the Semper Fit and Exchange Services Division, which oversees the Corps' exchange operations, including gas stations.

Further fueling competition, some stores outside the gate may choose to price gasoline at a loss while pricing other merchandise much higher to make up for the loss, he noted.

"The MCX consistently offers competitive prices in our Marine Marts and gas stations," he said.

The Marine staff sergeant who wrote to us agreed to do a price check for me. On the morning of April 19, regular gas at Camp Pendleton was listed at $4.15. That same morning, when he checked in nearby Fallbrook, Calif., the 7-Eleven listed gas at $4.25; the 76 station price was $4.17; Arco was $4.15; and Shell was $4.29.

So at least in that window of time, at those particular stores, the prices at the gas station on base matched the lowest price he found off base.

Kitchen catalog

Prices in the new Summer Kitchen catalog are good through Aug. 28 for authorized exchange customers.

The 32-page catalog offers everything from top brands in appliances to the newest cookware, with deals on cutlery, china and more.

It includes Rachael Ray's cookware and dinnerware and Paula Deen's cookware, not to mention toasters, ice cream makers, snow cone makers, soda machines, coffee makers and microwaves.

The 2012 Kitchen Essentials Spring/Summer Catalog is available free at main exchange stores and online at">,"> and">

Review the prices in the catalog and compare them to those at other online retailers and stores and remember that you don't have to pay tax with the exchanges. Don't forget to include shipping charges in your comparisons.

Pet project

Through May 31, your pet and your creativity could win you $500. That would buy a lot of food for your puppy, calico cat, horse, snake, ferret or other cuddly creature.

Authorized exchange shoppers can submit a photo they have taken of a special pet, along with a description of 50 words or less, to the "Just Say Treat" contest. Any authorized exchange shopper 18 and older can enter; one photo is allowed per family.

Two second-place prizes of $250 each will be awarded, and five runners-up will get $50 each.

To enter the contest, email the digital photo to"> with the subject line "Patriot Family Pet." At the top of the email, include your name, address, daytime phone number, rank or occupation, plus the name of your nearest exchange, and the name and breed or type of your pet.

Don't forget your short description of your pet.">Click here for complete rules.

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