(Gannett Government Media)
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Imagine going commissary shopping without stepping foot inside a store — you'd just order online and pick up your groceries curbside.
Commissary officials recognize that more people are shopping online, so they're moving toward allowing customers to do just that, says Joseph Jeu, director of the Defense Commissary Agency.
Some civilian stores have had this service available for years. DeCA will begin a test run next spring at the commissary at Fort Lee, Va., home to the agency's headquarters, and maybe one or two other stores, Jeu said.
The service will be available only Monday through Friday, he said, because that works best for the intended purpose — pickup on the way home from work.
Commissary officials will have to run the test for at least six months, Jeu said, so if the call is made to roll it out to other stores, that wouldn't happen before late next year.
DeCA tried its hand at online shopping with its Virtual Commissary, where customers could order a limited selection of items to be shipped to them directly. It was mostly gift baskets with the idea that it someday would expand, but the program fizzled two years ago.
For the new plan, officials conducted a limited test of placing orders for deli sandwiches at the Fort Lee commissary, and it worked very well, Jeu said. Another limited test allowed customers to pre-order and pre-pay for an onsite Guard and reserve commissary sale in Rome, N.Y.
If this works, DeCA may consider other possibilities — such as delivering online orders to dormitories and barracks.
But for now, the focus "really is on curbside pickup," Jeu said.
Price-checking mobile app
DeCA has more plans in the works: a mobile app that would allow authorized shoppers to check prices. That could be a convenient comparison tool if you're in a commercial grocery store. A time frame for this hasn't been set yet; it's in the research phases. Authorized shoppers would be verified using the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System.
Coupon card now worldwide
Commissary customer "rewards" coupon cards have now reached every commissary worldwide, Jeu said. "So far, about 50 percent of customers who have received the card have gone online and registered, which is a pretty high rate," Jeu said. "It looks like there's great acceptance."
Customers download coupons electronically, then take the card to the commissary, where it's swiped at the register. You can print out the coupons you've downloaded to help you make sure you've chosen the right size and brand to get the savings.
The coupon savings are over and above the average 32 percent savings the commissary offers as a baseline compared with commercial grocery stores.