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Commissaries move to stem 'bulk buying,' coupon abuse

Feb. 27, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
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DECA announced Feb. 26 that commissaries will no longer accept orders or issue refunds for 'unreasonable quantities of items.'
DECA announced Feb. 26 that commissaries will no longer accept orders or issue refunds for 'unreasonable quantities of items.' (Army)
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A policy update posted Wednesday on Facebook by the Defense Commissary Agency is aimed at preventing abuse of the system through bulk buying and coupon redemption.

Customers will no longer be able to make special orders for “unreasonable quantities” of items, or make frequent or multiple special orders, under the policy. DeCA defines “unreasonable” as exceeding three cases or 36 units.

The change was made to discourage patrons from purchasing items for resale or excessive monetary refunds, according to DeCA’s Facebook posting Wednesday.

This follows a statement by DeCA nearly two years ago that large purchases involving more than 36 units would “raise a red flag that there could be potential for abuse.” It was not immediately clear what more has happened in the past two years to institute a prohibition on special orders of large quantities.

Commissaries will also no longer allow returns of “unreasonable quantities.”

In the same move, commissary officials also tightened up their rules on coupon redemption. Customers will no longer be allowed to split their shopping into multiple transactions for orders with coupon “overage.”

Overages happen when the face value of the coupon exceeds the price of the item. Most manufacturer coupons are geared to prices in civilian stores; commissary prices are already discounted.

Under an earlier policy that DeCA instituted in May 2012 to address “extreme couponing,” stores no longer issue cash refunds for more than $25. Overages of $25 or more are refunded in commissary gift cards.

Officials said using gift cards to cover the overages discourages customers to do things that are contrary to DeCA’s mission, which is to provide a benefit that sells groceries at cost.

This newly tightened regulation means that customers will no longer be able to split their transactions in an effort to get more cash back. And customers won’t be able to make money on the system by ordering items that match their stash of multiple coupons, getting cash refunds because of coupon overages, and then later returning the large quantities of items. Comments on the commissary’s Facebook page indicate some customers have been doing that.

One customer posted on the Facebook page that it’s OK to sell “couponing items” for less than the price paid in the store. However, it is against Defense Department regulations to resell any items purchased in commissaries.

As DeCA’s Facebook policy statement notes, commissaries are required to report suspected privilege abuse, which includes the purchase or return of unreasonable quantities of any items.

A number of shoppers posted that they buy larger quantities because they have large families, and some said they shop only once a month. Others said they buy large quantities of items and donate some to charities, such as installation food pantries.

But many were supportive of the limitations, saying they have seen shoppers empty the shelves of a particular item.

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