I can get annoyed with the Commissary sometimes but overall, I think they are a great privilege and entity to have on military installations. When we lived overseas, the Commissary benefits hugely helped out our budget as well as our fix for mainland items. The commissary sees hundreds of customers per day but what do we know about them besides the savings?

11 Things you might not know about the commissary

Here are 11 Things You Might Not Know About the Commissary

  1. One Long Line is Better. I always wondered why there is one long queue of a line at the commissary versus multiple lines (like in a civilian grocery store). What better answer than straight from the horse’s mouth? Ahem, from a commissary media representative, “All commissaries use single queue lines. It’s actually much faster than individual register lines. For the patron, you never get stuck in the “slow line.” The store associate or line manager spots which line is free or moving and directs patrons there accordingly. The free-for-all approach you mention has been proven on average to be longer — in some cases two to three times longer.The single-queue line system was popularized by Whole Foods in 2001 and many major retailers, such as Trader Joes, have embraced it. Our dedicated store associates are key to the success of this system as they monitor the flow of people waiting to check out and direct them to the nearest available cash register.” There you have it.
  2. They’re Not in Control of their Own Parking Lot. Too many spots for officers?! No dice here. That’s a command issue. The commissary is technically a “tenant” and therefore the commander is the one to authorize the parking facilities and designate reserved parking spaces.
  3. They Don’t Do Direct Mailings. For budget reasons and because they can’t have their prices advertised to non-Commissary users. This explains why you don’t get those circulars from the commissary like you do civilian grocery stores. In order to know the deals, you just have to be a frequent shopper or visit their online sales flyer often.
  4. You Can Know Your Exact Savings. By visiting the sales and events page of the website (Savings Aisle), entering in your commissary (excluding Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto rico), you can see exactly how much is marked off the item you want, and the price it is selling for. Great to comparison shop before you head out.
  5. Absolutely No Profit. Defense Commissary Agency or DeCA is a billion dollar business. But by law, they cannot build any profit into their sale prices. Because of the stringent controls on their budget, this is why they can’t do civilian grocery store practices like doubling coupons, offering rebates, or donating to certain causes.
  6. It’s ok to Scan your ID. Your information is not collected and given to a third party. It is still collected and analyzed by DeCA to confirm information in DEERS as well as to provide products and services directly related to the entire patron base. The info does not reflect you, the individual. It also allows more accurate reporting on commissary usage to the military services.
  7. They Can Ban You for Shelf-Clearing. You can get booted from buying too much of one item as it may be perceived as “privilege abuse”. As a matter of DeCA policy, sales restrictions limiting amount per purchase may be activated by DeCA Headquarters due to product alerts generated by the Federal Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Defense, or command channels.
  8. They Take Special Orders. If you shop at a small commissary in Europe and desire a product which is carried at a larger commissary in Europe, that item may be delivered direct to your store. To find out about special order availability and procedures at your commissary, contact commissary management during a commissary visit, or by e-mail or phone
  9. They Cannot Sell “Loss Leaders”. Here’s why some items are cheaper at civilian stores. A “Loss Leader” is when stores price an item below their cost prices to attract customers who they hope will buy other high profit items during their shopping trip. DeCA is prohibited from doing this practice by law.
  10. No Receipt Needed. They only require receipts on returns/exchanges for tobacco and baby formula. If you’re going to do a return without a receipt, they give you your money back in Commissary gift cards and cash. You can also return items from one commissary to another commissary.
  11. They Give Out Scholarships for Military Children. A minimum of one $2,000 scholarship will be awarded at every commissary location where qualified applications are received. An An applicant must be a dependent, unmarried child, younger than 21 – or 23, if enrolled as a full-time student at a college or university – of a service member on active duty, Reserve or Guard member, retiree or survivor of a military member who died while on active duty, or survivor of a retiree. The scholarship program is administered by the FisherHouse Foundation. The scholarship money comes from Commissary partners and the general public donate money to the program; every dollar donated goes directly to funding the scholarships.
Photo c/o of Dvids