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Military Exchange Peculiarities


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In a recent thread requesting opinions about the 12v max reciprocating saw, posted in the DeWalt sub-forum, I mentioned the peculiar habits of military exchanges--particularly Army and Air Force (AAFES, or BX/PX) stores.  I cannot vouch for every installation, but I've noticed this on Fort Stewart, Fort Benning, Fort Jackson, Shaw AFB, and a few other places.  I know that not all of you have access to these stores, but from interactions and screen names there are a number of veterans here.  If you can't access them, odds are you know someone who can, so it's well worth a trip so long as a military post is in your area.  Keep in mind that Reserve centers and most National Guard posts do not have full exchanges.  At most they might offer gas, a convenience store, and a small military clothing and personal comfort section.


Regular Pricing

It is widely known that exchange prices are often beat out by off-post retailers such as Walmart.  Early in my career the PX was known as a place where junior enlisted couldn't afford to shop.  The clothing sections were filled with premium brands and it was much cheaper to simply go to Sears (remember when those were prevalent?) to outfit the family.  Shortly after this was reported, AAFES started attempting to better compete by releasing their own brands.  Tools are not among the AAFES exclusive brands, however.


I ventured into the PX today and found a FatMax 25' tape measure for the low price of $28.  Right now, I can drive to Home Depot and buy two identical tape measures for $20, receiving an additional 10% military discount.  Simply put, AAFES cannot match the prices of tool-centric stores.  As they offer many of the same types of items as Wal-Mart, only with a much smaller customer base and a larger focus on clothing, electronics, fitness/sports, and toys, certain tools often sit on shelves for months, until someone for whom need overcomes price buys them.  Stores rarely if ever get holiday tool promotions, meaning that at certain times of the year AAFES is selling products for over twice as much as Lowe's or Home Depot.  In turn, this leads to obsolete or at least old technology taking up valuable retail space.



Tool turnover seems atrocious at best, especially when it comes to power tools.  It is not uncommon to see power tool sitting on shelves for months or even years.  This is also true for some other products, but tools in general do not seem to sell well.  This is likely due to a few factors: many Soldiers are young and prefer to play video games; others are family focused and spend little time working on projects that would justify tool buying; still others prefer outsourcing for repairs or buying ready-made products (especially those that live on post, where they are limited in what type of work they can do); and then there are those such as myself who literally have no need for the limited number of tools offered.  This leads to what will become the final peculiarity I'll discuss for now...


Clearance Pricing 

The lack of product rotation, along with a relatively large number of each tool compared to the customer base, leads to clearance pricing.  Sometimes this will help you procure a cheap battery for a discontinued drill, such as the PC 18v batteries I was eying (they didn't drop low enough in price for me, though).  Other times it seems to be an effort to reduce the amount of stock--I paid $17 for a DCB1820 adapter only to find that the store had plenty of them in their regular location at full price.  Regardless, the deals can be spectacular.  In recent years AAFES has simply put a reduced price sticker on items, but they still put green 25%, red 50%, yellow 75%, and even blue 90% off stickers on items at times.  Every store I've been in honors the additional discount even if a clearance sticker is already on the item.  So, for example, a DeWalt 12v Max battery with a price sticker showing a drop from $48 to $24 but with a yellow sticker would cost $6. 


That's it for now.  If anyone has any input or questions, please share them.  Again, if you know a military retiree or someone else with exchange privileges, ask them to take you along the next time they go on post.  You might not find anything, but you might score big!

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