A Shopping Secret: Commissaries

If you’ve heard me on the MG shows before, I let slip out that I’m an Army veteran. I transitioned off of active duty more than ten years ago, in early 2010, and I plan to say more about that, and my experiences wearing the uniform, on the next Salt-Lake Sit Down with Rob. I’ll leave this alone for now, to whet your appetite.

This time, I wanted to cover something that Rob and I discussed for a time on the last Salt-Lake Sit Down. I’m talking about commissaries and how one can take advantage of them, especially in these difficult, Kung-Flu-fighting times.

First, the definition . . .

A commissary is a store for goods and provisions. Though most often connected with military personnel, commissaries were found on plantations, too, and provided goods to the sharecroppers that worked there. Think also the “company store” — the same that Tennessee Ernie Ford sung about in his ode to the coal miners.

Because military personnel often spend the bulk of their time on bases (“In garrison,” as they like to say), commissaries and base/post exchanges (BX/PX) are crucial for getting what they need, especially when deployed (“in the field”). Such was the case decades ago, but less so since many soldiers, sailors, airmen, etc. can drive off post to local supermarkets and convenience stores to get what they need if they have access to a car.

Basically, what you find in a commissary is virtually no different from what you’d find in the supermarket. There’s a bakery, meat counter, produce aisle, freezers full of Hungry Man TV Dinners and Ben and Jerry’s, etc. They take cash, and debit/credit cards.  If you’re on an overseas base, you have the added benefit of the commissary being stocked with some brands local to that country. When I was stationed for three years in southwestern Germany, I enjoyed German, French, Italian, and British goods, along with the standard American brands.

The same applies to the BX/PX, many of which are ensconced in small shopping malls with food courts, dry cleaners, and islands of cheap jewelry. One major difference is that, depending on the base, the BX/PX is where you, the military member, can get your uniform items, patches, insignia, shoes, and Monster Energy Drink or Under Armour paraphernalia. Trust me when I say that you can spend like a drunken sailor — even if you are only on an Army or Air Force base. 🙂

Now, let’s get to logistics . . .

I mentioned to Rob that you, the un-uniformed, can take advantage of what the commissaries and BX/PXs have to offer if you happen to know someone who wears the uniform, is a retiree, or who otherwise has the badge to gain access to the base. Because I currently work for the US Federal Gubment, I have this latter badge. If you come out to see me, make it worth my while and I can get you access to the bases in my area. 🙂

However, also keep in mind that access to the base might be challenging. Each base is different, and not all bases have commissaries. Only those bases that have either enlisted guys (and gals) living on post, where they have few options to go shopping, or bases that are in remote areas. Second, base access might be as easy as your escort just flashing his or her badge and you riding along, or you might have to go the visitor’s center to get a pass to access. Finally, base access does not guarantee access to the commissary. Uniformed folks, military retirees, and veterans are the few who have unfettered access. In some cases, you might have to ask your escort to go shopping for you while you wait in the car, swiping Tinder to find the local military sluts.

Click this link to see a complete list of all the commissaries around the world.

A final word . . .

In my view, the prime benefit of going on post to shop at the BX/PX and the commissary is that it’s restricted to a small group. Prices aren’t necessarily cheaper or the selection insulated (e.g., because of Kung Flu, toilet paper is still out, save for the expensive brands). But, you could find commercial meat in stock and for the same price at your local supermarket. You could also find those international items I mentioned above, even here in the US. It’s the little things that make the difference.

So, when the Kung Flu finally lifts and things return to a semblance of normalcy, albeit crippled, consider going to the commissary and/or BX/PX sometime. You might be pleasantly surprised, and shop with the comfort that there’s not likely going to be a run on your favorite goods.

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