It’s been awhile since we got to tell you about a new save-the-commissary scheme. But don’t you worry — we’ve got something new.
Defense officials are getting ready to ask lawmakers to eliminate the 5 percent commissary surcharge (that looks and smells like a tax, but is technically a “surcharge”) and instead be allowed to set grocery prices based on the local market, according to Military.com columnist Tom Philpott. That means that food at the commissary would cost less at Fort Campbell, Ky. (where the cost of living is fairly low) and more at Fort Myer-Henderson Hall, Va. (where the cost of living, and therefore food sold off base, is a lot higher).
Detractors of the plan say it wouldn’t be fair to troops who have to live in higher cost of living areas whether they like it or not, according to the column. The commissary currently evens the playing field for them, they say, making up for the increased price of groceries outside the gate by making them cost the same on base no matter where you are.
Eliminating the surcharge would ease the pain that a price increase would bring — but we would still feel a price increase. For example, I spent $90.55 at the commissary Aug. 9 buying groceries for the week. That brought me a $4.43 surcharge. Three of the items I bought were meat that I know are no less than $1 more each at the cheapest nearby civilian store. I also bought several boxes of cereal for $1.99 each — never less than $3 a box at the civilian store.
If the commissary was to raises prices to be just under the comparable civilian stores, what I would save by not paying a surcharge would be gone in a flash. But would it still be worth it for whatever savings was leftover?
And that’s the question I have for you. If they raised prices but got rid of the surcharge, what would you do?
Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force.