Commissary 101

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If you are first starting to learn about couponing at the Commissary this Commissary 101 should help you to get started.


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What is the Commissary and DeCA?
The Commissary is the grocery store on all military installations throughout the world (currently there are 250). The Commissaries are run by the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), so often when you read anything on policy we will refer to DeCA. DeCA maintains the regulations and Coupon Policy for all Commissaries and has authority over the Commissaries.



Who can shop at the Commissary?
Authorized shoppers include active duty, retirees, National Guard and Reserves and their family members. Medically discharged with a 30% or higher disability are authorized as well. You have to have an ID card and it has to have Commissary written on the front under “Authorized Patron” (active ID does not have this written on them). If in doubt get a hold of DeCA and ask.



Why shop at the Commissary?
The Commissaries tend to run 30% cheaper than average grocery stores and can offer wonderful deals. It is stated that the Commissary cannot profit from grocery sales. Customers buy groceries at cost plus a 5 percent surcharge which is used to fund commissary construction and renovations. So there are great deals to be had at the Commissary, and their liberal and well-written Coupon Policy is also a great factor in shopping there.



What is the Surcharge?
While there is no tax charged at the Commissary there is a 5% charge added to each item purchased at the Commissary. This is used to improve and build Commissaries. The Surcharge is charged to the pre-coupon price. This is an important point to remember since a free item isn’t truly free because you still need to pay the surcharge. Also, it is important to account for the surcharge when looking at overage items.



Is the Commissary Coupon Friendly?
As a general rule Commissaries are VERY coupon friendly. Commissaries process 4 times the number of coupons per person than the average grocery store. Coupons can be found throughout the Commissaries, and the Commissary definitely promotes coupon use. DeCA frequently says “Increase your savings with coupons”. So don’t hesitate to use coupons at the Commissary.



What is the Coupon Policy?
The Commissary has a very detailed Coupon Policy that must be adhered to by ALL Commissaries. I have a separate thread covering the details of the policy here: DeCa Coupon Policy and Other Policy Details Some basics to get you started: Internet Printed Coupons (IPs) are accepted (even in black and white), Coupons are accepted at face value, and there is no limit to the number of like coupons or total coupons allowed in one transaction. They also accept Walgreen’s Register Rewards and Manufacturer coupons that have another store’s logo on it as long as it is a manufacturer’s coupon and doesn’t say redeem ONLY at… along with a few other restrictions. Check here to get all the details on the policy.



Doesn’t the Commissary Accept Expired Coupons?
The Commissary only accepts expired coupons at overseas locations. Alaska and Hawaii are not considered overseas for this purpose. Overseas locations accept expired coupons up to 6 months past their expiration date. Conus locations do not accept expired coupons under any circumstances.



Can I stack the Military Coupons with Manufacturer Coupons?
No. There are often coupons that can be found in the Commissary that will say “Military Coupon” or “For Use in Military Commissaries Only”. It may be tempting to think these are store coupons and can be stacked with manufacturer coupons but this is incorrect. All coupons, whether they say military on them or not, are manufacturer coupons and cannot be stacked. Only one coupon, no matter the type, can be used per item.



Do commissaries ever have “double coupon” or “triple coupon” promotions like those offered by commercial stores?
No. The “double” or “triple” coupon promotions offered by commercial stores involve doubling, tripling (or otherwise increasing) the face value of a coupon. Commercial stores who offer these types of promotions get paid by the coupon issuer only for the face value of a coupon, and have to absorb the costs of “doubling” or “tripling” coupon face value in their pricing and profit structure. Because commissaries are required by law to sell goods at prices set only high enough to cover the cost of those goods, commissaries make no profit from which to pay the costs associated with “double” coupon promotions. Additionally, DeCA cannot use funds provided for the operation of commissaries to support such promotions, because law strictly prescribes the uses of these funds, and “promotional support” is not among the allowable uses of these funds.



When are the sales at the Commissary?
The Commissary has a different sales structure than traditional grocery stores. The details of what sales type there are, when they run, and how to get information on them can be found here.



What’s the deal with the Baggers?
Baggers can be found at all Commissaries. They are there to help you bag and load your groceries. But the key difference between them and baggers at traditional stores is that they have no wages and only work for tips. So if you have them help you make sure that you tip them. If you don’t want to tip then you can tell them that you do not need help.



Can I Special Oder? How Do I?
Special Ordering is supposed to be a simple process but some stores make it a severe pain. Here is how its supposed to work:

Just tell any cashier that you want to place a special order. In smaller Commissaries they will have the form at the checkout and in larger stores they carry the form at the cash cage or customer service desk. Or to make it easier – here is the pdf link. Fill out the form with as much info you can. Then turn it in to the Commissary. Try to turn it into the person that handles the special orders but if that is not possible then give it to a front end manager. I strongly recommend you follow up by phone about 48 hours later since often the form magically disappears. The order typically will take 5-7 days to arrive, but if it is in high demand or difficult to locate it may take several weeks. They should call you when it arrives, but this does not always happen. So call on the day they expect it to arrive (they should give an estimate when you turn it in or during your follow up call). If it hasn’t arrived then call in every few days until it does.

Once the order arrives they are supposed to call you. You then head in and tell the cashier or front end manager that you are there to pick up a special order. They will locate it and check you out. There is no such things as rainchecks at the Commissary and no guarantee of the price when you special order – you pay the price of the item when it arrives. But on the flip-side, you are not required to buy the item if the price changes or if it arrives after your “required by” date. Often if the price does change the managers will honor the older price, but only as a courtesy. They are under no obligation to do this.

If you have any problems will getting special orders placed and completed contact your Store Director. Remember that high demand items, such as overage items, may be near impossible to get. This is not the Commissaries fault, its a distribution issue. As long as the Commissary keeps an open line of communication that is all you can ask of them. Now, repeatedly losing your order form or items, or failing to ever contact you, is another issue.

Hopefully your special orders are a simple easy process.



I had a problem at the Commissary, how do I contact DeCA?
You can go here and send a message to DeCA: – Contact DeCA They are usually good about getting back to you but it may take a few days. Another option is to get in contact with your store director. Most are really good and willing to straighten things out very quickly. You can find their info by finding your store here: – Store Locator and their contact information is listed under management. If you have a general question the DeCA Facebook page is pretty responsive:



If you guys have more questions you would like to see addressed here please post them and I will get them answered. I hope this is helpful!



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This post was written by Amy

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