Ask the Captain - Q&A (continued)
Question (September 2014): One of my coworkers told me that DoD civilians can now shop at the NEX. Is that true?
Answer: Yes, it’s true, but with certain restrictions. The Navy Exchange allows civilians to use their food services, so you can eat at the food court. Recently, the NEX issued clarification of their existing guidance, and as of Sept. 1, 2014, DoD civilians can purchase single-use food items at the NEX. Essentially, you can grab lunch, but you can’t go grocery or school supply shopping at the Exchange.
Please note, cashiers will still be checking IDs at the registers, and non-food items are not permitted as civilian purchases, nor can you purchase alcohol. Tobacco is also off-limits, as is gasoline; so no fueling up at the station.
Question (October 2013): When the government shutdown occurred, I was surprised that the commissary closed but activities like the bowling alley stayed open. Why is the bowling alley essential and buying groceries is not?
Answer: The government shutdown and civilian furloughs affected federal services across the nation, but as you noted, not all services were affected equally.
Those affected services like the commissary are those funded by federal appropriations. As such, they were effectively without money on Oct. 1, the beginning of the fiscal year, without a budget or continuing resolution having been passed. Other services, like the bowling alley, movie theater and other Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities, are not dependent on congressional appropriations bills for funding to operate.
Those appropriated-fund services considered essential — like fire and security — were continued during the shutdown, initially without funding in place, based on the critical nature of the services. Later, the Pay Our Military Act allowed the Department of Defense to return many civilian employees to work during the shutdown. The commissary was able to reopen, but thousands of federal employees in other departments are still furloughed, as are some DoD employees.
Question (February 2013): For over 35 years, I have been using the commissary system throughout the world. The facility at NBVC is one of the best I have used. One concern I have is seeing authorized patrons making purchases for unauthorized persons. Why doesn’t the commissary check IDs at the door like I’ve seen in Hawaii? Why are persons without military IDs are allowed inside a facility they are not authorized to use?
Answer: First, thank you for your question and for your service. The Defense Commissary Agency eliminated the ID checker position at stores in the continental United States several years ago, opting instead to check IDs at the register. Ultimately, it is the prerogative of each military ID cardholder whether or not to have guests accompany them aboard base. In the commissary only authorized patrons are allowed to make purchases, enforced by 100 percent ID checks by cashiers.
It is the responsibility of each authorized patron to use their commissary privilege responsibly. Although you may see patrons making purchases you believe are for their guests, this does not mean they’re breaking the rules. For example, if you are having guests over for dinner, can they help select parts of the meal? Yes, they can.
If someone is going to abuse their privilege by making purchases for friends, they can do so even if the friend is not allowed in the commissary. Those found to be abusing their commissary privilege can have those privileges revoked.
Question (July 2012): What are the chances of getting a dry cleaner back on base? There used to be one and it was very convenient for military and civilian alike.
Answer: The NEX offers a drop-off dry cleaning service at Point Mugu and Port Hueneme. Just ask at the customer service desk.
Question (August 2012): I would like to know if it's required for me to carry around my orders to purchase anything from the NEX. I am on duty orders for the weekend and stopped into the NEX to buy snacks and wasn't allowed to purchase anything unless I had my orders to show. I showed her and explained to her that my ID is active duty military ID and she still insisted that I show her my documents/orders.
Answer: Thank you for allowing me to address your concern and apologize for the frustration not being able to make your purchase may have caused. I’ve spoken with the Navy Exchange manager. All uniformed and retired personnel either on active duty or in any reserve component, are authorized patrons of NEX facilities in the United States, required only to show identification establishing their status. The rules vary overseas and for other classifications of patrons, as laid out in DoD Directive 1330.21. From your description of events, a mistake was made, and we apologize. The NEX manager is making efforts to ensure it does not happen again, and we appreciate your service and your understanding.
Question (August 2012): I have a suggestion: why not keep the Navy Exchange open later into the evening? I'd suggest having them stay open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. all week would be perfect. Even if you have just a handful of customers shopping, at least you are earning something rather than no money at all, and more people would be able to access in the mornings and after work.
Answer: Thanks for the suggestion. I ran your idea by the Navy Exchange general manager, and here’s what she explained to me.
Operating hours are determined locally for each facility and are based upon a years' worth of daily sales data in half-hour increments. The NEX uses this data to determine the most profitable periods of the day and schedule people accordingly, maximizing their manpower and payroll expenditures.
Although staying open later with fewer people sounds like it might work, it’s impossible to measure potential sales. The NEX uses historical data covering promotional events, special events, paydays and regular daily business in our review. Last Christmas, the NEX had extended hours, but they actually lost money. Even shifting staffing doesn’t make up the difference when sales aren’t high enough.
The decision for the Naval Base Ventura County NEX facilities to close at 7 p.m. was not an easy one, but it has helped maximize its staffing during the more busy times of day.