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Virtual commissary opens for business

by Bonnie Powell
Defense Commissary Agency
 

FORT LEE, Va. -- Defense Commissary Agency shoppers looking for a different kind of gift can let their fingers do the clicking at the new Virtual Commissary.

Commissary officials said Virtual Commissary will open up new options of Internet shopping for authorized users.

"We're excited about DeCA's first adventure into the world of Internet shopping," said Patrick Nixon, chief executive officer and acting director for the Defense Commissary Agency.

Virtual Commissary products can be found on the shelves of "brick and mortar" commissaries, but the unique packaging of products into gift and special occasion baskets adds a new twist. With titles like "Camouflage," "Drill Sergeant" and "Touch of Home," the baskets offer assortments of crackers, canned cheeses, cookies, candies and even beverages and coffee packs.

"The number of vendors and manufacturers participating will continue to increase -- along with the variety of products," Mr. Nixon said.

To access Vitual Commissary, shoppers must pass through a secure portal found under the shopping link at www.commissaries.com. Personal information entered by the customer is validated to ensure they are an authorized shopper. Access is dependent on whether the customer is entered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Military exchanges use a similar method to check for authorization before permitting access to exchange Web sites or online shopping.

Department of Defense civilians stationed overseas who are otherwise authorized to shop at commissaries may not be able to access Virtual Commissary until changes are made to the DEERS database by the Defense Manpower Data Center, said DeCA officials. THe DMDC is targeting completion of the changes for late November.

Virtual Commissary customers can make selections and fill in their payment and shipping information in one easy and secure step before being transferred to the manufacturer's site to receive the total cost for the product, including the shipping. Customers then finalize their purchase.

Shipping and handling charges are similar to other Internet shopping sites, and charges will vary depending on the method of shipping selected, location and the speed of delivery requested. Customers can check for availability of delivery to Army Post Office and Fleet Post Office addresses, as well as receive more information on what is in the gift baskets by clicking on the image of the gift basket at Virtual Commissary. Payment for orders can be made with any credit card accepted in "real" commissaries. Customer information is not archived by DeCA.

"We're certainly energized by the possibilities offered to our customers through this partnership with industry," Mr. Nixon said. "The future of online commissary shopping is unlimited."

Down the road, Virtual Commissary expansion could include making a wide variety of commissary products available -- a feature that would allow deployed military servicemembers, retirees and other authorized shoppers to order items they want and need at commissary savings -- no matter where they live. (Courtesy of Air Force Print News)

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