AAFES, celebrating 120 years and still going strong
USAG Daegu –“Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping.” That old saying might generate a chuckle or two because while it may hold true for some, it certainly doesn’t appear to be the case for the thousands of U.S. military, family members, Department of Defense civilians, retirees and contractors who have made the Army & Air Force Exchange Service, their shopping destination for more than 100 years.
From Daegu to Riyadh authorized AAFES shoppers still today continue to enjoy the luxury of having a little bit of home just a hop, skip and a jump away as they serve at military installations around the world. Access to the Exchange is a privilege that speaks to the Department of Defense commitment to ensure that the quality of life and well-being of the men and women in uniform, and their family members, is never second to none.
Throughout the USAG Daegu and Area IV community, that commitment is soundly a part of everyday life, and is in keeping with the AAFES mission, which is to make the lives of Soldiers and Airmen better through the goods and services they offer. The Exchange goes where Soldiers, Airmen and their families go to improve their quality of life through retail goods and services. In Area IV, those goods and services may be found at two locations –Camp Walker, and Camp Carroll installations. According to Raymond S. Stewart III, General Manager of Southern Exchange-Korea,“In Area IV, we have two Exchange facilities. The one on Camp Walker is the largest, while the one on Camp Carroll, which functions more like a branch store, is also available for use by any authorized I.D. card holder.”
Addressing the issue of product variety and selections Stewart said, “The method we use is based on the type of the store, the size of the store, and how many people there are in the community. Our headquarters stocks up the store and then they sets ‘Planograms’, a diagram or model that indicates the placement of retail products on the shelves in order to maximize sales. Each category is allocated a certain amount of space.”
Shoppers at the Daegu Exchange facility have every reason to be proud of the ease in which they can acquire their store items. That’s primarily because AAFES has long been dedicated to serving Exchange customers in the most efficient way. To assist in doing that, online shopping is readily available for use by authorized customers. By visiting www.shopmyexchange.com, customers can have access to a variety of top brand products right at their fingertips.
Just about everyone knows what it’s like to visit any store and not be able to find exactly what they’re looking for. The Exchange understands how frustrating that can be, and for that reason, works tirelessly to ensure the needs of the customer never take a back seat. Should an Exchange customer have a question about an item that's of interest to them, getting assistance is something that's just around the corner.
According to Stewart, "If patrons request an item or items that are not in stock here in our Daegu store, all they have to do is go to the customer service counter located just inside the entrance of the store, and there they will find the assistance they are in need of." The service goes far beyond that. "We can check with bigger stores like at Osan and Yongsan to see if they might have the item you are looking for. Stewart went on to say, "If they have an item in stock, they can transfer it to our Daegu Exchange through AAFES channels. Once it arrives, patrons can then come in and pick it up at our customer service counter, and make their payment there."
The manager explained that the service arrangement is part of the Exchange 'Shuttle Program'. It's a service designed with customer efficiency in mind. The program also supports the needs of customers in locations further south of Daegu like Chinhae, Busan, and Camp Mujuk. There’s no transportation fee from one facility to the other.
With 120 years to its credit, the Exchange has been an anchor of stability for the military family, DoD civilians, retirees and contractors who've made their home in places far and wide. Always seeking to provide its customers with the best in quality service, it has been on top of trends and evolutions for decades. Stewart shared that today, customer interests are as diverse now as ever before. He added, “Currently, there are two categories that are the most popular in EXCHANGE. They are, Health & Beauty Care, and Electronics. It's important to note that there are some items that while they are very popular, may not necessarily be available in our stores. For example, things like Apple's new Smart Watch. It would take some time before that product arrives on our shelves. However, if another store happens to have that product, we can surely request delivery here in Daegu by use of our shuttle service."
Stewart explained that while the EXCHANGE has undergone enormous changes over the past 10 or 20 years, efforts to ensure customer satisfaction has never waned. "We're now more streamlined, and as new items hit the market, we are getting them much sooner than later. It's what our customers want, and we try to accommodate their needs as best as we possibly can," commented Stewart.
Image upgrades are also a part of the EXCHANGE commitment to quality service. This year's opening of Smoothie King is evident of just how well that image is being received by many in the Area IV community, who by all accounts, continue to make the nutritional blends and recipies a part of their daily routine. "Our goal is to continue to provide guaranteed satisfaction to all of our military, family members, DoD civilians and retirees. That's what our customers can expect," said Stewart.