August 16, 2017, by Sam Bocetta – Exchange shopping gives veterans an opportunity to take advantage of discounts and avoid taxes. However, it’s not without flaws, one of which being that the veteran has to physically go to the exchange in person to collect their goods. With many veterans being disabled or elderly, this isn’t always a feasible task. Insert the modern world of online technology.
Starting Veterans Day, November 11, millions of honorably discharged veterans will have access to the Veterans’ Online Exchange Service.
Veterans will be able to use the Online Exchange Service to order products with discounts and without taxes. It’s then just a matter of choosing to have the goods either delivered or picked up at the base’s exchange.
Around 12,000 veterans are currently participating in a “beta-test” of the online exchange now, and all veterans are being encouraged to go ahead and take the first step in the process by confirming eligibility of service and honorable discharge at www.vetverify.org.
The Need For Change
In 2012, Tom Shull became the first ever civilian CEO of the Exchange Service. He arrived to a projected downfall for the year of $180 million. The reasons for exchanges not being utilized fully were glaringly apparent to the new CEO.
For example, the exchange stores were antiquated on multiple fronts. From the dated industrial style to the off-brand products and limited selections, the discounts at the exchange simply weren’t appealing enough to compete with what modernized retailers offered through selection, quality, comfort, and convenience.
Thanks to Shull, the exchange stores have made leaps and bounds toward modernization. The store design is more contemporary and the brands and selection more appealing.
Arguably the biggest need for an update was in convenient access, that is how the goods are bought and collected. Unlike civilian retailers, the exchange did not offer any online shopping opportunities. This was a huge hiccup for the system considering veteran numbers continue to steadily increase as active-duty military personnel numbers have dwindled 13% between 2011 and now.
The lack of online access with the exchange left veterans in a real conundrum. Perhaps, they’d get the best monetary deal at the exchange. However, Amazon had competitive prices and could be bought and delivered without ever leaving home.
Add Amazon perks like free two-day or same-day shipping on Amazon-filled products ordered through Amazon Prime membership, and veterans were very tempted to forgo a trip to the exchange. Again, Shull recognized this problem and realized that the exchange had to jump on the ecommerce bandwagon to compete.
How Will Ecommerce Work Through The Exchange?
The official launch date is Veteran’s Day, Nov 11, but beta testers are already trying out four Exchange Service portals:
• www.shopmyexchange.com for Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES)
• www.mynavyexchange.com for Navy exchanges
• www.mymcx.com for Marine Corps stores
• www.shopcgx.com for Coast Guard exchanges.
All honorably discharged veterans will be eligible to use the online exchange service.
Veterans can choose between their order being delivered to a private address or to a shipping center at an exchange for pickup. Currently, there are 26 exchanges with shipping centers already in place. The goal is to have 55 before the year ends.
Timeframes for shipping through the exchange are currently competitive with Amazon and other ecommerce retailers, with shipping time within two days on most orders. This is expected to improve as more shipping centers are added to the exchanges. Shull expects to have an astounding ship-to-base time frame of just two hours or less by 2020. If this comes to fruition, it may be the Online Veterans’ Exchange carving out new trails in ecommerce.
The Exchange Isn’t the Only Online Discount Option For Veterans
Most have seen the retailer signs offering veterans discounts on a particular day or even a set percentage every day with the military. It’s a lovely, altruistic gesture. However, most of these discounts are only applicable at the physical location with military ID in-hand, which again presents a serious problem for disabled, elderly, and those that just prefer to shop from home in taking advantage of discounts.
There are some companies that are ahead of the curve and realize the importance of offering veterans online discount options:
• A Military/Government and Veterans Purchase Program is offered by Apple. It provides discount pricing for veterans, but only on select products.
• Overstock has a free Club O membership and free shipping for veterans.
• Under Armor, an athletic brand, offers 10 percent off all online orders for veterans all day, every day.
• AFEYEWEAR.COM carries name brand eyewear and speciality military eyewear. They offer exclusive military and veteran pricing, which can be up to 50% off retail.
Most online discounts are applied by simply entering a valid military ID number on the retailer’s website.
Discounts On Firearms
Firearms are a major purchase that can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Many veterans remain firearm owners and enthusiasts throughout their lives. Smith and Wesson offer veterans rebates on gun purchases. FN offers special discount pricing for veterans.
Even with rebates and discounts, many veterans will still need firearm financing. A payment plan, where you order and receive the firearm and then make monthly payments until the bill is paid in full, may be an option. Another financing option is a layaway plan, where you select the firearm you want to purchase, make payments on it, and then receive the firearm when paid in full.
Aside from that one option allows you to take possession immediately and one at the end of payment, the major difference is that payment plans are often accompanied by interest fees and layaway isn’t.
It’s certainly worth it to look into gun financing. Financing, especially when combined with a nice veteran’s discount, can make firearm ownership a lot less financially burdensome.
Keeping Your Firearms Safe
Military personnel are usually among the most responsible firearm owners, and part of that responsibility is securing any and all weapons when not in use.
Gun safes are a proven, effective measure toward gun safety, particularly when it comes to preventing a firearm from falling into a child’s or burglar’s hands.
Plus, with some firearms costing thousands alone and some collections rivaling the cost of a home or car, most people want to protect their investment.
Gun safes are not cheap purchases, though. This is particularly true for gun enthusiasts with larger collections requiring a larger safe. Some safe manufacturers and retailers offer discounts online. Liberty Safe, whose safes consistently rank on several listings for best safes, offers $100 rebate to veterans. A quality, reliable safe at Liberty Safe ranges from $500 to $2000.
Take Advantage Of Online Discounts
Everyone wants the best deal. Veterans shouldn’t have to choose between taking advantage of a discount and shopping online. The new online exchanges will offer the ease and speed of Amazon without resulting in veterans missing out on military discounts.
With such advances to the exchange and many manufacturers and retailers now offering online veteran savings, veterans should have a much easier time shopping how and when they want.
About the Author: Sam Bocetta is a retired contractor who worked for over 35 years as an engineer specializing in cyber warfare and Navy computer systems. Past projects include the development of EWTR systems, Antifragile EW project, and development of Chaff countermeasures. Sam now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor. You can find more of Sam’s work here at gunnewsdaily.com