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 March 26, 2010

Leisure

Fort McCoy AAFES drives for customer value at the pump

FORT MCCOY (Army and Air Force Exchange Service Public Affairs) — According to a recent Short-Term Energy Outlook report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “the annual average regular-grade retail gasoline price will increase from $2.35 per gallon in 2009 to $2.84 in 2010,” with prices in some instances topping the $3 a gallon mark.

Forecasts of increasing energy prices has Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) officials reaching out to drivers to ensure they are aware of the procedures in place to determine pump prices at Fort McCoy as well as the benefits available to authorized exchange patrons.
PHOTO: Authorized patrons fill up their gasoline tanks at the Fort McCoy Post Exchange Shoppette. The PX offers fuel savings, such as five-cents-a-gallon reduction for those with Military StarŪ Cards.  Photo by Rob Schuette.
Authorized patrons fill up their gasoline tanks at the Fort McCoy Post Exchange Shoppette. The PX offers fuel savings, such as five-cents-a-gallon reduction for those with Military StarŪ Cards. Photo by Rob Schuette

While overall energy prices are beyond AAFES’ control, their Military StarŪ Card, for example, can help curb added expenses and, in turn, save servicemembers money when filling up.

“Anytime a customer uses a bank-issued debit or credit card, the retailer pays a portion of the transaction to a third-party financial institution,” said Fort McCoy AAFES General Manager Donna Walton.

“Because the Military StarŪ Card is administered by the Exchange Credit Program, our Post Exchange (PX) Shoppette is not subject to the additional fees incurred through other ‘pay at the pump’ options. As a result, we’re able to pass savings on to authorized exchange shoppers by taking a nickel off each gallon dispensed.”

In addition to the five-cents-a-gallon savings Military StarŪ Card holders enjoy every day, the Fort McCoy PX Shoppette periodically also offers steeper discounts, up to 20 cents a gallon.

Drivers interested in learning more about the Military StarŪ Card fuel discount can visit the Fort McCoy PX in building 1538 or log on to http://www.aafes.com and click the Military StarŪ Card icon for additional details.

Beyond exclusive discounts, AAFES’ Shoppettes rely on a survey process to ensure prices are fair and competitive with the local community.

Specifically, AAFES conducts daily surveys of at least five locations selling motor fuel, deemed by the local general managers to be the competition.

Pump prices then are set equal to the lowest price surveyed for each grade of fuel available, AAFES officials said.

“Because market-based pricing is not contingent on cost, we survey and change prices as frequently as necessary to remain competitive,” said Walton. “In fact, even though AAFES is responsible for charging sales tax on gasoline, the surveys can result in prices that are actually even below cost.”

Charging sales tax on fuel can raise the eyebrows of shoppers used to the tax-free benefit that the exchange provides on almost everything, except gas.

While it is true that AAFES, as a U.S. government instrumentality, is immune from state and local taxes, the immunity specific to fuel has been waived by Congress (Hayden Cartwright Act, 4 U.S.Code 104).

AAFES, and by extension its customers, also pays federal tax pursuant the U.S. code that covers federal tax on gasoline (26 U.S.C. § 4081(a)).

Accordingly, AAFES pump prices include state, federal and local motor fuel taxes, as well as underground storage fees, etc. The federal and state taxes, as well as other applicable fees, are included in the price and paid to the appropriate taxing authority.

“Gas pricing is a very complex issue, impacted by world markets, political and economic factors,” said Walton. “With that said, we remain focused on delivering the best value possible to drivers at Fort McCoy.”

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