One afternoon I found myself on post with time to spare. After I grabbed a coffee and checked out the thrift store I wondered over to the commissary to pick up a few items.
We live 45 miles from post so my trips to the commissary are usually scheduled and mapped out to make the greatest use of my time and money. On this day I just happened in, deciding I would stroll through the aisles until something piqued my interest.
As I walked up and down the isles I noticed a larger than normal number of shoppers but it wasn’t until I attempted to check out that I realized my mistake.
It was payday. And as all military spouses know a visit to the commissary on payday can carry the same frenzy as shopping on Black Friday or Christmas Eve.
To help alleviate some of the frenzy DeCA is considering innovative technology that could put an end to long checkout lines.
DeCA Considers No-Cashier Store Technology
Recently Amazon launched, a first of its kind, no-cashier store in Seattle. Amazon Go allows customers with the app to select items and simply walk out.
The technology used can tell when items are removed from shelves and placed in your basket.The store uses cameras, the app and barcodes to monitor shoppers, charge accordingly and automate payment upon the shopper exit from the store.
Shortly after leaving the store, the app charges the customer’s Amazon account and emails the shopper his or her receipt.
DeCA is considering implementing similar technology in commissaries.
This concept could be a valuable time-saver for service members during the post-PT breakfast hour and lunchtime rush. Patrons can quickly select items and head back to work without waiting in long lines.
Busy parents would also benefit from a no-cashier shopping experience. They could quickly purchase last-minute dinner items, after-game snacks or cupcakes for a birthday party.
The no-cashier option is a wonderful alternative to traditional checkout lanes.
Instead of No-Cashier Stores, I Want Grocery Delivery Services
In my opinion, in addition to the no-cashier option, the commissary should consider grocery pickup and delivery services.
If they truly want to eliminate long checkout lines, eliminate the need for patrons to physically visit the store.
In my area, the big box stores offer grocery pick-up. This system allows shoppers to order weekly, monthly or daily supplies online, schedule a pick-up time and pay for items all from the comfort of their homes.
One downfall with this method (in my experience) is the pick-up times are never convenient.
They usually do not have pick-up times available the same day, so shoppers must order groceries a day or two in advance. This would be OK, except for those times when you need milk, bread and eggs in an hour and can’t make a trip to the store.
Related: Dear DeCA, Please Expand the Click2Go Program
My favorite option is grocery delivery. This is an amazing time-saver. I order groceries from the delivery app, select a delivery time, usually within an hour or two and pay for my purchase. Groceries arrive on time and I use my time to take care of more important things like catching up on work or relaxing with a good book.
Oh, did I mention, most services deliver wine too!
There is a fee associated with these delivery services, which I happily pay, considering it a convenience fee.
One downside to grocery delivery service is sometimes store sales and loyalty cards apply to the purchase. If you are an extreme couponer or on a tight budget this may not be best the option for you.
Time will tell if DeCA will decide to implement this technology and/or alternative processes to improve the shopping experience, but I believe they are moving in a positive direction by acknowledging issues and seeking alternative solutions.
“This sounds like a good idea,” wrote Edward J. Hermann. “Under certain circumstances I could certainly see using such a facility like a sick call operation.”
Currently, many service members, veterans, retirees and their families are experiencing long wait times to be seen at a military treatment facility. Sometimes they are visiting the local ER for more serious concerns or when they need a same-day diagnosis and treatment plan. This ties up ER personnel.
“It could cut down the use of the ER, especially on weekends, for those runny noses, colds, sinus, aches, etc., that many times plague the waiting rooms,” Bauman further commented. “The ER personnel could concentrate on true emergencies.”
Others commented on the expanded training capabilities and broadening of experiences for medical personnel.
“As a former Army medical member the idea of a clinic in the commissary sounds great,” Joseph Moorhouse wrote. “The medical personal would receive experience in a broad area of patients and an outpatient clinic in the store would be very convenient.”
Readers Question Food Safety
While many on the positive side cited increased convenience and access to timely medical care, others questioned the wisdom of having these clinics where we buy our food.
“Honestly, I don’t think that would be an appropriate place to see sick people. Why in heaven’s name would one allow germs around the foods that we have to eat?” wrote Dee. “I can’t see anything good coming of that idea.”
Many others echoed her thoughts. Some voiced support for the clinics as a place for vaccines.
“As a place to get a shot, I would have no problem with that,” commented Ken Myrick. “I really do not want to have to be around people who have infectious diseases around my food sources.”
Duane Schneider would completely avoid the commissary if walk-in medical care was added there.
“I would not go to the commissary for medical,” he wrote. “In fact, I would quit going to the commissary because it is crowded enough now without the traffic (of) sick people.”
Alternative Suggestions and More Questions
Some readers offered solutions to the concern about food safety. Several readers suggested opening a storefront in the commissary or exchange complex.
“I do think that the exchange venue would be a better alternative,” wrote Janet J. Bamford. “If the idea really ‘took off,’ it would be another step in the right direction. They are found within the military communities, and usually have longer operating hours. Furthermore, it could be an easier program to implement, if you began with a few shoppettes around the country. It’s unlikely that the corpsmen would be deluged with patients, especially if more than one shoppette in the community is staffed.”
Readers also raised concerns about who would be allowed to access these clinics.
“That sounds like a nice idea,” commented Catherine B. “Would they also treat veterans with commissary and exchange privileges?”
This pilot program is still in the planning stages and the Jacksonville, Fl., test clinic has not yet been opened.
It’s not too late to express your opinion on the Navy’s medical clinic pilot program! Share your thoughts in the comment section.