The last time Forrest Cornelius, 51, shopped in a base exchange was 1989 when he completed his six-year stint in the Marine Corps. He recalls saving 10 to 15 percent on department store goods and that shoppers paid no sales tax.
Last month, Cornelius began to enjoy those advantages again as one of 12,000 or so "beta test" participants for veterans' online exchange shopping, which is to open for millions of honorably discharged veterans on Veterans Day.
All veterans are being encouraged to take the same first step that Cornelius did by confirming veteran eligibility status at: https://www.vetverify.org. It might be a multistep process if the Defense Manpower Data Center lacks information to verify that a veteran served and received an honorable discharge.
But for Cornelius it went smoothly. He also got an email inviting him to be a test participant and begin to shop immediately through four exchange service portals: www.shopmyexchange.com for Army & Air Force Exchange Service; www.mynavyexchange.com for Navy exchanges; www.mymcx.com for Marine Corps stores and www.shopcgx.com for Coast Guard exchanges.
Cornelius said his email invitation was timely. He had lost his sunglasses and the replacement pair of Ray-Bans, priced at a local retail outlet near his Texas home, would cost $180. He found a special military sale online, $20 off any pair of sunglasses costing $100 or more.
"So I got that discount," he said, "plus it was 10 to 15 percent cheaper than retail, plus tax free, plus free shipping. I wound paying about $120 total, saving me quite a bit."
His wife then used his benefit, shopping for undergarments that a major retailer had on sale but were out of stock in sizes and colors she wanted. The exchange had them, and she saved money too, he said. Soon they were buying sportswear for their son. Every item was shipped, he said, and arrived three days later.
By early July, 90,000 veterans had attempted to register to exchange shop online starting Nov. 11. Twelve percent of them got invitations to shop immediately. The exchange service was monitoring shopping patterns to ensure their system are ready for waves of new shoppers this fall, said Ana Middleton, president and chief merchandising officer.
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