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Coronavirus Update: Commissary Policy Changes

There is no doubt that we are living in uncertain times, as the government works to combat the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak. But what remains constant is our commitment to policies designed to help us maintain safe and secure shopping environments for our customers.

With that in mind, our leadership has announced some policy changes in recent days to help Your Commissary better serve customers, as we all continue to adjust to the evolving dynamics of this pandemic.

Commissary Policy Changes Due to The COVID-19 Outbreak

  • A 100% ID card check is now being enforced at all commissaries, so that only authorized customers — including disabled veterans with Veteran Health Identification cards (VHIC) — will be granted entry to shop.
    • While this policy is in effect, visitors will not be allowed to enter the commissary. We know this may be inconvenient, and we apologize for that, but this policy is designed to help support social distancing and crowd control.
    • Children under 10 will be permitted to enter commissaries without ID cards, when accompanied by their parents.
  • Commissary cashiers are no longer handling customer ID cards, in order to help prevent spreading germs from customer to customer. Instead, cashiers may use handheld scanners, if available, or ask customers to scan their own IDs. 
  • Commissaries worldwide have canceled special events, such as our spring sidewalk sales, and in-store product demonstrations, including the free coffee program.
    • Consequently, recognition ceremonies for this year’s Scholarships for Military Children recipients and Vietnam War-era veterans have been postponed.
  • All commissaries have suspended early bird shopping to allow more time for cleaning and restocking.
  • In a move to lessen panic-buying, leadership instructed all store directors to use their discretion in placing the shopping limits necessary to help maintain stock availability.

Shopping Restrictions

Preventing Panic-Buying & Unauthorized Purchases

The DoD Special Assistant for Commissary Operations, Rear Adm. (Ret.) Robert J. Bianchi, announced the shopping limits policy on March 14 in response to a growing number of customers engaged in unauthorized purchases for the purposes of resale or hoarding.

From the outset, overseas commissaries – starting in Italy, South Korea and Japan – instituted shopping limits on items such as hand sanitizers, disinfectants and toilet paper. As fears of this novel coronavirus disease ignited a surge of customer activity worldwide, Bianchi explained, it became necessary for commissary officials to counter unauthorized shopping activity so they could better support all customers.

That’s why our store directors have been authorized to make local decisions, as they may deem necessary, to control stock shortages that could be caused by panic-buying and unauthorized purchases for resale. (Of course, these decisions should not override any guidance provided by installation commanders.)

“We always recommend to our customers that they calmly purchase what they need and avoid any panic-buying, to ensure products are available for others in their communities.”

Admiral Bianchi

Product Availability

Commissaries continue to work with their industry suppliers to support the needs of senior leaders on the ground at each location. For overseas stores, this means emergency airlifts of high-demand items to counter delays of shipboard supply containers.

Preventing Virus Spread in Commissaries

The policy prohibiting cashiers from handling customers’ ID cards is just one of many actions stores are implementing to help prevent COVID-19 exposure.

“We consider the health and welfare of our customers and our employees our #1 concern. Our stores are following the highest standards of the Department of Defense’s health protection.”

Jay Hudson, Principal Deputy Director, Store Operations Group, DeCA

This means that we’re using disinfectant cleaners to wipe down our checkout areas, restrooms and shopping carts frequently, Hudson explained. We’re also ensuring that our employees practice routine hand-washing and other basic sanitation measures to avoid spreading germs.

We are encouraging commissary employees to closely monitor their health and asking them to stay home if they, or someone in their household, are sick.

Looking Forward

Commissary customers should continue to refer to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus site for updates and guidance regarding this virus. Updates related to Your Commissary may be found on our official website’s Coronavirus page.

Admiral Bianchi
Rear Adm. (Ret.) Robert J. Bianchi

“We know this is a potentially stressful time for all concerned, but together, we will meet these challenges and support our service members and their families throughout the duration of this crisis, wherever necessary.”

Admiral Bianchi