AAFES cracks down on fuel purchase abuses
September 23, 2008
Lines for fuel on bases in Germany moved almost as quickly as usual, but customer opinions were mixed Monday over a requirement that Army and Air Force Exchange Service patrons show identification cards, vehicle registrations and fuel ration cards prior to pumping at on-base filling stations.
The requirement, which went into effect Monday, is being implemented as a means of cracking down on customs violations, which the exchange has been able to closely track since the rollout of the new fuel ration cards began at the end of May.
Lt. Col. David Konop, an AAFES spokesman, wouldn’t say how many violations had occurred or describe specifically what was happening, but said the measures were needed "to help protect and keep a benefit that American servicemen have."
"The German government has a zero tolerance policy" with regard to customs violations, Konop said.
On their first day in place, the checks appeared to be doing their job.
At the Shoppette on Warner Barracks in Bamberg, AAFES employee Sebastian Poitra checked for proper paperwork, and by 1:30 p.m. had turned away 17 potential pumpers — including one driver in a rental — for missing the proper documents. Without the document checks, all those turned away likely would have pumped fuel and committed customs violations that wouldn’t have been realized until they got to the register.
While AAFES won’t disclose how many violations had occurred prior to the new requirements, interviews with exchange employees suggest abuse was rampant.
One Shoppette worker in Baumholder estimated that on an average day between 15 and 20 customers would pump gas into unauthorized cars. A benefit to the new policy, the employee said, is that it will help reduce the number of customs reports they have to fill out each day for people who don’t follow the rules.
"I think it’s awesome," said Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Scott Johnston, as he waited in line to pay for fuel at Pulaski Barracks in Kaiserslautern. "I get behind so many people who are from here (Germany) and play stupid when they" go to pay for gas they know they weren’t allowed to pump.
Most, he said, have rentals and were perhaps too lazy to go through the process of getting a temporary fuel ration card. "I see it happen all the time."
Johnston was "not at all bothered" by the exchange’s move to crack down on such abuses. If AAFES didn’t take these measures, he said, "it’ll take away our rights to have cheaper gas."
Not all customers were as upbeat about the added scrutiny.
Staffers at the Baumholder Shoppette said the initial feedback from customers was mostly negative, with many people complaining about the added hassle. While the change will cut down, if not eliminate, on-post fuel sale customs violations, it also means more time spent in line.
"It’s an inconvenience. I don’t think it’s going to work," said Pfc. Richard Colson, a Baumholder military policeman. "I think it’s going a little overboard."
Reporters John Vandiver in Baumholder and Mark St.Clair in Bamberg contributed to this story.