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AAFES customers to lose $1 of hair cutting, dry cleaning discounts in Japan

Staff Sgt. Albert Black turns in a uniform to be dry cleaned Monday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Starting April 1, AAFES is decreasing automatic discounts for dry cleaning and laundry at its facilities in mainland Japan and Okinawa by $1.

JENNIFER H. SVAN / S&S

By JENNIFER H. SVAN AND AND VINCE LITTLE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 21, 2007

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — As of April 1, getting a haircut or a military uniform washed and pressed will cost a buck more at AAFES facilities in mainland Japan and Okinawa.

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is reducing its automatic discount at its barber, beauty, laundry and dry cleaning shops by $1 across the board at Japan bases.

That discount — given by AAFES only in mainland Japan and Okinawa — has been transparent to customers ever since AAFES did away with paper coupons for those same services several years ago.

The price paid at the register already is less than what’s posted on signs, said Master Sgt. Donovan Potter, AAFES Pacific spokesman.

“Starting April 1, that discount will be reduced by $1,” he said.

Current discounts vary by base and shop. AAFES sets prices based on the cost of the same service outside the gate, minus 30 percent. The automatic discount in Japan is added on top of that, Potter said.

At Misawa, for example, a haircut Monday at the main base barbershop was $9.35 — minus a $4 discount now and $3 starting April 1, according to a sign posted in the window.

Customers leaving the barbershop said getting a smaller discount wasn’t a big deal.

“The $1 more that you would normally save will probably come off the tip,” said Don Cook, a master sergeant formerly stationed at Yokota Air Base on temporary duty from Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.

“I’d do it anyway, whether there’s a discount or not,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Gloriana Mejia, who goes to the Misawa main base beauty shop for $22.35 pedicures (after the current $4 discount). “I come here more out of the convenience than the money.”

Why the discount is being reduced depends on whether one asks AAFES or U.S. Forces Japan officials. Both have different interpretations.

AAFES officials said the company had to reduce its discount by a dollar across the board because, beginning April 1, it will receive about $3 million less in Japanese government money used to help pay for AAFES local national employees. Potter said those funds can be used to pay Japanese employee salaries or for quality-of-life programs.

However, Gary Hansen, chief of U.S. Forces Japan’s labor branch, said the government of Japan has not reduced its labor-cost sharing support, which comes via direct deposit of pay and allowances into the bank accounts of Japanese employees.

AAFES, Hansen said, agreed to increase its financial support of Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs in Japan and Okinawa from about $6 million to $10 million annually.

“The conclusion was it was appropriate to have an increase to support the troops … and enhance their quality of life in a very expensive part of the world,” he said. “Clearly, this program does that.”

The direct MWR payment from AAFES to the service components is only in Japan, Hansen said, separate from the AAFES dividends that already support the Army, Air Force and Marines worldwide.


Staff Sgt. Keith Farmer, foreground, gets a haircut Monday at the AAFES main base barbershop at Misawa Air Base, Japan. Starting April 1, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service is reducing automatic discounts for haircuts and dry cleaning services in mainland Japan and Okinawa by $1.
JENNIFER H. SVAN / S&S