AAFES requests internal security monitor contractor
By JEREMY KIRK | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 8, 2003
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — A customer of the AAFES furniture store on south post has filed an Inspector General complaint alleging the contract delivery service overcharges, doesn’t give receipts and didn’t display a sign with charge information.
Peter Yi, a civilian who works at Yongsan, wrote to the Inspector General on July 28 saying “The high delivery cost is too much for us to pay when the delivery company is just pulling random numbers from the sky,” according to the complaint.
Four other people wrote e-mails to Stars and Stripes concerning the contractor, some alleging they also were overcharged. However, no one could be contacted by telephone and all wished to remain anonymous.
Master Sgt. Howard Smith, an AAFES spokesman, said the concerns were passed to managers in South Korea, and they have informed the contractor.
“It is really important for the customer to provide AAFES feedback when they have a problem like this,” Smith said.
Park Choo-sun, who works for the contractor, said the delivery company has received complaints about delivery prices, but explained the system is based on size, distance and weight and the number of workers required to deliver the item.
“Some people may think we are a little bit expensive because a furniture store off base or in the States delivers their items for free,” Park said.
Smith said a permanent sign with delivery prices has been placed at the furniture store.
Yi and his wife, Lucy, said on three occasions since 1998 they have bought items from the furniture store and were overcharged by delivery people. The contractor, named Pacific News Agency, is required to provide receipts, but the Yis said workers told them no receipts were available.
Their most recent purchase, a recliner with an ottoman in April, was for $150, and the delivery people wanted $85 to deliver the furniture to their home about a mile away from Yongsan Garrison, Peter Yi wrote in his complaint.
He ended up cramming the items in his car for the ride home. Although the two have brought up the issue with AAFES, Lucy Yi said it’s “like I’m talking to a brick wall.”
“This company still to this day is allowed to operate on base and take advantage of soldiers,” she said.
Peter Yi met with two AAFES representatives on July 20 along with a woman who identified herself as a representative of Pacific News Agency. Yi said one AAFES representative told him that the overpayment was his “imagination.” Yi said he walked out of the meeting.
“I’m not going to get anything back,” Yi said, adding that he feels bad for soldiers who may have been overcharged.
AAFES officials told them they can’t refund money without a receipt, which the Yis said is exactly the problem. The delivery company didn’t provide receipts for any of the three purchases they made, they said.
Delivery people demand payment in cash and don’t accept credit cards, Lucy Yi said. Smith and Patty Ko, AAFES general manager in South Korea, said the contractor is required to allow people to pay with credit cards.
But Park said the contractors doesn’t have a phone line to do credit card payments. Park added: “If we could take credit cards it would be much more convenient for us.”
AAFES area manager Billy Hautt wrote to Lucy Yi on Aug. 26, saying the delivery company indicated it didn’t accept credit cards because an associate was not informed. Hautt wrote that answer was unacceptable, and the delivery company can use the furniture store’s system until the contractor receives its own telephone line.
AAFES has requested its internal security monitor the contractor, Hautt wrote to Yi.
Park said the contractor has been retained by the base for 30 years and has four employees. Smith said the current contract has been in place since December 1998 and will expire on Nov. 30. The contractor, which reports an average income of $8,800 per month, pays 22 percent to AAFES, Smith said.
For Peter Yi, the refund isn’t as important as ensuring it doesn’t happen anymore. The delivery fee should just be added to AAFES’ bill for the furniture so “you know what you are getting it for,” he said.
— Choe Song-won contributed to this report.