AAFES running low on fuel ration cards
By MARK ABRAMSON | STARS AND STRIPES Published: October 8, 2008
The switch from fuel ration coupons to a credit card-like system in Germany has hit another bump in the road.
The latest problem with the fuel ration cards is that the Army and Air Force Exchange Service does not have enough to go around. And it’s unclear when the supply problem will be resolved.
"We are pretty short," AAFES spokesman Lt. Col. David Konop said Tuesday. "We are trying to cross level [the supply of gas cards] as best we can across our German locations. … We are waiting on a shipment of ESSO fuel cards that will allow us to recover from a shortage."
Konop said it is unclear when the card shipment will arrive, but he expects it to be soon.
In the meantime, AAFES customers can still purchase and use fuel coupons, even though the front of the coupons say they expire on Sept. 30. The coupons should be accepted through the end of the year.
"Coupons are not being printed anymore, but we do have enough coupons to fix this," Konop said.
The gas cards and coupons allow users to fill up at U.S. prices without paying pricey German taxes. Most users are limited to 400 liters a month, but the ration depends on a vehicle’s fuel consumption.
The shortage isn’t the first snag in the move to fuel ration cards. In early July, some users who pumped gas had that fuel counted toward their June ration. There has also been confusion as to how the process works with rental cars.
According to AAFES, the shortage is limited to cards for unleaded gas and each case is being handled on an individual basis.
"There are a couple of things that led to this. First off, this is the first time we have done this transition," Konop said.
Konop said that AAFES knew how many gas cards were needed based on vehicle registrations. But replacement cards were needed in cases when registration information, for example license plates, changed, he said.
"That was pretty significant. That was quite a few thousand cards," Konop said about changes in the license plates. "They made the right number of cards that were needed had everything been perfect."
AAFES also might have underestimated how many cards would be needed for rental cars, he said. Every time a card user rents a vehicle, he or she must get a card for that individual vehicle.
Despite the shortage, AAFES doesn’t believe there is a need to notify Esso or the German government because the cards don’t have to be phased in completely until the coupons expire, Konop said.
"That is when the horse and carriage turns into a pumpkin," Konop said about the transition.
Stripes was unable to reach ESSO officials for comment by deadline Tuesday.
It is unclear whether the shortage of fuel cards could be used by anyone to exceed his or her monthly fuel ration, but AAFES officials appear to be concerned about that prospect.
In an e-mail obtained by Stars and Stripes, AAFES Europe Senior Retail Program Specialist Ruth Wagner wrote the following:
"We must avoid at any cause [sic] that customers use this card shortage to acquire more ration than what they are authorized to buy."