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The Army and Air Force Exchange Service is asking customers whether the agency should change how often it adjusts prices at its overseas gas stations.

A survey being sent to AAFES customers at overseas bases asks them if they would prefer prices to be adjusted monthly, bi-monthly, weekly or annually. Currently, gas prices are adjusted at the beginning of each month based on a four-week average of stateside pump prices.

The survey is in response to concerns raised by customers about the overseas gas prices not dropping as quickly as stateside prices over the summer, Col. Dean Thurman, a spokesman at AAFES Dallas headquarters, said Monday.

“In July and August, there was a period there where prices were falling several cents a day in the States,” Thurman said.

The Internet and global information flow means it is easy for people in Europe to find out quickly exactly what people are paying for gas in the States, he said, and “customers aren’t shy about telling us their opinions about what we do.”

Thurman said AAFES has asked its managers to survey as many customers as possible.

“The price (of gas) had been seesawing,” he said. “Now that things have calmed down a bit, we thought it was time to ask our customers what they would like us to do.”

One customer, Vilseck fitness center worker Carl Boothe, said he’s happy with the current policy.

Boothe, who has received the survey but has not responded to it, said he wouldn’t expect AAFES to change its prices each week.

“I’d rather go with every month,” Boothe said. “And you can see [the prices] fluctuate better [monthly] than if they did it every year.”

The advantage of more rapid price changes would be the ability to keep up with price drops in the U.S., Thurman said. The flipside would be faster price increases at AAFES’ overseas gas stations if prices rise in the States.

Some AAFES locations in the Pacific buy fuel from the Defense Energy Supply Center, which sets its prices every six months, but generally AAFES gas is bought from local suppliers such as Esso in Germany, according to another AAFES spokesman, Judd Anstey.

“Pump prices are not related to the cost of the product. They are based on the Department of Energy average pump in the States for the previous four or five weeks,” he said.

Due to these extreme market conditions, AAFES used the DOE averages for the weeks of Sept. 18 and 25 only — instead of the standard 4 to 5 week average — to determine October pump prices.

The AAFES survey also asks respondents if they are military, civilian, spouses or retired and whether they buy most of their gas with coupons or at the pump.

Thurman said managers also were asked to go out to the pumps and talk to their customers.

“Any responsible retailer or military command is always interested in opinions of those it represents,” he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.
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