The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has taken to the airways in an effort to highlight the benefits of shopping on base, but some shoppers say the exchange comes up short in certain areas.

AAFES recently launched "Exchange On Air" on the Pentagon Channel. The 30-minute show airs every day except for Saturdays, and AAFES officials plan to produce one episode a month.

"It is to inform our customer base," said AAFES spokesman Air Force Capt. David Tomiyama. "It is to show how we are different from the big-box retailers outside the base."

The show highlights how AAFES’ profits benefit school lunch programs and other base programs and how AAFES provides support during natural disasters, as well as other topics, Tomiyama said. There will also be celebrities talking about their new movies and news on the latest DVD releases.

Military dependent Robin Colvin said she thought the show was a good public relations step for AAFES.

"The clothes shopping sucks," Colvin said recently while shopping at the Ramstein Air Base exchange. Colvin said she has her mother buy her clothes in the States.

"The Power Zone, I love," she said.

Other AAFES shoppers interviewed for this story said that, overall, they enjoy patronizing the exchange’s services, but some changes and improvements are needed.

Some customers have gone as far as launching a Web site — — to let people chime in about the exchange’s service and share their bad experiences.

"Their prices are not affordable," Air Force Staff Sgt. Alejandra Anderson said, also while shopping at Ramstein. "When you shop the economy (outside base), you can see a difference in customer service. (Retailer’s employees) are more helpful off base."

Despite Anderson’s views, AAFES officials said customers overall seemed to be happy with their employees.

Last year, shoppers sent the command 14,000 comments, with the largest category of those comments praising its employees. Shoppers praising AAFES employees accounted for 21 percent of those comments.

Anderson said another thing she doesn’t like about AAFES is that she can find better prices online. The exchange service needs a show like "Exchange On Air" to help it compete with other retailers, she added.

Air Force Capt. Joe Ingram grew up shopping at AAFES. He has been in the service for 14 years and he was a dependent before he was commissioned. He said he has never had a bad experience at AAFES.

"It’s no different than shopping at Wal-Mart or Kmart. I shop here because I know it benefits the community," Ingram said.

AAFES officials admit there are ways they can improve services.

"Recent trend analysis indicates that AAFES needs to find, develop and introduce new businesses to better serve shoppers’ needs," AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey said in an e-mail. "This issue is already being addressed through partnerships with GameStop, Under Armour and Coach, a premium java beverage program and even collaboration with Macy’s."

AAFES is also continuing to focus on improving its selection and pricing, Anstey wrote.

"Exchange On Air" is televised at 11 a.m. Mondays, 7:30 a.m. Tuesdays, 5 a.m. Wednesdays, 9:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. Fridays and 5:30 a.m. Sundays, Central European Time.

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