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Stars and Stripes recently sent a few reporters to the pumps in both Europe and Pacific to ask two questions:

“What’s more important: how often gas prices change or how those changes are made?”“Do you think gasoline prices are fair?”The results were mixed:

18 customers said how the prices are set was more important, compared with 15 customers who thought how often prices were changed.17 respondents said the prices were fair, compared with 14 who thought they were unfair.Those who chose to comment gave mostly negative responses.

“(AAFES puts) in every increase right away, but then with the decreases they take forever or never,” said Renate Scheibe, wife of an active-duty airman at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, who believes that prices are unfair.

In nearby Kaiserslautern, Army Sgt. Rodney Howell of the 29th Support Group said prices were unfair and should be cut on more than just gas because of the sacrifices soldiers are making in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But Kevin Drury, a Bamberg, Germany, elementary school teacher, said that as long as on-base prices are less than what Germans pay, everything is all right.

In Camp Zama, Japan, shopper Tim Bailes said, “It is my belief that AAFES has gone out of their way to hide (gas pricing) information and to go so far as to ‘price fix’ the cost of fuel with other installations.” Bailes added that perhaps each installation could be further informed and prices set locally.

Many customers, such as Chief Petty Officer Lonnie Silvis in Yongsan, South Korea, and Sgt. 1st Class James Polk in Bamberg said they don’t pay attention to prices, knowing they’ll always pay what’s asked because of the need for gas.

After falling more than 50 cents a gallon in October and nearly 25 cents in November, gas prices stabilized for the last month of the year, moving just cents on unleaded and diesel, according to recent pricing press release.

AAFES says its prices are determined by using the U.S. Department of Energy national price-per-gallon average for the four to five weeks before each month. The agency then takes that average and adds 19 cents for dispensing costs.

That policy doesn’t sit well with Sgt. Robert Farrington, with the 32nd Signal Battalion in Darmstadt, Germany.

“I don’t think they should go off the national average; they should take the national average and take 20 percent off,” Farrington said. “AAFES gas prices are ridiculous.”

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