Starting later this year, all honorably discharged military veterans of every branch of the service will be able to shop tax-free online at the Army & Air Force Exchange Service. The organization could add 13 million shoppers to its customer base in the age of Amazon.
Chris Brennan, a retired Army vet living in Pearland, calls it a win-win situation. “It seems to be mutually beneficial,” he says. “They get people going through their site, and the veteran gets the benefit of no taxes.”
Asked if he makes use of the exchange, Brennan replies, “Not as a civilian. When I was in the military, I preferred to use it.” He adds, “Convenience was the big part. Because the exchange services followed you wherever there was a post, no matter how big or how small.”
When Brennan was in the Army, he says, the exchange’s prices and selection were okay. “But as they started to rearrange it and take away the government subsidies,” he recalls, “it went through a period of change. At that time, in the ’80s, some people would shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Go to Walmart.’”
“Overseas, the exchanges are critical,” Brenna adds. “They make being over there a lot more endurable. I remember being in Korea, they opened up a pizza parlor where you could buy pizza by the slice. That was a big thing.” In the same way, he says, the exchanges are like shopping at home.