Shopping at the New Exchange

The Exchange, run by AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange Service), closed down for a couple of days as it moved. Marines and soldiers with tobacco habits had to suffer a few days if they hadn't stocked up on cigarettes.

The old building, with its roof of rippled, peeling tin panels and dark and dusty interior, housed a small store where service members could purchase (or at least attempt to purchase) small retail items. A trip to the Exchange was a weekly event for many of us as we perused any new merchandise, and stocked up on toiletries we'd used up during the week. Any hope of finding a new product was often dashed during the visit, and we'd purchase only necessites. If they were in stock.

After being shuttered for four days, the Exchange opened in its new location. For a couple of days, going to see the new Exchange became a popular activity, the same way a new shop in a small town draws crowds, mostly lookers. Aisles were twice as wide and four times as long and shelves bearing un-dusty merchandise beckoned. Items not previously available filled the racks, from rugs to irons to Bundt pans. ( Who here has a stove in which to bake cakes?) The music and movie selections were expanded as were the video-gaming systems.

Checkout lines were long at first, but in the week to follow the Exchange's power to draw in customers faded. It is still an upgrade. Time will tell, but it looks like service members will not need to have items shipped due to non-availability.

By Bert Stover |  July 19, 2006; 7:33 AM ET  | Category:  Al Taqaddum, Iraq
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