Base exchanges, sometimes called post exchanges, are the equivalent of malls in the civilian world. Military and civilian staff and their families can use the exchange to buy haircuts, magazines, lunch or flowers. Base exchanges are run by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which boasts more than 2,000 facilities around the world. To do business with the exchange, you have to do business according to AAFES rules.
Filling Out Forms
Unsurprisingly, doing business with the government requires a lot of paperwork. You'll need to submit a Source List application, which tells the base's AAFES contracting officer about your business and what services or items you want to provide. To get on base, you'll also have to submit paperwork for a background check: name, eye color, height, reason for going on base, and whether you've been convicted of a felony. If you're looking to do business at multiple bases, you'll need to send each base your Source List paperwork. The forms are available on AAFES' website.
Types of Opportunites
Base exchanges include both short-term and long-term concessions. Short-term concessions such as retail kiosks or food trucks set up on base for a few weeks or months. To land those gigs, you work through your local contracting officers. Long-term concessions such as a dry cleaner or a nail salon have contracts running a year or more. You have to bid for these opportunities like any other government contract, working in this case through the contracting officers at AAFES headquarters.
AAFES doesn't want you selling shoddy merchandise. You may have to provide sample products, which AAFES will test to see how well they perform. With clothes, for example, AAFES might test how well they withstand damage and whether they retain creases. When you finally sign a contract, it will include quality specifications. You'll have to live up to the specs, and not deliver anything that falls short. If you give warranties on your goods or services, AAFES customers get the best warranty you offer.
Offering gratuities of any sort to close the deal is strictly forbidden. Anything that looks like a bribe, including an offer of employment to a contracting officer, can kill your contract. Your advertising must never imply that the military endorses your products or services, and you can't use any of the base-exchange trademarks without permission Your AAFES price must be as good as what you offer to civilians in the area, or better.
- Procurement Technical Assistance Center: Doing Business with Base Exchange Stores
- Army and Air Force Exchange Service: Exchange by the Numbers
- Army and Air Force Exchange Service: Background Checks for Contractors/Vendors
- Army and Air Force Exchange Service: Testing and Analysis
- Army and Air Force Exchange Service: Terms and Conditions
A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.