Does the Commissary Raise Prices on Payday?

(Defense Commissary Agency)
(Defense Commissary Agency)

Dear Q&B,

The prices at the commissary change a lot, and there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason. Someone told me they raise the prices near payday when a lot of people are shopping, and then lower them again a few days later. Is that true?

Sincerely, Shopper

Dear Shopper,

What you heard is partially true, and partially not true. Here's the deal:

The commissary's pricing plan doesn't work like other grocery stores. Instead, the commissary is required by law to sell items at cost. In other words, whatever it pays the distributor for the goods is what you are charged.

Because of that, the commissary also doesn't run weekly sales or specials known in the industry as "loss leaders." A normal grocery store often will sell some items at below what it paid for them as a means of luring you in. The commissary, however, can't do that thanks to the law.

Related: Commissary 101: How to Shop at the Commissary

So why do prices always seem to change around paydays?

The answer is simple: That is exactly when they change.

"Commissary prices are changed on the 1st and 16th of each month and are usually in effect for 30 to 45 days," commissary officials say. "These price changes are generally about a 50-50 mix, with some prices being lowered as items go on a special promotion or sale, and some raised as items come off a special promotion or sale. The number of price changes will vary, according to the size of the store, but prices throughout the store will always -- and only -- reflect the cost of the items to DeCA. Commissaries are required by law to sell products at cost plus surcharge, so we never make a profit on the products we sell."

So, yes, they are raising them around payday. But are they raising them to correspond with payday and then lowering them again right after? No.

If you want to keep track of the price changes, the easiest way to do it is in the savings aisle section of the commissary's website. You can login and look at every item that is having its price lowered for that period. Even if your store chooses not to mark items that are featuring a lower price, you'll be able to know what they are with the price list as a cheat sheet.

Happy shopping!

Sincerely, Team Q&B

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Benefits Commissaries