Earlier this week, I was talking with some friends about spending and overspending. The conversation came around to the offerings at the military exchanges, and the other people all thought it was awful that the military exchanges sold so many items that were clearly overpriced luxuries, such as designer handbags, huge televisions, and expensive perfumes. I see their point, even if I'm not sure that I agree. In my mind, the military exchanges are inteded to offer quality items at decent prices. Most military folks are not in an income bracket that can sensibly be purchasing $2000 televisions, or $400 purses. Whose really buying these things, and can they afford them?
In the past, military exchanges were not permitted to sell the larger televisions and other similarly pricey merchandise. When these regulations were changed, the military exchanges began offering priciere items, including those $2000 Bose entertainment systems and visiting sales from really, really expensive manufacturers.
I've still got mixed feelings. I understand the logic that some people are going to purchase expensive goods regardless of whether they are sold at the military exchanges, and that selling this merchandise through the exchange can help save those customers some money and also increase the profits of the exchanges. Since those profits are given back to the military community, offering high-dollar items in the exchanges is presented as a benefit to the military community as a whole. However, it still feels sort of wrong that military exchanges showcase merchandise that is not within the budget of most military members. I think it gives some customers the perception that they should be buying these goods.
I'm curious: what do you think? Should military exchanges offer luxury goods? Do you buy them? What sort of merchandise seems appropriate to you?