If you've lived on Guam for more than a year, you may remember a time when produce at the base commissaries was a little, um, cheaper. If you've lived there for any length of time, you've likely noticed just how expenses things can be, particularly when it comes to bagged salad.
Those high prices aren't just your imagination, according to an audit by the Defense Department Inspector General released last week. And, thanks to the report, the price of bagged salads at commissaries on Guam is going to go down soon.
First, a little background. Since the beginning of time (OK, not really, but you know what I mean) produce prices had been based on the actual cost of the food brought in by the contractor. The cost of shipping it there from the U.S. was covered by the Department of Defense. You can imagine that cost a pretty penny.
That's why when looking to save some money in 2015, the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA) decided to change their contract with the produce folks so that taxpayers were no longer paying for shipping. Instead the new contract resulted in those shipping costs being factored into the price of goods, meaning that costs would go up.
And go up they did. According to a new IG report, the overall customer prices for fresh produce at Guam commissaries went up 7.2 percent between November, 2015 and August, 2016. That's a tidy little increase. But the price of bagged salads is what really came with a shock. Between those two dates, the customer price for the 41 bagged salad items, the report says, went up 150.3 percent.
Yes, 150.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the commissary was seeing the fruits (pun intended) of what it set out to do. By passing off transportation costs to the contractor, the audit found, they are set to save over $8 million in shipping costs per year.
Still, saddling customers with astronomical prices for bagged salad goes against one of the things the commissary is supposed to be accomplishing in overseas bases -- giving service members access to groceries at affordable prices. While the new contract had actually improved the quality of produce, the report found (and shoppers I've talked to confirmed), what is quality if you can't afford to buy it?
And that's why, as part of the report, the Inspector General recommended that DeCA figure out a way to bring down the bagged salad prices. And DeCA agreed. Starting in April, the report says, DeCA will once again start paying for the shipping of bagged salads to Guam. The result should be that the cost of shipping is no longer passed on to consumers -- and the sticker price of bagged salads for you Guam folks goes down.
Salad for all!