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Consumer Watch: AAFES cuts ties with auction site

Jun. 27, 2013 - 05:55PM   |  
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The Army and Air Force Exchange Service has severed relations with its auction site, At Auction, which had been linked to the official Exchange Online Mall on

Previous customers are still getting emails from the auction company, labeled — as before — “Exchange Auctions,” and they may not know AAFES no longer uses the company. Those addresses were collected through the third-party company, At Auction, not through AAFES.

AAFES took action because of the company’s “failure to comply with commission payment requirements and shipping charges that were not fair, reasonable and in line with industry standards,” said AAFES spokesman Judd Anstey.

But the website for the auction still exists, using as its URL and “exchange” in its logo.

“We own that site,” said At Auction’s president, John House. “We created it as Exchange Auction, and have the right to continue.”

House said AAFES terminated the contract Feb. 27 without cause, and did not offer an explanation until later.

He acknowledged that At Auction was behind on a commission payment, which he said was sent. The company also provided an analysis of shipping rates for other online auction companies that showed “we’re right in line with their rates,” House said.

AAFES received 132 complaints about At Auction from 2008 through March 1 of this year, out of roughly 600,000 items shipped over that time.

House said business on the site has steadily declined since it was removed from the mall, but “we have a lot of customers who continue to shop there. We have a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Customers can give us a call and we’ll take care of it.”

As of June 10, the site still listed the Army and Air Force Exchange Service as a client.

Anstey said AAFES has formally and informally notified At Auction multiple times of the unauthorized use of exchange trademarks.

John Martin, a retired Navy master chief, said he found the site through an Internet search. Thinking it was connected to the military exchanges, he bid on a vacation package, and was surprised by more than $200 in extra fees.

“I could’ve gotten the same room at Travelocity cheaper,” he said.

House said the vacation packages up for bid clearly state the fees and conditions.

Over the past 4½ years, he said, “We’ve found that we have a lot of very, very happy customers, and a few people who are not.” He provided data showing that the site has repeat customers. Of the 3,631 people who successfully bid on items in 2012, 23 percent had registered in 2011; 12 percent in 2010 and 13 percent in 2009.

Micheal Shore, who was medically retired from the Air Force in 1991, said he has been an At Auction customer for years and has spent thousands of dollars on bids.

“I have nothing but positive things to say about At Auction,” Shore said. “If they don’t reinstate At Auction, I will personally go visit the director of AAFES.”

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