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Josephine Marshall, a fulfillment worker at the post commissary, selects fruit for an order under the facility's new Curbside-2-Go program, which allows customers to shop online then pick up their orders curbside. The Fort Lee Commissary is the first facility worldwide to offer the service.

It’s called “CLICK2GO,” and Fort Lee commissary shoppers were the first in the world to buy groceries online and pick them up at the store curbside when it began on Wednesday.

The Defense Commissary Agency is testing a new Internet-ordering and curbside pickup service at Fort Lee as it seeks to provide what commissary customers want and as it keeps pace with evolving shopping trends without driving up operating costs, according to Joseph H. Jeu, DeCA director and CEO.

“Throughout its history, the commissary benefit has adapted to meet its customers’ needs, and we must not ignore the increasing use of online and smartphone technologies – what’s called e-commerce and m-commerce – as ways to provide the commissary benefit of the 21st Century,” Jeu said.

Shoppers may access the agency’s website for detailed information about the program, but briefly, here is how it works:

An authorized commissary customer logs on to DeCA’s website, www.commissaries.com, anytime day or night, authenticates his or her identity, and then chooses from among nearly 21,000 items.

It’s the full assortment of grocery, or center-store items, and a refined assortment of the top-selling random-weight items, i.e., fresh meat, deli and bakery items and fresh seafood. As the customer shops online, the virtual shopping basket is updated to reflect the items and prices. At checkout, the customer selects a designated pickup time presented by the system. The pick-up time is at least four hours from the order time.

Once the order has been received at the commissary, a fulfillment worker will gather the items the customer has chosen in accordance with the scheduled pick-up time. The items will be kept in a temperature-appropriate holding area and loaded into the customer’s vehicle upon arrival. The pickup stations are located in the back parking lot that can be accessed from the roadway that passes behind the Post Exchange.

The customer pays for the groceries at curbside – without having to leave the vehicle. The accepted forms of payment are credit card, debit card that processes like credit and DeCA gift cards.

While customers may order at any time, the days to pick up their orders are limited to weekdays, not weekends, during the store’s normal hours of operation.

CLICK2GO is being tested at Fort Lee first, followed later this year at two other stores – the commissaries at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., and Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., to iron out any operational glitches before the service is offered on a larger basis.

“We’re looking at everything from customers’ expectations to our ability to deliver such a service efficiently and effectively. This is all part of our commitment to understand our customers and deliver a 21st Century commissary benefit,” Jeu said.

With the test, DeCA will assess e-commerce and evaluate customer usage, cost and impact on overall store operations and customer service, said Tracie Russ, director of DeCA’s business development directorate, which heads the test. DeCA will not charge a service fee for this benefit during the first year but may charge a fee in the future.

“Determining all the nuances and costs of this way to provide the commissary benefit are major goals of our test,” Russ said. “During the test we’ll be learning and adapting as we go along – engaging our customers to help shape the program.”