Response to the dining services letter in The Reporter’s Oct. 3 issue
By Matthew Ady
Not wishing to waste any more time over this issue, I am unapologetically stating that I am disappointed, appalled, and absolutely disgusted by Chartwells’ management of the unlimited meals debacle.
In the October 3 edition of The Reporter our Director of Dining Services, Paul Johnson submitted a letter in which he asserted that there were “some unanswered questions that we would like to clarify.” Those questions, in case readers have forgotten were: 1. The all-you-care-to-eat concept was desired solely because of the football team, right? 2. What about free drinks? and 3. So, why can’t students share meal plans?
Let me make this clear, I have no qualms with the responses to these first two questions. I agree that the all-you-care-to-eat dining decision was made with all students in mind; or at least, that it does not negatively affect non-football students. In addition, while I myself was partial to coming through the commons and grabbing a cup of tea every now and again, I can see the point: the Commons cannot simply be an open bar for students who have not bought a meal plan.
There is no such thing as a free lunch, right?
Once again, Chartwells, this makes sense. But the logic in Chartwells’ letter abruptly ends there. On the extreme converse of a free lunch, it appears that Chartwells would prefer to absolutely rob students of meals for which they have already paid. I am writing this letter specifically in reference to the sheer lunacy of the one swipe per meal period policy.
Let me be clear, the one swipe per meal policy is absolute highway robbery. In terms of customer service, Chartwells’ handling of the student outrage over the one swipe policy is an exemplar of what not to do. So why can’t students share meal plans? Johnson tells us, “Meal plans are designed to be used by the student to control both your costs and ours.” Continuing on, Johnson proceeds to drop, by far, the most bogus explanation imaginable for the necessity of the one swipe plan. He states, “consider this exaggerated example: What if one student bought the Unlimited Meal Plan which provides unlimited swipes into the Commons? Theoretically, that student could stand at the door and swipe in the entire campus everyday on the Unlimited Meal Plan.”
Johnson then goes on to explain how not financially sustainable such a situation would be. My response: no kidding? That’s it? That’s the issue that’s keeping us from resolving this one swipe feud? If this is the case, simply limit the unlimited meals to one swipe per period (as is already the case) and render the other plans unlimited. Therefore, those with 19 meals could swipe for a friend if they wanted. Or someone with a block plan could bring more than just one friend with him or her if they so desired. This resolution is so logical, so obvious, that I am utterly amazed that the issue still abounds.
I would like to think more highly of our Dining Services, but the ignorance of this logic says one of two things about our management. Either their minds are irrevocably blown right now as they read this and they are sprinting to a computer to fix the problem, or they have much more sinister reasons for the one swipe rule.
Currently, when a student on the 19 meal plan misses a meal during the week, for whatever reason, be it they went home for vacation, or they decided to go out off campus for the evening, or they went to have dinner with a friend at their apartment, that meal is lost forever. By my calculations a student on the 19 meal plan pays approximately $7.30 per meal. This means, for every meal that student does not eat, they waste that amount with no hope of getting it back. Let me be crystal clear, Chartwells will make $7.30 for every single meal that every single student does not eat per week, and let’s be honest, most students miss a lot throughout the year. As a result, students are being robbed of their money.
But before Chartwells comes back and says they would still go unused by those people anyways, I’d like to respond with my own personal situation. I am a senior now, and this is the first time I’ve lived in the University Village Apartments so I opted out of a meal plan this year. For the last three years I have had the 19 meal plan – that is to say that I have already spent almost $15,000 with our dining services.
Under normal circumstances, if I had a friend for whom I would like to make dinner, they could come over, have dinner at my place, and the next day they could swipe me in for lunch or dinner at the commons to even it out – everyone’s happy. When I confronted the issue at the beginning of the year, the best solution they could come up with was to have my girlfriend (with whom I eat dinner every night, but still needs a plan for breakfast and lunch) get the 115 block meal plan – our largest available block meal plan. Of course though, this is not plausible, because 115 meals comes out to one meal a day. Let me repeat: one meal a day. That’s definitely sustainable.
Don’t worry though, if you go over the 115 you can start paying the $9.00 per meal out of your hatter bucks. Instead it seems that Chartwells would prefer that student on the 19 meal plan to miss their meal (and profit $7.30) and then the following day maybe I’ll come down to have dinner with my friend there and spend the additional $9.00 to eat with him or her.
Johnson concludes his response to the question by asserting that the multi-swipe per meal model “that was run in the past is not financially sustainable by either Stetson University or any food service provider.” If that is true, you better take a good look at your cost structure, because something is very wrong. Do not be fooled, in no less words, Johnson stated that even though they sell a student a plan allowing for 19 meals per week, they over-budget themselves in other areas assuming these levels of food consumption will not be reached. In short, Chartwells admits that it plans to bank on our unused meals.
Johnson then continues to blow right over the issue and exclaim that Chartwells now offers new meal times, culinary programs, and more green initiatives – all fantastic initiatives, but the point is not lost – he hides the problem. Instead of truly attacking the issue, he provides a bogus explanation and attempts to pave over the issue with a bunch of positive propaganda about our Dining Services.
Do NOT be fooled Stetson. We have voiced our complaints over this issue for more than two months now and still it persists. I encourage every student who reads this article to go and ask Johnson why it is that the other limited plans are not already free from the robbery of the one-swipe plan. Do not rest until this issue is resolved. I am sick and tired of reading the rebuttals of the Dining Services management. Fix this issue, and let’s move on.