The University soon will begin the GWorld Card program’s Phase II which will enable students to use debit points at vending and laundry machines. But some student leaders said they are wary of the University’s ability to implement the program effectively since problems in the current system have not been solved.
With only one off-campus eatery accepting GWorld debit points, the program is in serious trouble, wrote Gayle Adler, the Student Association’s Dining Services Commission director, in a Jan. 16 memorandum to the SA and the GWorld office.
The administration should “step back and get their act together,” said undergraduate Sen. Jesse Strauss (CSAS) who is also the Student Life Committee chair.
“(The University) can’t get Phase I right, let alone Phase II,” Strauss said.
“From a consumer standpoint, this program has become ineffectual due to the lack of retailers participating,” Adler’s memorandum said.
But Michele Neyers, GWorld Card program manager, said it was agreed from the program’s outset that only three merchants would be included in the early stage of the One Card program.
“Honestly, three is all we can handle right now,” Neyers said.
The SA, therefore, is recommending that at least two more off-campus partners be added to the plan within the month. Anything short of that would be false advertising, Adler wrote in her memorandum.
“It’s not a very good program as it is now, but it could change. We’ll give them a month to add partners. After that, we’ll request a refund for students who want one,” Adler said.
But Neyers said, “When you sign up for the debit account, you agree it’s non-refundable unless you leave the school.”
A month is also unrealistic – by the end of the semester is more like it, Neyers added.
“Unfortunately, in the past month, we’ve gone from three participating merchants to one,” Neyers said.
Subway on K Street closed during winter break unbeknownst to the University, and Delhi Deli’s cardreader was deactivated.
The University still is “trying to locate someone from Subway” to get its $1,000 card reader back, as well as the modem system, Neyers said.
Mick’s was removed from the program because it allowed students without debit accounts to use “points” to pay for food, subsequently ringing up thousands of dollars of invalid transactions in more than three weeks last semester.
Neyers said that the regional manager of Mick’s admitted he was in the wrong, so the University does not intend to pick up the tab.
This was not the first time the University faced financial problems with Mick’s. Almost two years ago, when GW was using the Aramark Gold Points system, a number of cashiers and managers had been fired from Mick’s for incidents similar to those this past year. Mick’s is under investigation by GW’s legal counsel and Internal Audit Department, Neyers said.
Only Hunan Peking remains as a GW off-campus partner.
Students have expressed concern about the $50-minimum balance requirement to purchase food on the debit points program.
Neyers said a new policy, which she has informed the restaurant’s management about, will allow students to spend their debit accounts “down to the penny.”
Neyers also said she hopes to gather input from students through a possible marketing coordinator regarding future expansion of the program. And she said the program might grow to 40 merchants, with stores like Tower Records and The Gap. This idea would change the traditional program geared toward eateries.
But the University may be hindering vendors from joining the One Card program, Strauss said.
If the University had followed through on the DSC recommendations for off-campus partners, the debit points program would not be constrained to one option today, Strauss noted.
“The way dynamics should work, restaurants should be banging down the door to participate (in the One Card plan),” he said. “But (GW) is not advertising the program because they want to keep J Street solvent and limit the competition for the on-campus eateries.”
“Competition might be one of the reasons the off-campus partner program was taken away from the DSC,” Neyers said.
A “conflict of interest in running J Street and the off-campus food program” possibly exists, Neyers added.
Strauss said the DSC proposed a recommendation, drafted last fall, to expand the plan to include 12 eateries. The recommendation included: Cone E. Island, Bertucci’s, Au Bon Pain, T.G.I. Friday’s, Quick Pita, Capitol Grounds, The Burro, Whatsa Bagel, La Prima and Wrapworks.
The restaurants, which would face a possible 16 percent transaction fee charged by the GWorld office to join the program, have not been contacted yet.
But student input may not have been taken into consideration by the administration.
“We do not require your encouragement to bring the other card applications on-line as soon as possible,” Nancy Haaga, director of Institutional and Auxilary Services, wrote in an e-mail to Strauss.
“We have been working and will continue to be steadfast in our approach to establish the planned card applications as quickly as is humanly possible,” Haaga added.