GWoes

Students who thought they’d charged meals at Mick’s to meal plan points last semester got a surprise this week. Letters from the GWorld card office informed them they had amassed unpaid bills – and must pay up before holds are placed on their accounts.

This latest snag in the GWorld card program stems from ineptitude – not of students, but of the University and its off-campus partner. For a semester, Mick’s unwittingly allowed student patrons to foot their bills with invalid accounts. Only “debit” accounts work off-campus, but students with “meal plan points” – a tax-free, on-campus dining plan – charged their meals too.

Between 500 and 600 transactions were conducted invalidly – though the University didn’t realize anything amiss until the end of last semester.

The rambling letter sent to students discussed some reasons the new GWorld card was created, all the great things it will do – and some of the problems that developed as a result of its newness.

Then came the kicker: “There were transactions made which were accepted by (off-campus) locations that were unapproved.” Translation: Because off-campus eateries did not know how our system works, and because we did not oversee those establishments, Mick’s is owed a chunk of money. But we are not going to pay because that would mean we would incur financial losses for our own mistakes.

Hey, if the holds on students’ accounts don’t work, how about students finding horses’ heads in their beds? Or maybe a visit by a group of large, burly men with baseball bats? But how will they get students abroad for the semester to pay up? Does GW have an international syndicate of repo men?

The new GWorld card was publicized as the cutting-edge of modernity. It would make students’ lives easier, they said. It would reduce the necessity of students carrying around large amounts of cash, they said. It would give students greater options and flexibility, they said. It would let students buy meals off-campus, do their laundry without the usual quest for quarters, while serving as identification, they said. Eventually, it would let students pay for their books at the GW Bookstore and Gelman Library fines, they said. Maybe one day, students would even be able to use it at other off-campus businesses, they said.

Students weren’t trying to pull a fast one on Mick’s or the University. Rather, they were misinformed by Mick’s (where servers said their points were vaild) and entirely uninformed by GW. The folks responsible for GWorld must find a way to deduct the cost of the meals from students’ meal plan points. It is unacceptable to hit students with unexpected bills to smooth over other people’s errors.

As far as the GWorld program goes, what incentive does any off-campus business have to join the plan when GWorld seems to be a mess? Why should students put money into GWorld debit accounts when they can do just fine without them? If these answers cannot be easily answered in a sentence or two, then what’s the point of even having GWorld?

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