TGI Fridays to take Debit Dollars

T.G.I Friday’s resumed its usual practice of accepting Debit Dollars on Tuesday and is negotiating with the University over $7,000 in lost revenue.

Friday’s stopped accepting Debit Dollars at the end of last semester when the restaurant’s Debit Dollars machine broke, but now General Manager John Faison said the machine is working and the University has pledged to assist Friday’s in recovering some $7,000 in estimated losses from the summer.

“Right now, I’m confident (University officials) will do what they need to do,” Faison said.

Faison said he met with University officials soon after a Hatchet article revealed the Debit Dollar discrepancy.

“By the time we got the machinery working, a lot of people had nothing in their accounts or the accounts no longer existed,” Faison said. University policy is to not accept Debit Dollar transactions without signed receipts or electronic transactions.

Ayodele McClenney, senior project manager for Auxiliary Services, said the situation was unique and the University would work with Friday’s to recover as much of the $7,000 as possible.

Though McClenney said the problem was under investigation before last Monday’s Hatchet article, Faison said he contacted the University before the article but did not receive a reply.

“The article really shook things up,” he said, when the University contacted him the day after the article was published.

“I found out (the machine was broken) a little before the article came out,” McClenney said. “We were getting questions (about) why Friday’s wasn’t taking Debit Dollars and we called Friday’s because we didn’t know.”

David Underwood, director of finance for the office of strategic partnership, said if Friday’s provides signed receipts from the missing transactions, the University will verify if there is money in the students’ accounts, e-mail the students, deduct the proper amount from the Debit account and issue a check to Friday’s. The parties are still working out what course of action to take if there is no money in the account or if the account no longer exists.

Businesses that participate in the Debit Dollars program sign a contract that stipulates how in-person transactions should be executed, McClenney said.

In addition to verifying the correct logo and photo of the card user, McClenney said there needs to be a signed receipt from the Debit Dollar machine for a business to complete the electronic transaction and have the money deducted from the Debit account.

“If you don’t have a signature, the contract stipulates that there is no recourse for the transaction,” she said. Underwood said the University has not received records from Friday’s yet and does not know how much money they will be able to recover.

“If I get half of that ($7,000), that’s fine,” Faison said. Debit Dollars account for about $8-10,000 of business for Friday’s per month, about 17 percent of total revenue.

“This is not money that the University owes to Friday’s,” said Underwood. “The University isn’t reimbursing anybody.”

Underwood said Friday’s was able to produce signed receipts for some of the missing transactions and has been paid for all transactions submitted.

Underwood said Debit Dollar accounts are prepaid student funds tracked by a software system with the GWorld Card Office. Students spend about $80-100,000 in Debit Dollars per week and the University gets .065 percent of every Debit Dollar sale.

If there is a malfunction in the machine, McClenney said that the office is to be notified immediately. McClenney said she was unsure of normal turn around time for machine repairs.

“We recommend that businesses don’t just write down names when the machine breaks,” said Underwood.

Friday’s Debit Dollar machine had been broken since late April, but Faison said he continued to take Debit Dollars until May “in good faith.”

Although past Friday’s managers have declined to participate in the Debit Dollar program, Faison said he was confident.

“I’ve tightened the belt on my end,” he said. “I won’t let the machinery be broken for 30 or 40 days.”

Now that the system is put in place and in working order, Faison said he is happy.

Sophomore Gabrielle Schaeffer shared her frustration with not being able to use her GWorld card at Friday’s.

“Last spring, I was eating dinner with a friend and had to leave when the check came to go to an ATM,” she said. “I was thoroughly annoyed.”

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