Santes Frazier sits in his narrow office in the back of Provisions. It’s so small that he has to move his bike just to open the door. But Frazier’s not complaining. As director of Food Services, one of his jobs is to listen to complaints, and prices are at the top of the list.
“A lot of students say the prices at Provisions are too high,” Frazier said, “but our own numbers show that they’re right in line with, and sometimes well below, (similar stores).”
While he receives student complaints regarding high prices, Frazier echoes many Aramark and University officials, noting that Provisions does not have the storage capacity of a normal grocery story and cannot afford to have lower prices.
“We’re talking to vendors, but right now Provisions just can’t get the bulk discounts of large grocery stores,” Frazier said.
“When you compare Provisions to a Safeway or a Shoppers’ Club, you’re not comparing apples to apples,” said Joe Pasterkiewicz, director of operations for dining services. “They do a million dollars a day. Provisions doesn’t. It’s more fair to look at a 7-Eleven or a WaWa.”
The Hatchet looked at the prices of 10 items at Provisions, the 7-Eleven on New Hampshire Avenue, the Watergate Safeway and Shoppers’ Club, a large grocery store in Arlington, Va.
The items selected were all either staples or foods commonly associated with college students, including eggs, milk, bread, ramen noodles, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and soda.
The survey found the Provisions total was almost $2 less than that of 7-Eleven and only slightly more than Safeway’s. Shoppers’ Club, however, had a significantly lower total than any of the other stores, even factoring in Virginia’s 4 percent food tax.
The totals were as follows:
* 7-11: $22.94
* Provisions: $21.16
* Safeway: $19.63
* Shoppers’ Club: $16.88
Some students were surprised to hear the results of the survey.
“It’s pretty surprising – everyone says Provisions is overpriced,” said sophomore Brett George, adding that he shops there a few times a week.
“As a senior, I don’t have many points,” Andrew Bakaj said. “And, when I went to Provisions one time to buy a bottle of A-1, the cashier said, ‘Are you sure you want to buy this?’ I looked at the price and decided not to.”
Other students still had complaints about the lack of service at Provisions.
“The prices may be similar, but I shouldn’t have to stand in line 20 minutes for a bottle of soda,” sophomore Peter Roehrich said.
Sophomore Ryan Geist, who heads the Dining Services Commission, a Student Association group that relays student dining concerns to the administration, said he was not surprised by the results.
“We’ve investigated (prices) to a large degree and found them to be quite comparable to convenience store prices,” Geist said. “People are used to shopping in a supermarket. This isn’t the same thing. But the University, with Dining Services as the student voice, does work very hard to keep prices fair.”
Frazier said Provisions is working to expand options and plans to start selling small appliances to students in the fall.