When GW students swipe their GWorld cards at on-campus food venues such as J Street, the transaction occurs instantly. But at off-campus restaurants such as TGI Friday’s and Au Bon Pain, transactions are far from immediate, and in many cases it takes minutes for a sale to be completed.
The advent of Colonial Cash is generally advantageous for local-area partners that signed on to the program, which substitutes GWorld payment for cash. But the overflow of business at peak hours and slow transaction time has made the system a mixed blessing.
Students are flooding off-campus venues like never before, even those that were a part of the Debit Dollar system last year, since all students living on campus must purchase Colonial Cash. TGI Friday’s reports it has seen up to five times as many students this year than last year. Most off-campus partners are simply not ready for the influx of student business, as wait times are astronomical at places such as the Thai Place on Pennsylvania Avenue, in large part because of multiple students using GWorld cards from the same party. Checkout speeds have slowed to a crawl at other places that depend on fast transactions in their business models such as La Prima and the Burro.
Off-campus partners connect to the Colonial Cash system via modems, which feed into a University modem bank. When there are more transactions than there are available modems, a virtual line is created that is reported to be as long as 10 minutes. This is testing the patience of both venue employees and their customers.
The Colonial Cash system, as it is now, is insufficient and will eventually hurt the partners’ business, especially considering the University takes a percentage of the sales completed. University officials say they are in the process of adding more modems to the system, which are definitely needed.
The long lines caused by GWorld transaction time is beginning to alienate non-GWorld customers that still make up a large proportion of off-campus venue’s revenue – and the loss of any of that business due to slower service will force the partners to rethink their relationship with the University. In a way, the area partners are providing a much-needed service to students – providing unprecedented variety to the meal point system. But the University’s inability to meet the partners halfway with a faster system is unacceptable and detrimental to long-term relationships with off-campus food venues.