DJ’s Fastbreak overcharged students without their knowledge

The University has forced DJ’s Fastbreak, a popular on-campus eatery, to stop charging customers a fee for using Colonial Cash, a GW official said Tuesday.

The counter-service restaurant located at 22nd and G streets has been adding a five-cent surcharge on all Colonial Cash purchases for at least a month, and possibly as many as nine. Nancy Haaga, GW’s director of Auxiliary and Institutional Services, confirmed that DJ’s cashiers have systematically overcharged GWorld cards above the price shown on the cash register’s display.

“This activity is unacceptable and in violation of the (GWorld) Merchant Agreement,” Haaga wrote in an e-mail. “DJ’s was notified … and has removed the surcharge for GWorld Colonial Cash purchases.”

Haaga said the University “strictly prohibits” Colonial Cash partners from penalizing students for using their GWorld cards with additional fees. Before any business is allowed to join the program, its management has to sign a contract that forbids the type of surcharges DJ’s was assessing.

DJ’s owner Sun Kim said the fees were justified because of new expenses he had to pay to Blackboard, the company that operates the Colonial Cash system.

“They began to charge three or four cents (per swipe),” Kim said. “Then we thought we could re-pass that charge. We had a complaint last week, then we dropped the charge immediately.”

Kim added that he didn’t know how much money he made from the sum of GWorld surcharges, which he said have been around for about a month.

An employee who identified herself as Flora said in an interview in Spanish that the surcharge had in fact existed since January 2005,

In a Hatchet article earlier this month, Haaga said the University began outsourcing the Colonial Cash system to Blackboard in fall 2004. Blackboard has since required merchants to purchase new card readers, costing about $350 each, and the use of a DSL or high-speed connection. Several vendors have been angry with GW and Blackboard for the expenses, though most admit being a part of the Colonial Cash system is a boon to business.

The University investigates all reported complaints of GWorld immediately, Hagaa said, and vendors can be removed from the program for not complying with Colonial Cash guidelines.

“This policy benefits and helps to protect students, faculty and staff who use Colonial Cash to purchase goods and services from any of the University’s Colonial Cash Partners,” Haaga added.

Dan Karp, a freshman who said he eats at DJ’s once or twice per week, said he was unaware of the surcharge until being approached by The Hatchet.

“I feel annoyed and deceived,” Karp said. “It just doesn’t seem right.”

Karp said that a sign at the cash register publicizing the surcharge might have made him less likely to eat at DJ’s, “but without the sign I feel even worse.”

DJ’s is the only GWorld partner known to have imposed a surcharge this year, but in February 2005 a student contacted the GWorld Office complaining that the Quizno’s at 1710 G St. placed a surcharge on his Colonial Cash purchase, Haaga said.

GWorld investigated the reported complaint and told the merchant to remove the unauthorized surcharge, Haaga said.

“The merchant agreed to remove the surcharge immediately,” Haaga said.

Students can contact the GWorld Office at 994-1795 to report suspicious Colonial Cash charges.

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