Businesses: GWorld outages hurt sales

Businesses around campus are reporting that GWorld glitches are costing them student customers and holding up service.

At least five businesses across Foggy Bottom, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Juan Valdez Cafe, Gallery Market & Cafe, Carvings and the 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. CVS, said they continually experience long waits, transaction errors and connection time-outs.

The University upgraded its GWorld system in 2010, requiring businesses to purchase new machines to match the updated technology.

The GWorld machine at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Ivory Tower has been broken for more than two weeks due to server issues.

The store manager, Yuri Zuniga, said the company that manages GWorld payments told her the machine “was not getting any connection” from Dunkin’ Donuts’ end.

Zuniga said the company was supposed to fix the machine last week, but a technician never showed up.

“It’s affected our business. Not all the kids carry cash. They depend on their GWorld Card,” Zuniga said. “It’s more convenient for them.”

The University outsourced its GWorld management to the company Off-Campus Advantage’s program called UGryd in 2010. GW no longer deals with day-to-day issues and instead “acts as an escalation point of contact,” University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said.

Sherrard said the University has not heard of connection problems, adding that the provider is the main point of contact for businesses.

“The merchants are responsible for network connectivity for their devices,” Sherrard said. “If a merchant is having a problem, it could be a local problem to their operation and not necessarily an issue with the device.”

Brandon Picone, a help desk manager for Off-Campus Advantage, said machines could break from “noise and static” from the Internet connection.

“Obviously, every year there’s a new terminal model out there. It’s not really the shelf-life, but the terminals get worn out. The more use you get, the less time you’ll be able to use the terminal,” Picone said.

Connections are dependent upon each vendor’s phone service and Internet provider, Picone said.

A handful of GWorld partners use the University’s Internet connection as their server, Picone said, which he cited as another problem.

“I’m not sure if the school itself is having problems, but a lot of merchants use the school’s Internet to connect,” Picone said. “[GW doesn’t] tell us if the school is having problems or not, because we’re an in-bound help desk.”

Picone said the help desk typically receives between 30 to 50 requests a week, though during peak times, like the beginning of a semester, it can field up to 100 calls in a week. He added that the company has already “helped a couple of merchants [at GW] set up new terminals this year.”

Several businesses, including Au Bon Pain and Juan Valdez Cafe, said they struggled to get help from the Off-Campus Advantage customer service line.

Juan Valdez barista Laura Lopez said its GWorld system stops working for hours on a daily basis. She said the slow machine has caused backups in the shop, and the venue’s manager called the Off-Campus Advantage help desk this week.

Au Bon Pain manager April Ham said transactions typically go through, but connections can go out for five to seven minutes each day.

“The help desk has not given too much help,” Ham said. “I want to make this quick and beneficial for students.”

Sunny Kim, manager of Gallery Market & Cafe, said employees have to “write down student numbers” daily to charge student cards later in the day when the connection is back.

The University has stepped in to fix wiring and connection problems, Sherrard said, though it is officially “the merchant’s responsibility.” She said the provider sends representatives to each venue every summer for check-ups.

Chloe Sorvino contributed to this report

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