Two Scoops of Price Gouging

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Published February 21, 2021
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The Montclarion
Damien Flores | The Montclarion

If there is anything certain about the college experience, it’s that you will spend a good deal of it eating ice cream. It is no surprise that college students go for a pint of ice cream when given the option.

But where could one get a carton of ice cream? While Freeman and Sam’s occasionally offer ice cream, there is only one spot to buy it on campus. The Blanton Hall C-Store, a former roommate of Which Wich and practical standby for any residential student, is where one could buy a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. While the issue at hand may seem petty, the circumstances surrounding it reflect its significance.

At the Blanton C-store, one pint of Ben and Jerry’s costs $6.39. At first, this seems trivial. One could easily leave campus and go grocery shopping. After all, Target sells the same pint for $4.59 and Stop & Shop sells it at $3.50. While this is just simple comparison shopping, that does not leave much of an option for residential students.

With the new waiver policy complicating something as simple as a trip to the grocery store and turning it into a bureaucratic mess, it makes it extremely difficult for a student to leave campus to get a pint of ice cream at a reasonable, affordable price.

What about delivery apps? Grocery delivery apps like Instacart and Shipt can run up extremely high prices for anyone looking to get just a pint of a frozen treat. While DoorDash and Uber Eats offer store delivery at convenience stores like 7-Eleven, the costs are anything but.

Ice cream is a luxury good. It offers no real nutritional value. That much is true. Plus, the university needs to sell goods at prices that ensure a profit. After all, it would make sense that things on campus are a bit overpriced as long as someone could get paid a better wage. Convenience stores are also notorious for overpriced goods in small quantities. But the issue is that there is no real option for students beyond the overpriced options on campus, Amazon or delivery apps.

Given residential students’ dependence on both the bookstore and the C-Store for goods like snacks and toiletries, the university holds the power to increase prices for common, usually lower-priced items. Sure, students can buy online and have it shipped via Amazon, but not everyone can afford to buy in bulk or pay fees to get something as simple as a bar of soap or a couple of rolls of toilet paper. Even so, Amazon lockers do not accept shipment of perishable goods.

It is unfair to assume that students can carry on with Sam’s Place and Freeman alone. There are things people need that you can’t readily find in a place like Sam’s. Not everyone living on campus has a meal plan or a car to get food. Furthermore, the convenience store is meant for convenience and not buying in bulk. But it is the need to buy things to live, things that work within dietary restrictions and traditions that people need ready access to.

It’s inconvenient to overcharge a student who depends on Flex Dollars and other small items they bring with them to college because once those run out, the options that remain are far and few between.

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