Students were excited about the unveiling of the new bookstore vendor, Follett, last spring. But students returned this fall only to find that the bookstore no longer accepted flex dollars.
“It’s just depressing,” senior Mary Whybrew said. “Where am I going to get my Christmas presents for my family? What do I use my flex on now?”
Given through Sodexo, the university’s food service provider, flex dollars are a part of the student meal plan and can be used as money at locations in town such as Pizza Hut, Café of Hope, Four Cups Coffee and the Loew-Brenn lounge. Until this year, they were always accepted at the campus bookstore to purchase university apparel among other items.
Students on meal plan A have 20 meals every week with $65 flex dollars while meal plan B offers 200 meals a semester and $85 flex dollars. View the meal plan options here.
“Flex points were not specifically addressed in the bookstore interviews,” Julie Hendryx, senior director of human resources and operations, said. “Early this summer, discussions began with Follett management about the flex points.”
With various changes in the bookstore as well as changes in Sodexo offerings for students, the decision was made to keep Flex points focused on food products. It was a mutual agreement between the university and Follett.
“With the new coffee option in the HUB, we are hoping to drive more student traffic in that direction as far as flex points go,” Ron Coffey, Ph.D., vice president for student life, said. “We hope to continue to grow and improve upon that initial concept.”
Sodexo requires a 30 percent payback from any site that has a flex machine.
“In order for Sodexo to cover the cost of losing the points, a mark-up is charged to the vender,” Hendryx said. “Some vendors don’t have the margin to accept flex dollars. Others mark their product up to cover the charge.”
With the bookstore no longer accepting Flex dollars, Sodexo and the administration evaluated whether to use a new vendor or to keep the machine in house. In order to reduce the wait at the new single check out station in the HUB, the additional flex machine will be placed at Norm’s Place to help alleviate the lines.
“They had two registers last year so I don’t see why going back to having two is some great upgrade,” senior Matt Whitney said. “We’re just going back to what we had last year.”
Whitney said he has no reason to use flex dollars now.
“The bookstore is a place where a lot of students go to get stuff for classes and a big part of why that was more convenient is because they didn’t have to pay with extra money,” he said. “They pushed us in the position where we have to buy flex with our meal plans, but now we have almost no options for that flex. As someone on meal plan A, all three of my meals are guaranteed. I have no need to use flex dollars.”