Let's Talk About Greed: UNR Housing and Food Services
By: John Russell

While listening to casual conversations and even participating in formal debates, there has never been an instance where I did not hear someone express their animosity towards the “greedy corporations”. Although I always empathize with their current circumstance, I always rebuttal with this question when they lend the suggestion that government could do a fairer job: “Is government any less greedy than the corporations you speak of? If so, why?” After a quick and fleeting glance, they generally tend to dismiss the question instead of answering it. I wish to quickly share my latest experience with government apathy, pride, and of course, its rampant greed; specifically: UNR Housing and Food Services.

During this summer of 2008, my roommate and I split a single food plan in order to save money. After some quick mental math, one can actually save more by splitting this particular food plan instead of shopping at Walmart. The idea was to have my roommate invite me as a dining guest every time we ate, thus effectively splitting one plan amongst two people. This is no way against policy, as throughout the normal school year many students invite friends, family, and even bums to come dine with them.

To keep this story truncated and punctual, we were basically told to go to hell from the dining commons staff and told to go speak to housing. Naturally, the next morning at 8AM sharp we visited the Housing and Food Services to discuss why the meal plans do not work the same during summer as they do during the normal school year as we were told by other staffers as well as the contract. After a stern yet composed meeting with them that morning, one of them finally actually told us that they purposefully design the meal plans to screw over students.
This is what they told us, verbatim:

Housing: “The meal is set up mostly for what we call a missed meal factor. In other words, if you ate all 19 meals, then Chart Wilson loses money. But they know that not every student is going to eat all 19 meals… it’s set up that way. That’s what mini-meal plans on mini-campuses are set up during summer.”

Roomate: “Don’t you personally think this should be stated before someone commits into an agreement, instead of stating it as a regular meal plan?”

Housing: “You raise some good points. The meal plan has been unchanged for many years and they have not run into this that I am aware of in the past.”

After this 15 minute conversation, we were finally told that the person who could provide a refund was not available, and that we needed to send an email when he gets back into the office the following week. After writing the email, we received this letter, not from Russ Meyer (the guy who was the only one who could apparently give us a refund), but from an accountant?.

Dear [Roommate],

Russ Meyer is currently out of town but I did have the opportunity to speak to him regarding your email. The summer meal plan is not set up to accept more than one meal swipe per period. The meal plan period started on Sunday, June 8th and the employees involved have been reminded how the summer meal plan works. While we can’t do a refund of your meal plan we can convert it to Food Bucks. Food Bucks are good anywhere on campus that serves food, including the Downunder Café. Please let me know if you would like to keep your current plan or convert it into Food Bucks. We are sorry for any confusion.

Christina Carver
Student Accounting
University of Nevada, Reno
Residential Life, Housing and Food Service
Juniper Hall MS/0060
Office: 775-784-1113
Direct: 775-784-4516
Fax: 775-784-1149
Living on-campus for the summer is both convenient and economical.
Visit http://www.reslife.unr.edu/summerhousing.html for more information.

This was unacceptable, and through many, many more 8AM “wake-up” meetings to their office and never-ending phone calls, we were finally (although not yet confirmed) able to get a full refund. What does this show? I shared this experience because:

1) It relates to UNR and shows the absolute garbage UNR housing loves spewing. More importantly, however,

2) It is more about pride and greed with government entities then about assisting the nuisance/slave.. err CUSTOMER. This is the fundamental difference between the two.

I wish to conclude this post by including one of the shortest and greatest explanations of greed I have ever heard, by Milton Friedman. Next time you feel as though you have gotten screwed over by a corporation, please ask yourself if jumping on the government bandwagon would be any different.

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15 Comments Posted in Uncategorized
  • John Russell

    This is a copy of the email I wrote to housing, if you wish to know exactly what kind of scam they love to pull over during summers:

    To Whom This Concerns:
    My name is [us] and I am a student at UNR who is living on campus for the summer session of 2008. I purchased the 1st session summer school meal plan under the expectations and assurance from housing staff that it would function similar to the Platinum plan during the fall/spring semesters. However, this is not the case. On Monday, June 9, I attempted to “swipe” a friend of mine in whom I was planning to dine with, and the manager on duty of the buffet seemed to be confused. After a few seconds of bewilderment, she allowed both of us to eat that evening, but wrote my name down on a piece of paper. The following day, however, I attempted to use my meal plan twice during dinner, once for the buffet and once later that evening in the DC Store, but the staff member on duty was confused as to why he was unable to swipe me in. He called over the same manager who swiped me in yesterday, and she proceeded to tell me that I was unable to swipe twice during the time session because “it works differently during summer”.
    Concerned with this “difference”, I spoke to housing staff the following morning in regards to this problem. The older gentleman working explained to me that I am only able to swipe once during certain time frames throughout the day, and that if I did not use these swipes during breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time, I would lose them.
    This is unacceptable for these reasons:
    • There is no mention of this “term-based” policy on the paperwork I used to sign up for the plan.
    • The housing website not only fails to mention this policy, but also contradicts everything that has been explained to me regarding usage:
    o Can I use my meal swipes for Parents/Friends/Guests?
    If you wish to take a guest to the Downunder Cafe just present your card to the checker and an additional meal will be taken off your card for each guest you have. No meal plan holders may loan their card to anyone else to use.
    http://www.reslife.unr.edu/diningfaq.asp
    • Before purchasing this meal plan, I asked one of the staff members working at Housing to explain the meal plan to me, and they assured me that it was just like Platinum, except I only get 19 swipes a week instead of 21.
    • The staff members working at the DC themselves were unaware and just as confused as I was in regards to summer policy.

    There are only two courses of action that I believe is fair to rectify this situation. Either uphold the current policies that are specified on the website which would allow me to use the card as if it were the Platinum Plan (ie. dropping the daily time schedule limits), or giving me a full refund. I thank you in advanced for consideration and professionalism regarding this matter.

    Sincerely,
    [us]

  • John Russell

    This is a copy of the email I wrote to housing, if you wish to know exactly what kind of scam they love to pull over during summers:

    To Whom This Concerns:
    My name is [us] and I am a student at UNR who is living on campus for the summer session of 2008. I purchased the 1st session summer school meal plan under the expectations and assurance from housing staff that it would function similar to the Platinum plan during the fall/spring semesters. However, this is not the case. On Monday, June 9, I attempted to “swipe” a friend of mine in whom I was planning to dine with, and the manager on duty of the buffet seemed to be confused. After a few seconds of bewilderment, she allowed both of us to eat that evening, but wrote my name down on a piece of paper. The following day, however, I attempted to use my meal plan twice during dinner, once for the buffet and once later that evening in the DC Store, but the staff member on duty was confused as to why he was unable to swipe me in. He called over the same manager who swiped me in yesterday, and she proceeded to tell me that I was unable to swipe twice during the time session because “it works differently during summer”.
    Concerned with this “difference”, I spoke to housing staff the following morning in regards to this problem. The older gentleman working explained to me that I am only able to swipe once during certain time frames throughout the day, and that if I did not use these swipes during breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time, I would lose them.
    This is unacceptable for these reasons:
    • There is no mention of this “term-based” policy on the paperwork I used to sign up for the plan.
    • The housing website not only fails to mention this policy, but also contradicts everything that has been explained to me regarding usage:
    o Can I use my meal swipes for Parents/Friends/Guests?
    If you wish to take a guest to the Downunder Cafe just present your card to the checker and an additional meal will be taken off your card for each guest you have. No meal plan holders may loan their card to anyone else to use.
    http://www.reslife.unr.edu/diningfaq.asp
    • Before purchasing this meal plan, I asked one of the staff members working at Housing to explain the meal plan to me, and they assured me that it was just like Platinum, except I only get 19 swipes a week instead of 21.
    • The staff members working at the DC themselves were unaware and just as confused as I was in regards to summer policy.

    There are only two courses of action that I believe is fair to rectify this situation. Either uphold the current policies that are specified on the website which would allow me to use the card as if it were the Platinum Plan (ie. dropping the daily time schedule limits), or giving me a full refund. I thank you in advanced for consideration and professionalism regarding this matter.

    Sincerely,
    [us]

  • John Russell

    This is a copy of the email I wrote to housing, if you wish to know exactly what kind of scam they love to pull over during summers:To Whom This Concerns:My name is [us] and I am a student at UNR who is living on campus for the summer session of 2008. I purchased the 1st session summer school meal plan under the expectations and assurance from housing staff that it would function similar to the Platinum plan during the fall/spring semesters. However, this is not the case. On Monday, June 9, I attempted to “swipe” a friend of mine in whom I was planning to dine with, and the manager on duty of the buffet seemed to be confused. After a few seconds of bewilderment, she allowed both of us to eat that evening, but wrote my name down on a piece of paper. The following day, however, I attempted to use my meal plan twice during dinner, once for the buffet and once later that evening in the DC Store, but the staff member on duty was confused as to why he was unable to swipe me in. He called over the same manager who swiped me in yesterday, and she proceeded to tell me that I was unable to swipe twice during the time session because “it works differently during summer”.Concerned with this “difference”, I spoke to housing staff the following morning in regards to this problem. The older gentleman working explained to me that I am only able to swipe once during certain time frames throughout the day, and that if I did not use these swipes during breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time, I would lose them.This is unacceptable for these reasons:• There is no mention of this “term-based” policy on the paperwork I used to sign up for the plan.• The housing website not only fails to mention this policy, but also contradicts everything that has been explained to me regarding usage:o Can I use my meal swipes for Parents/Friends/Guests?If you wish to take a guest to the Downunder Cafe just present your card to the checker and an additional meal will be taken off your card for each guest you have. No meal plan holders may loan their card to anyone else to use.http://www.reslife.unr.edu/diningfaq.asp• Before purchasing this meal plan, I asked one of the staff members working at Housing to explain the meal plan to me, and they assured me that it was just like Platinum, except I only get 19 swipes a week instead of 21.• The staff members working at the DC themselves were unaware and just as confused as I was in regards to summer policy.There are only two courses of action that I believe is fair to rectify this situation. Either uphold the current policies that are specified on the website which would allow me to use the card as if it were the Platinum Plan (ie. dropping the daily time schedule limits), or giving me a full refund. I thank you in advanced for consideration and professionalism regarding this matter.Sincerely,[us]

  • John Russell

    This is a copy of the email I wrote to housing, if you wish to know exactly what kind of scam they love to pull over during summers:To Whom This Concerns:My name is [us] and I am a student at UNR who is living on campus for the summer session of 2008. I purchased the 1st session summer school meal plan under the expectations and assurance from housing staff that it would function similar to the Platinum plan during the fall/spring semesters. However, this is not the case. On Monday, June 9, I attempted to “swipe” a friend of mine in whom I was planning to dine with, and the manager on duty of the buffet seemed to be confused. After a few seconds of bewilderment, she allowed both of us to eat that evening, but wrote my name down on a piece of paper. The following day, however, I attempted to use my meal plan twice during dinner, once for the buffet and once later that evening in the DC Store, but the staff member on duty was confused as to why he was unable to swipe me in. He called over the same manager who swiped me in yesterday, and she proceeded to tell me that I was unable to swipe twice during the time session because “it works differently during summer”.Concerned with this “difference”, I spoke to housing staff the following morning in regards to this problem. The older gentleman working explained to me that I am only able to swipe once during certain time frames throughout the day, and that if I did not use these swipes during breakfast time, lunch time, and dinner time, I would lose them.This is unacceptable for these reasons:• There is no mention of this “term-based” policy on the paperwork I used to sign up for the plan.• The housing website not only fails to mention this policy, but also contradicts everything that has been explained to me regarding usage:o Can I use my meal swipes for Parents/Friends/Guests?If you wish to take a guest to the Downunder Cafe just present your card to the checker and an additional meal will be taken off your card for each guest you have. No meal plan holders may loan their card to anyone else to use.http://www.reslife.unr.edu/diningfaq.asp• Before purchasing this meal plan, I asked one of the staff members working at Housing to explain the meal plan to me, and they assured me that it was just like Platinum, except I only get 19 swipes a week instead of 21.• The staff members working at the DC themselves were unaware and just as confused as I was in regards to summer policy.There are only two courses of action that I believe is fair to rectify this situation. Either uphold the current policies that are specified on the website which would allow me to use the card as if it were the Platinum Plan (ie. dropping the daily time schedule limits), or giving me a full refund. I thank you in advanced for consideration and professionalism regarding this matter.Sincerely,[us]

  • Name

    Chartwells, not Chart Wilson. http://www.chartwellshighereducation.com/

    If that person really doesn't know who is the contracted vendor to supply food services to the campus, then damn.

  • http://vislupiestgrex.blogspot.com/ Shane

    I think more than greed, your situation reveals how poorly the food services department is run. Up until 2 years ago, Chartwells had a monopoly on campus. They own and operate all the concepts in the Overlook as well as the DC and DC Store.

    When Chuck Price, the Director of the Student Union, approached them to see if the Union could get a waiver to attempt to contract outside vendors, they granted it. Why? Because their models and business experience told them that Chuck wouldn't be able to get anything (or at least anything good).

    This has to do with the size of the campus and supply of diners. It took over two years to fill the five (now six outlets) in the Union. This happened for various reasons, but the most significant was cause was the fact that none of the national brands students had said they wanted were interested in setting up shop on a campus as small as ours.

    All of this is to say. Yes, you get screwed over by food services and Chartwells. You pay a higher price for what appears and tastes like an inferior product. But this is not due to the avarice of government. This is due to the fact that Food Services, as an auxiliary department (they are not subsidized by university funds), is functionally run like a business, and running a food department on a campus our size is not an easy thing to do. Perhaps it is not very well run, but Chartwells is a large company with a lot of experience, which suggests they might now what they're doing just a little bit.

  • PW

    Ran like a business, eh? That explains everything.

  • Name

    Chartwells, not Chart Wilson. http://www.chartwellshighereducation.com/

    If that person really doesn't know who is the contracted vendor to supply food services to the campus, then damn.

  • http://vislupiestgrex.blogspot.com/ Shane

    I think more than greed, your situation reveals how poorly the food services department is run. Up until 2 years ago, Chartwells had a monopoly on campus. They own and operate all the concepts in the Overlook as well as the DC and DC Store.

    When Chuck Price, the Director of the Student Union, approached them to see if the Union could get a waiver to attempt to contract outside vendors, they granted it. Why? Because their models and business experience told them that Chuck wouldn't be able to get anything (or at least anything good).

    This has to do with the size of the campus and supply of diners. It took over two years to fill the five (now six outlets) in the Union. This happened for various reasons, but the most significant was cause was the fact that none of the national brands students had said they wanted were interested in setting up shop on a campus as small as ours.

    All of this is to say. Yes, you get screwed over by food services and Chartwells. You pay a higher price for what appears and tastes like an inferior product. But this is not due to the avarice of government. This is due to the fact that Food Services, as an auxiliary department (they are not subsidized by university funds), is functionally run like a business, and running a food department on a campus our size is not an easy thing to do. Perhaps it is not very well run, but Chartwells is a large company with a lot of experience, which suggests they might now what they're doing just a little bit.

  • PW

    Ran like a business, eh? That explains everything.

  • Student on Campus

    Well the summer program (use it or lose it/one swipe per meal) is going to be the new year-round program. I was a part of the food committee on campus and they told us (students) that they are “saving us money”. Now, the meal plans are supposed to be more expensive and we won't be receiving roll-over bucks… Also, they have a ton of tricks up their sleeves. In this same committee, I was told that they don't offer the fruit cup/side you pay for with a swipe-out at the DC store because they want to save money. If we're paying for this, why aren't we actively seeking a change AND why do we let them rob us?

  • fsdjf

    hahaha yes unr isn’t perfect, but be grateful it’s not as much of a ripoff as unlv.

  • KK

    I can’t agree more. Below is what I wrote to each local news station:

    The University of Nevada, Reno
    residential life, housing, and food service department has not been
    fair in its practices. I told the office over the phone that I had a
    family emergency where my sister had a roommate suddenly leave and she
    couldn’t afford to live there without me moving in since the
    aforementioned roommate was paying for half of everything. The office
    informed me that I would not be refunded my $125 deposit and that I
    would owe 25% of the $2635 charge for the semester in the dorm, which
    means I’ll lose $783.75 even though the move-in date isn’t until this
    Sunday, January 19th. They offered to transfer my license agreement to
    the 2014-2015 academic year; however, I explained to them that this
    option wouldn’t work since I begin pharmacy school in Colorado in
    August. Also, I spoke with the student I was assigned to live with, and
    she decided she no longer wanted a roommate. In other words, she chose
    to have the room all to herself, which means UNR won’t be losing money
    because she’ll be paying much more to be alone. Despite her filling this
    vacancy, UNR still expects me to pay the above-mentioned amount. I have
    no choice in paying because any financial aid covers UNR charges before
    I’m issued a refund check to use for food, gas, and other living
    expenses. Even if the student I was assigned to live with had still
    wanted a roommate, I believe this policy is unfair for students and the
    cancellation fee is ridiculously high. Moreover, this policy is not
    written on the housing application, but referenced in one sentence on
    the bottom of the last page in conveniently smaller font. Interestingly,
    I couldn’t find this information anywhere on their website, but
    succeeded with an Internet search. Additionally, the Parking Services
    department informed me that there was a waiting list for the dorm garage
    because the faculty garage was full and some faculty were parking in
    the dorm garage now. This garage, meant for Sierra Hall dorm students,
    has 6 people on its wait list thanks to this situation. Finally, I’d
    like to provide a link that discusses issues students have had with meal
    plans, which are supervised by the same department that controls the
    dorms
    (http://unrforliberty.com/2008/06/lets-talk-about-greed-unr-housing-and_25.html).
    Please note that the article was written on June 25th, 2008 and
    demonstrates how long this problem has been around. I think at least
    hundreds of students, if not more, have been affected because 2440
    students lived in the dorms for the 2012-2013 academic year. I wouldn’t
    be surprised if many were forced to stay because they couldn’t afford
    losing almost $800. I hope that your news station can make the public
    aware of how this university mistreats its students because I don’t see
    any other way for a significant change to manifest itself.

  • Laura

    So you & your roommate made a plan to essentially steal by purchasing a meal plan meant for one person and using it for two people……how is UNR at fault here? You’re a complete moron. Stay in school. You obviously need it

  • Chuck Price

    As director of the student union, I seek to provide high quality food vendors for the broad range of student needs. They need to operate at a profit to stay at the Joe. The authors of this article seem to want to game the system, and when they cannot, they whine about it. All part of an education!