The Cost of Crunch on the OSU Campus

Authors note: This article was set to run in the March 12th O’Collegian when I was told that “we ran a story last semester about price comparisons between food on and off campus, and this was too soon”. So now, it will grace the pages of this blog. I responded with “Just wanted to let you know that this is pretty disappointing. With the amount of time and effort that it took to get the interview with Terry Baker and then to write the story, I’m feeling kind of burned. I hope this isn’t the way the OColly does things. I will be posting this article on my website so it can be read, and I appreciate the heads up.”

Forgive the spelling and style errors, I’m not an editor

Saturday morning will live forever in our memories the same way: hoping to wake up in time for our favorite cartoons and the ever-delicious bowl of our favorite cereal. Mom always knew what kind it was and it always seemed to be in the cabinet. But as we grew older, morning cartoons were replaced by hoping to wake up without a hangover.

The one constant, though, was the cereal. Whether you set sail with the Cap’n, had a Grrr-eat breakfast or a magically delicious one, you still wake up and crave one of the simplest pleasures from your childhood. Now that we’re older, we’re finding out that the price of cereal can be a little hard to swallow.
Obviously, the “Everyday Low Prices” kingdom, Wal-Mart, carries cereal for the lowest price around, but when you wake up with a pounding headache and the taste of Keystone still in your mouth, it can be hard to find the energy to get dressed, drive to Wal-Mart, pick from the dozens of choices, come back, spend another 10 minutes finding a parking spot then sit down and eat.
The most popular alternative – Twenty Something convenient store.
Twenty Something, located in the first floor of Kerr-Drummond, is according to the Oklahoma State website, “convenience store with everything from drinks, snacks, necessities, express to go items and groceries.” It is open until 1:30AM everyday and has become a staple in many students’ college lives. However, with convenience comes a price.
Kyle Brown, a junior business major, says he rarely shops at Twenty Something, “it’s easier to charge it to your bursar, but many items are too expensive.”
And indeed the prices are higher, over 250% higher in some cases. A 14 oz. box of Frosted Flakes costs $6.69 in Twenty Something, at Wal-Mart the same box sells for $2.64. Competing with Wal-Mart is a near-impossible task.
The Perkins Road Wal-Mart store manager, David Mooneyhan explains why, “as the largest corporation in the world, we are able to get special deals that others don’t, other than that, I don’t know why there is such a difference.”
It all comes down to one thing, volume and money. It’s basic economics, the more of something you are able to sell, the cheaper you can sell it for to make money. Wal-Mart buys its products from vendors who sell it at near cost prices. Wal-Mart in turn, requires little markup on the product in order to make money.
In the case of Twenty Something, it has an exclusive deal with Farner Bocken, a vendor that deals primarily with convenience stores. Twenty Something is a convenience store; therefore prices that you find on campus are comparable to those that you would see in any given gas station as opposed to a grocery store. Farner Bocken sells the cereal to Oklahoma State University at a higher cost than the vendors who service grocery stores and therefore, in order to make a profit, the cost is increased again and sold to students.
Director of Dining Services, Terry Baker, said that the University is doing all that it can to make the prices as low as possible.
“We don’t have the same purchasing power as Wal-Mart because our distribution is different,” she said, “last summer we accepted bids from vendors and were able to compare prices and select the lowest ones.”
Sophomore secondary education major, Andy McIlwee, has specific reasons for shopping at Twenty Something, “I only get the essentials, and I like that I can charge them to my bursar.”
In fact, many students shop at Twenty Something for the added convenience of charging items to their bursar account and letting mom and dad pick up the tab. For others, shopping in Twenty Something is more of a necessity.
Roger Fry, store manager of Food Pyramid says that many students don’t have the means to go to a grocery store, “it’s a captured audience, some people can’t or don’t want to leave campus and are going to pay for the convenience.”
Murphee Stepanek, freshman animal science major, shops at Twenty Something for the convenience. “It’s close, I would rather go down to Twenty Something than drive to Wal-Mart,” she said, “the prices are higher, but it’s more convenient.”
There are lower priced options available if you are willing to sacrifice taste; even though generic brands, such as the Malt-o-Meal brand, are lighter on the wallet they will leave you feeling disappointed once the bowl is empty.
Twenty Something is not to blame for the price of cereal. Running a business means that sometimes you have to make choices that people won’t agree with. They do, however, care about the students they serve. In the Kerr-Drummond location, a comment box can be found for those wanting to make a suggestion. Also, Dining Services director, Terry Baker holds a focus group to better gauge students’ opinions. If you are interested in participating you can e-mail her at terry.baker@okstate.edu.
Those Saturday mornings of Animaniacs, Talespin and X-Men are long gone, but the feeling we get when we hear the Snap, Crackle and Pop will never leave us. Now, it just costs more to hear it.

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One thought on “The Cost of Crunch on the OSU Campus

  1. Great story! That’s really disappointing it didn’t run in the O’Colly. I definitely notice the huge difference between WalMart and stores like Twenty Something, and I always buy my food at WalMart unless it’s just a small charge to my bursar while on campus. However, I never thought of why the prices were so different, other than thinking the convenience stores were just trying to screw us out of our money 🙂 Thanks for enlightening me!

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