Faulty Dining Hall Technology Threatens The Perfect Meal Plan

My meal plan is a masterpiece. Not the standard, 16-meal per week, $160 of BoardPlus generic package, mind you—no, I’m talking about my perfectly flawless schedule for ensuring consistent caloric intake. Fall semester has 108 days, including weekends and vacations. 108 days is 15 weeks and three days, during which time approximately 309 meals will be served, depending on whether there are 14, 15, or 16 Sundays. (And yes, I do eat breakfast on Saturday). With a 16-meal plan, five meals still need to be taken care of. Three of these—any combination of three breakfasts from Monday through Thursday—can be calorically compensated by the previous night’s Snack. The other two, Saturday and Sunday breakfast, are covered by BoardPlus for a very reasonable $3.50. Flexing twice a week for 15 weeks will use $105 flex dollars, leaving $55 for emergencies, non-5-C friends, or the occasional Coop treat.

Imagine my surprise then when the card reader at Frary last Saturday told me I had used all my meals. Indignant (at the machine, that is, not at the very nice cashier), I sent some very negative thoughts its way while trying to remember if I had mistakenly eaten breakfast too many times over the past week.

I had made some minor adjustments to deal with the Student-Trustee Retreat and Founder’s Day dinner, but those had been worked in and budgeted for. The cashier asked apologetically if she could flex me in, to which I replied “yes” as the aromas of what would soon be a pita-hummus-cucumber sandwich and a yogurt-granola-walnut-fruit bowl wafted towards the glomeruli in my olfactory bulb. I was hungry. Maybe I’d done the math wrong, or maybe the card reader was just a curmudgeonly sentient entity, but right then, I just wanted to eat.

In a nave attempt to recoup my losses, I made a peanut butter bagel to go when the card-reading fiasco was again brought to my attention. I watched as two out of every three people in line were forced to flex in.

According to the cashier, the problem had been happening fairly regularly all evening. As I left Frary, I thought about how much money this glitch could cost. Assume that: (1) half of the approximately 1,600 Pomona students stayed on campus for fall break, (2) half of those students ate at Frary last Saturday night; and (3) half of them experienced the card-reader glitch. If all assumptions are taken as true and given that flexing into dinner at Frary costs $5.50, 200 students collectively lost $1,100.

Some might say that a financially-comfortable freshman complaining over $5.50 is rather petty. Touché. Still, that money could have bought 91.7 percent of a three-pack of cotton socks from Target, 12.2 Nerf darts, or approximately 18.3 ounces of Yogurtland bliss. I like to think of myself as pretty reasonable, but topics concerning food—particularly, the accessibility of food for college students paying $2,677 per semester for the standard plan—tend to hit a nerve.

Still, I get it. Technology breaks down—I’ve certainly had my run-ins with uncooperative computers that not even a steady stream of curses will fix. Barring a very improbable and highly lucrative flex-dollar heist, the card glitch was an unforeseen error. But I might speak to the Pomona higher-ups: If you happen to have a spare $5.50 on you, you might consider donating it. I’ve got this craving for a pound of fro-yo.

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