This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.
If you are a student at Mercer University, almost certainly know what a Bear Card is, but did you know of the features that it came with besides being an ID? Even if you did, you might not know the limitations of these features and why they can be more of a hassle than they're worth.
One of these features is a payment system called “Bear Bucks.” In Mercer’s words, the Bear Bucks account is “a prepaid, stored-value account” that serves as a “convenient, cashless way to pay on and off campus.”
Bear Bucks can be used to pay for various services like deliveries, restaurants, haircuts and more at certain locations close to Mercer. While there are technically no limitations for when they can be used, the locations that allow Bear Bucks are mostly confined to campus locations.
Mercer Village is a campus hotspot for the university’s students as it consists of well-known restaurants like Margaritas Mexican Grill, Jags and Z Beans. However, what are students’ experiences with using it around campus, specifically within Mercer Village?
“Using Bear Bucks has been pretty easy. I usually use them for printing on campus. At Mercer Village, I only use Bear Bucks at Margs and Z Beans, but this process is simple," said Parneeta Mohapatra, a senior at Mercer. "Sometimes, there will be people who don’t know how to use the card reader to process the Bear Bucks, but it’s pretty intuitive and we can usually figure it out together.”
So, in short, Bear Bucks can be beneficial for students. It offers an alternative to cash at certain restaurants. Nonetheless, the process of payment can be somewhat of a hassle, especially for first-time users, and the system has its barriers.
“Bear Bucks are legitimately a scam, and I recommend no one use them,” Geomar Ngwang, a student at Mercer, said.
Ngwang said that Bear Bucks do not have much of an incentive as they do not “come back to real currency.”
In other words, once money is placed into the Bear Bucks account, it can not be returned back to the individual once it is deposited into the account. This can be a huge problem at the end of semesters when students have not used all of the Bear Bucks they loaded onto their Bear Cards, essentially resulting in money being tossed down the drain.
So, what problems could lead to Bear Bucks not getting used?
One recent problem with this issue is that Margaritas and Jags do not currently take Bear Bucks, leaving students with only the option of Z Beans in Mercer Village. Although it has not been announced whether this hold is temporary or not, these two restaurants not accepting Bear Bucks places huge limitations on where students can eat and drink on campus.
Although Bear Bucks have some advantages when it comes to using it around campus for services like printing or the POD, it apparently does not serve Mercer students to the extent that the university declares it does. If a student has the idea that they will be able to use their Bear Card as a means to remain cashless in the area around Mercer, that should be the reality.
In order to encourage any level of change, the Mercer community needs to have a discussion on how to improve the accessibility of Bear Bucks and hold the administration accountable for making misleading claims.
Mercer students deserve to have more freedom with their meal plan options, but that can not be done if issues, like those listed above, arise.