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Saturday, Sep 25, 2021

Mercer needs more Bear Bucks machines

This weekend I, like many students, had laundry to do. And once again, I was faced with the issue of not having enough money on my Bear Card. As most on-campus students will know, the laundry machines take either quarters or Bear Bucks, but nothing else. But I am not writing this opinions article to comment on the lack of change machines, or even the cost of doing laundry on campus; my issue lies with the Bear Bucks system itself.

While I admit that Bear Bucks is a good idea, I believe that the scarcity of Bear Bucks depositing machines on campus is a major inconvenience to many students. These machines, referred to as Value Transfer Stations (VTS) by Auxiliary Services, allow students to directly deposit cash into their Bear Bucks account. They are found in Tarver Library, Connell Student Center and the medical school library. For undergraduates, however, the medical school location is largely unknown and inconveniently far away from any dorms. Meanwhile, the two remaining locations are a depressingly long walk for students living in the Winship and Garden apartments or one of the Greek Row houses.

So when these students find themselves as I did this weekend, with a large pile of wet clothes and not enough money to pay for the dryer, or else craving a late night snack from the vending machine, needless to say, the available options are not exactly ideal. They can either walk to the library (which is closed for large portions of the weekend) or all the way across campus to Connell. A third option, Auxiliary Services will tell you, is to make a deposit online through the Bear Card Office website. While useful as a last resort, this lesser-known option requires that you provide a valid credit or debit card, which is then charged a “convenience fee” for the use of the online deposit system. What’s another downside to the “convenience” of using the online sight? Not everyone has money readily available on his or her cards.

The value of the VTS is its ability to deposit the loose cash you have onto your Bear Card where it can then be used to pay for different goods on and around campus, often without tax. Personally, I try to avoid carrying cash, and since I cannot easily put cash on my debit card, I often deposit it into my Bear Bucks account instead. Considering how many things on campus require Bear Bucks or cash as payment (organizations, events, restaurants, printers and copiers, mail services, etc.) it really only makes sense to make deposits as simple and convenient as possible.

Luckily, I believe many of these problems can be easily solved by the addition of more VTS on campus. Personally, I would advocate installing a machine in both the University Center and Mercer Village. The University Center seems an obvious location to install a machine-- it is open late, is sufficiently close to Greek Row and the Winship and Garden apartments, serves as a major social area for students, and possibly sees more Bear Bucks transactions than anywhere else on campus. Installing a VTS in the University Center would be a welcome addition for students and would prevent the awkwardness of not being able to pay for your meal later in the semester because you’ve used up your Dining Dollars and forgot to add money to your Bear Bucks. Finally, practically every vendor located in Mercer Village accepts Bear Bucks as a payment option. Adding a VTS in the Village would give those students either living at the Lofts or simply spending an afternoon in the Village a convenient method of adding money to their Bear Card.


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