Some C-Store prices max out CVS and Target

The+C-Store+in+the+Max+Cafe+sells+food+and+non-food+items+for+a+higher+price+compared+to+nearby+stores.+Photo+by+Tivara+Tanudjaja+

The C-Store in the Max Cafe sells food and non-food items for a higher price compared to nearby stores. Photo by Tivara Tanudjaja

By Lily Hartenstein

Several items for sale at the C-Store in the Max Cafe cost more than those at other stores in the Theater District.

For example, a bottled Starbucks Frappuccino costs $3.52 at the C-Store while the same size bottle costs $2.79 at CVS and $2.59 at Starbucks. One Kraft Instant Mac and Cheese cup costs $2.89 at the C-Store but costs $1.69 each at CVS—a 171 percent increase.

No change in cost exists between the C-Store and CVS on other products such as a box of Frosted Flakes or a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.  

For non-food items, a box of 10 Tampax tampons costs $3.99, or $0.40 each. At CVS a pack of 18 tampons costs $6.29, or 0.35 each. It costs $8.29 for a four-pack of AAA Duracell batteries at the C-Store but $6.99 at CVS for the same item. A 0.5 ounce bottle of Visine eye drops sells for $5.99 at the C-Store and CVS.

Bon Appétit District Manager Yvonne Matteson attributes the price discrepancy to the C-Store having a smaller size and lower number of customers than neighboring stores. She said larger stores such as Target can buy goods in more affordable, high-volume orders, allowing them to lower retail costs.

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“We are never going to compete in that type of sales based on volume purchases,” Matteson said.

Matteson said she could not make direct comparisons to the prices from last year when Sodexo managed the store as they kept no record.  

Freshman Alexa Schapiro said she knows items cost less at other stores, but she goes to the Max because of convenience. 

“Honestly I don’t look at the prices,” freshman Allison Bowlin said. “Because I have Board Bucks, money just loses all value in that currency to me.”

According to Matteson, Bon Appétit does not dictate pricing—distributors do. Bon Appétit works with three retail convenience store distributors—Core-Mark, J Polep, and UNFI—to stock the Max. They also get leftover produce from the Dining Center which comes from local farmers, she said.

The distributors suggest retail prices on their invoice when they deliver products to Bon Appétit which the dining company abides by. Some goods like the $2.89 Kraft Instant Mac and Cheese arrive with price stickers already applied.

“It makes it much simpler for us as the people who have to sell the items,” Matteson said.

According to Duncan Pollock, assistant vice president for facilities and campus services, the C-Store and the Max Cafe accept ECCash, Board Bucks, and regular currency as payment. Board Bucks make up the majority of spending through the store, he said.

Bon Appétit does not receive profits from Board Bucks. Emerson includes Board Bucks in dining plans purchased by students at the beginning of the year. The basic dining plan for on-campus students offers 650 Board Bucks per semester.

According to Bon Appétit’s Director of Operations Erik Zamudio, they cannot make money from selling retail goods because Bon Appétit is not licensed as a retailer.

Bon Appétit manages dining services at Emerson, Pollock said, but they do not deal with profit and risk. That responsibility falls on the college.

“The way we see it, the C-Store is a benefit to students,” Pollock said. “So we don’t really try and get profit from it.”