October 23, 2009

Two coffee shops begin accepting credit cards

Cobb Café and Hallowed Grounds now accept credit cards, thanks to efforts by the Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities (ORCSA) and Student Government (SG). The change is part of a campaign by SG to initiate small improvements that increase the quality of life on campus.

SG posted signs advertising that cafés accept credit cards the weekend of October 10, but it was not until last week at Cobb, and on Monday at Hallowed Grounds, that the change went into effect, a disappointing surprise for students with an empty wallet and an empty stomach.

“There were a lot of customers who were excited and expecting it to work,” said Ashley Alger, fourth-year and manager of Hallowed Grounds.

The delay was due to shipping and technical difficulties, SG President Jarrod Wolf said.

Common Knowledge, the new café in Harper, also has the infrastructure to support credit cards, but is not part of the pilot program.

While it’s too early to have numbers on the effect of the change on the cafés’ revenue, SG, ORCSA, and the café managers all agreed on positive returns and expect the program to become permanent.

Employees and managers of the student-run cafés had discussed the possibility of accepting credit cards in the past, but it was not until SG began conversations with Stacey Brown, the coordinator of coffee shops for ORCSA, that the program was launched.

“As far as we understood it, putting credit cards in the coffeeshops wasn’t a top priority [for the cafe employees],” Wolf said.

But according to an SG survey of about 170 students, 81 percent of students said they preferred using credit cards to cash at campus cafes.

The Executive Slate prioritized the initiative, and offered to subsidize the cost of beginning the program as well as the two-penny transaction fee every time a credit card is used for the first-quarter pilot program. Wolf estimated this would total no more than $2,000 of SG’s $18,000 budget.

The cafés will pay the 1.8-percent service fee. In the future, they hope they won’t need SG to pay any of the fees. “Ideally, if we are making a profit then Student Government will back off, be hands off after that,” said Alger.

The coffee shops were initially hesitant about the change. “Initially I thought it would be a bad idea because we’re really busy and the credit cards take a long time to coordinate,” said Allison Ringhand, fourth-year and manager of Cobb Café, which experiences heavy traffic between class periods.

Alger said the “old-fashioned quality of the cash-only place” had some appeal, but ultimately “it became a hindrance to a lot of students.”