Convenience comes at a price, especially when it comes to on-campus shopping options. At ETC, prices on many common items — breakfast cereal, mac and cheese and Oreos — were twice the price than at Martin's Grocery.

Josh Wroniewicz, the multi-unit manager for ETC and Dean’s Den, is in charge of pricing most of the items in-store, with the exception of pre-priced products by companies like Frito-Lay. He said the markups helped provide ETC the funds to pay employees and to buy highly-varied products.

“We do take much smaller margins on some essential items, like medicine, bread and milk, in order to stay near our benchmarks and make sure students who can’t leave campus can still purchase these important staples for good prices," Wroniewicz said in an email.

ETC’s spatial constraints prevent the store from benefiting from bulk purchase discounts. The store does not have the buying power of a grocery store, Wroniewicz said, meaning that not all products can be priced at a comparable level.  

“We are constantly seeking out better vendors and deals from the vendors we use, and always pass along savings to our customers,” Wroniewicz said.

Zoe Van Deveer, a senior, recognized the convenience store’s high prices during her first three years at Richmond. But since she lived in dorms during that time, she was obligated to purchase a meal plan. 

“When you have an apartment, you don’t need dining dollars,” Van Deveer said. “Now that I have an apartment I figured I could just make most of my meals and go to the grocery store and buy everything cheaper.”

The cheapest meal plan offered by the university for students living on campus is called Spider 40, which is $1,330 per semester and available only for apartment residents. By spending around $50 a week on groceries, Van Deveer said she was happily saving money. 

Alongside steep markups comes the sense of blindness for customers: ETC does not display product prices consistently throughout the store. Mary Burns, a junior, recently made a panic-induced purchase when confronted with an unexpectedly high price at checkout.

Burns was in need of a new toothbrush and decided to buy one at ETC, which was her most convenient option. But when the price flashed on the register’s display, Burns was surprised.

“Seven dollars and 49 cents!” Burns said. “There were so many people behind me and I would feel like an idiot being like, ‘Never mind, I’m not gonna get the toothbrush.’ So I got it.”

Wroniewicz said the lack of prices on display was due to the need to fill shelves and move products around often. “We are trying to figure out a sensible way to display as many prices as possible without adding to confusion by having incorrect tags on shelves,” Wroniewicz said.

Though he could not disclose the amount of money ETC makes, Wroniewicz said that all proceeds from sales are put into the university’s general fund. “[The fund] pays for everything from student financial aid to salaries and benefits for faculty and staff, to improving IT and infrastructure around campus,” Wroniewicz said.

Contact social media manager Katie Burke at katie.burke@richmond.edu. Follow her on Twitter at @KatieBurke_1.

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