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My name is [Matt125], and I am a senior at Florida State University. I was reviewing the mealplan brochure for the 2012-2013 school year, and I have found numerous of Seminole Dining’s pricing and marketing tactics to be both puzzling and unsound. Given this, my hope is that a Seminole Dining representative might be able to help me understand how such decisions were made.
My first concern is a flagrant inconsistency in the price points of the unlimited mealplan. In the 7 Day All Access Plus***Most Economical Membership, the price for unlimited meals and $350 flexbucks is $2150. For $200 more, one can upgrade to the 7 Day All Access Premium plan which is exactly the same thing with $150 additional flexbucks. Why is it $200 to upgrade to a plan that has only a $150 addition of food credit that expires within a year? I would like to commend you on a great name choice for the plan, as those who choose it indeed pay a “premium” on flex bucks. Clever play on words that I wager few will pick up on.
My second concern is in the pricing of the 150 block plan. The 150 block meal plan costs $1900 and includes $400 flexbucks. This means the 150 meals themselves cost $1500, or $10 per meal. 150 meals spread out over 16 weeks comes out to 9.375 meals per week. This means in order for the plan holder to maximize the value of their mealplan, they must use it for dinner 7 days per week and lunch an average of 2.375 times per week (112 dinners and 38 lunches). If the plan holder instead purchased these meals with garnet bucks, they would pay only $1461. I also find it puzzling that according to the meal plan terms and conditions, “To keep discounts high, meal plans are not transferable to others and are strictly for the person stated on the FSUCard.” Granted, I have only taken an intro accounting course, but I seem to remember that something which costs more than face value is referred to as a premium (which according to dictionary.com is an antonym of the word discount). The only possible explanation for how Seminole Dining is able to get away with such a price is that it is the cheapest mealplan that satisfies the mealplan requirement for the renovated east-side residence halls. Some might consider this price gouging, and is highly unethical from a business perspective.
My final concern is that based on my analysis, the unlimited mealplans are marketed in a way that is very deceiving. This claim refers to the third page of the following brochure: http://www.seminolediningmobile.com/mpinfo/2012-mpinfo.pdf.
The link claims that meals cost $5.21 each, presumably by dividing 1800 by 345 (three times the number of days between the opening and closing of residence halls). This assumes that the meal plan holder arrives on campus the morning residence halls opens and eats three meals per day at the dining halls every day until the residence halls close. This is highly unlikely to occur given that most people leave Tallahassee at the very least for Thanksgiving break. Moreover, and perhaps the greatest fault in this logic, the meal plan also comes with $300 flexbucks, which is not included in the $1800. The only way to go to the dining halls 345 times is to not use flexbucks, which means the plan holder actually paid 2100 for those 345 meals.
I can speculate on the many reasons why I believe Seminole Dining prices and markets their products the way they do, but based on the above analysis, I can conclusively claim that Seminole Dining employs a multitude of unsound practices in marketing their products. This is without even digging into the quality of the product and service (IE: Poor weekend hours at dining halls which reduce value of unlimited meal plans and low quality foods).
With that, I would like to thank you for reading and looking into my concerns and analysis. I very much look forward to a response from Seminole Dining on this matter.