By Robyn Doolittle
Any money left on meal cards after exams isn’t refunded to students. Instead, it goes back into the ancillary services fund.
Some schools give back what they call ‘flex dollars’ – the taxable portion of remaining cash – but not Ryerson.
“Usually students only have less than $100 left on their card anyway,” said John Corallo, director of ancillary services.
This year the administration posted graphs to show how much students should spend each week based on the size of their meal plan. But many – especially those in residence who are forced to buy meal plans – have hundreds of dollars left that won’t be spent.
Sam Martin, a second-year journalism student who lived in Pitman Hall last year, had about $400 left in early April last year and didn’t want to bring home crates of pop and chips to use up the extra cash.
“Signs were posted telling us to order cases of pop in advance if we planned on buying tons at the end of year. But I’m not gonna buy 30 bottles of pop for $50 when I could buy a case for $5. So a few of my friends and I devised “The Plan.”
Martin and her friends staked out the Hub at lunchtime. Most of the meals people buy are around $7. While students waited in line, Martin would ask if she could purchase the meal on her card.
“Food bought with meal cards isn’t taxed, so it’s cheaper anyway. Then you just ask for a measly $5. They save a few bucks; I make a few bucks. It’s a win-win situation,” she said.
Martin said cafeteria staff didn’t seem to mind; some even helped the group out. But, she said, the trick is to pick the right people. If someone’s just buying a chocolate bar, it’s not worth your, or their, time. Go for people holding the white styrofoam containers.
Early last year, Oakham House staff helped students get money back from meal plans by charging extra on the bill and returning the difference – with a good tip of course. But when managers found out, that stopped.
“What you can do at Oakham is hang out and offer to buy a tables’ dinner,” Martin said. “If the bill comes to $30 and everyone chips in and gives you $25, that’s $25 you didn’t have before.”
Martin made about $200 last year, but some of her friends got more than #300 off their card.
Corallo predicts Ryerson will adopt the ‘flex dollar’ in another couple of years. Until then, cash strapped students could try out The Plan.