To the Editor:
"Customers are the reason for our being," says Al Kenney on the first page of the Yale University Dining Services 1997-98 pamphlet entitled, "Your choice." Noticeably absent from this year's pamphlets are the prices customers or guests of the Dining Services pay per meal.
And justifiably so: YUDS seems to have succeeded in preventing the general student body from seeing just how badly they are being ripped off, allowing them to continue to exploit their monopoly by providing inferior goods and services at superior prices. Admittedly, the continual leaps in dollars we have seen next to "Board: Yale College" on our bursar bills have been matched by subtle baby-steps in dining hall quality. But analyze the latest scheme to quench student outcry, Flex dollars, and see just how arrogant the Dining Service is with our money.
YUDS makes it hard to see exactly where our money goes both by not externally pricing individual meals eaten by meal-contract holders, and by maintaining that the marginal price of a YUDS contract does not correspond exactly to the price listed on our bursar bill under "Board."
However, let us make two reasonable assumptions: That the board figure is close to what YUDS receives for each meal contract, and that the guest rates correspond in proportion (though not in magnitude) to what contract meals cost. (For reference, board this semester was $1,600.)
Current guest rates are $3.50-$4.65 for breakfast, $7.75 for lunch, and $10.25 for dinner. Estimating 19 meals per week for 14 weeks at the guest rate comes out to about $1,900.)
Under the Flex system, YUDS saves the cost of seven meals. Continuing the analysis in the manner most favorable to them, suppose those saved meals were breakfast (being the least expensive). Based on the guest rates, breakfast costs about 20 percent of a day's meals, which means for every "Flex" contract, YUDS is saving at least $320, while returning only $100 to the contract holder.
One might think that with 25 percent of the student body donating at least $300,000 to the system, we could expect the administrators to put a little more of the "Service" back in the "YUDS." I'm still waiting.
David Bookstaber '00
September 15, 1997