Dorothy Calimeris wanted a Snickers bar.
That was the driving force behind Mills College’s new program Bookstore Dollars. Dollars are the equivalent of dining points for products at the bookstore.
Points act as money attached to student, staff and faculty ID cards to spend at the Tea Shop, Café Suzie and Founders. A certain number of points come with most meal plans, but they can be purchased anytime by anyone with a Mills ID. Now the Mills community can put money on their ID to be spent at the bookstore.
For years, Calimeris, Director of Auxiliary Services, has not carried cash or credit cards on campus. “I put points on my ID for food at the Tea Shop and Suzie’s,” she said, “but sometimes I just want a candy bar and the bookstore is the only place to get that.”
Calimeris brought the idea to Karen Churchill, manager at the bookstore, who was enthusiastic about the new technology.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Churchill said. “We do it at many other campuses. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t been implemented before.”
Churchill agreed that they should begin the program mid-semester so they can work out any kinks. “Then it will be smooth sailing next semester,” she said.
Calimeris said, “If problems come up, we’ll change our methods.”
Calimeris said she decided to call this available money “dollars” in an effort for the community to see it as separate from points. “They have to be different,” she said.
This is because the College outsources for various services on campus. Since 2007, Dining Services has been run by Bon Appétit Management Company, the shuttle is driven by WeDriveU chauffeurs, and the bookstore is managed through eFollet. Money spent at the Tea Shop runs through different channels than money spent at the bookstore.
The dining points system is designed with discounts in mind. Buying $100 in points beyond a meal plan is worth 110 Points, equivalent to a 10% discount on all purchases, $200 is worth 230 points, a 15% discount, $300 is worth $360 points, a 20% discount and $500 is worth 650 Points, a 30% discount. Auxiliary wanted to give a similar incentive for dollars and eFollett agreed to give a coupon for 10% off the next purchase when a student purchases $100 or more.
The dollars put on an ID will roll over from semester to semester. At the end of their time at Mills, students can take the dollars off their IDs in the form of a gift card. Any additional points roll over as well.
Calimeris hopes this will be especially convenient for parents of students. “You can conceivably put enough dollars on your ID to cover all your books.”
“Some parents will be more willing to give their students money that they know will be spent on things they need,” Churchill said, “instead of recreational things.”
As of Dec. 3, no one had purchased dollars yet, but Calimeris expects more of an impact next semester, when students have more to buy at the bookstore, and especially next fall.
“We can put it in first year orientation material,” she said, “and make sure the convenience is clear.”
Nevertheless, Calimeris feels it is the responsibility of the bookstore to advertise for the system. So far the only notice the community has gotten is through student, staff, and faculty news posts on Nov. 12, 18 and 19.
Churchill is planning on sending more e-mail notices and putting up fliers at the beginning of the spring semester. “It’s hard,” she said, “because fliers waste resources and are expensive, but you can’t guarantee students are going to check Student-News, either.”
In a similar vein, the Associated Students of Mills College (ASMC) executive board has asked Calimeris about the possibility of installing card swipers in the dormitory laundry rooms and vending machines, so students don’t have to hoard quarters throughout the semester.
“The idea came from a brainstorming session during a Student Services Committee,” said Amber Williams, Co-President of the ASMC. “Scrambling for quarters late at night is something that we have all done. Our first idea was to add laundry points to the student ID cards. After speaking with Auxillary Services and learning how the ID cards work, we decided that this would not be an effective solution.”
“It’s an expensive process,” said Calimeris. “We had an extra card swipe machine for the bookstore, but those are about $1,400 a piece and the wiring costs an additional $3,000. Each new machine will cost about $5,000.”
With 10 laundry rooms on campus, installing card swipers in all of them is a $50,000 prospect.
The ASMC is “now moving forward with pricing quarter machines which we hope will make help make doing laundry a little easier,” said Williams. “This is an idea that is supported by ASMC’s Student Services Committee… We will have an update on this by next semester.”
Calimeris said she is also looking into getting coin machines or machines payable by credit card. This semester she has not been able to get in touch with Coinmach, the company responsible for the laundry machines, but in the past they have said these solutions were feasible with a raise in price.
To add dollars to an ID card, go to the HMDS office in Sage Hall with cash, check or major credit card, or just call HMDS at (510) 403-2127. Unlike with points, cards won’t be given a designating sticker because there are not different plans as there are with dining points.