Changes to Ultimate Meal Plan cause confusion among students

Dining limits sharing of Ultimate meal plans (photo by Walter Martinez).
Dining limits sharing of Ultimate meal plans (photo by Walter Martinez).

Mason students with the “Ultimate” meal plan may be in for a shock the next time they try to swipe in their friends at Southside.

Students still have unlimited access to Southside; however, they will only be able to swipe their ID card once every 30 minutes. The change was made after the Mason Card office noticed that students were sharing their meal swipes at Southside with their friends.

Sean Kelly, a freshman finance major, discovered this change after he tried to use an extra swipe to bring one of his friends into Southside two weeks ago. The cashier told him that he could not share his swipes and that he could not swipe his card again for another 30 minutes.

Neither the Mason Card Office nor Mason Dining had informed Kelly in any way that the change had been made to his plan.

According to the Mason Card Office website, the Ultimate meal plan includes “unlimited” entry into Southside exclusively and $100 in Bonus Funds. The website does not display any rules for how to use meal plans, such as if swipes can be shared amongst peers.

 “The Ultimate meal plan is for a single person to use as often as they wish but has no sharing available. This is not a change from past years,” Mark Kraner, executive director of retail operations at Mason Auxiliary Enterprises, said in an email.

Trevor Autry, a freshman psychology major, also experienced issues with his ID card when he tried to swipe his friends into Southside last week. A manager informed him that sharing meal swipes was not supposed to be allowed with the Ultimate meal plan, but that the computer system continued to let it happen.

According to Kraner, a new software program called Atrium was implemented for Mason ID cards in August. The software was supposed to deactivate the sharing feature on meal plans starting at the beginning of the school year. A glitch in the system allowed students to share their swipes until it was recently discovered.

Kraner said that the lack of communication between Dining Services and students with the Ultimate Meal Plan was an “oversight” and that students who had an issue came forward to change their meal plans changed.

Both Kelly and Autry consulted the Mason Card Office about their experiences and were able to change their plans to the 19 Meal Flex plan.

“I’m still a little angry about it. I paid for the Ultimate meal plan and [had to change it] to the 19 meals per week.. They didn’t reimburse my Bonus Funds either,” Autry said.

This was not the case for Jorge Negron, a freshman global affairs major. Negron originally heard about the changes during conversation with friends. He initially dismissed the change as gossip. However, after continuing to hear about he decided to look into the changes late last week.

“The upsetting change is not being able to swipe for other friends [at Southside]," Negron said. "If this is a true and permanent change, I find it upsetting considering on-campus freshmen are required to have a meal plan paid before the start of the school year."

“It was an abrupt change,” Kelly said. “They could have handled it better.”

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