The Commons: Ups and Downs in Prices

Katie S.

Shania B. '21, Phoebe J. '21, and Danielle D. '21 doing homework in the commons

October 1, 2019

At the beginning of the school year, new price placards were scattered around the Westridge Commons. While some items’ prices jumped up by 50 cents, other items decreased by 50 cents. The reason for this change is relatively unknown by the majority of Westridge.


Some students have reacted to the new prices with annoyance and some with indifference. Caroline W., ’23, said, “I don’t really feel anything about it. It’s just information, it’s like when you learn about a new type of fish, it’s just complete indifference.” Other students feel more strongly about the increase of prices. Emerson T. ’20 stated, “This is news to me. I had no idea.” She added, “It makes me upset.” Other students were also unaware of the price changes since no official announcements were made. Maya P. ’23 simply said, “I honestly didn’t know they increased prices.”  Some people wished that a notification had been posted. “I didn’t even realize that this happened, so I wish it could have been more clear,” said Ronnie C. ’23.


Some parents were also surprised about the Commons change in prices. Val Wright, a Westridge parent, said, “I didn’t know it happened, so I guess I’m a little in the dark. Telling people in advance would have been good. I guess we will notice [the price changes] when we look at the end of the month and [see] what the spending has been.”


The students who did notice the price change tend to register just the increased prices rather than the decreased ones. However, coffee, a high-demand item, actually decreased in price.  Brandon Worrell, Director of Dining Services, said, “We go through about 1000 cups of coffee every month, so by lowering each cup by 50 cents, it makes a big difference.” He added, “Everyone sees the increase, but no one sees the decrease [in price].”


Worrell explained the reasons for the price change had much to do with the cost of goods. “Produce fluctuates in price frequently when compared to dairy and meat prices. Even a small price change has a large impact when we purchase hundreds of pounds at a time.” 


The price increase was also the result of a desire to increase and improve lunch line efficiency.  “Most increases were not dramatic, I changed items that were $2.95 to $3-$3.25; I changed a sandwich which was $4.25 to $5, but now you can have as many items as you want on it. The salads were $4.25 and are now $5, and you can have all the toppings you want. This also helps speed up the register line since we eliminated so many add on button options to have to choose from.” 


It’s possible that prices increasing or decreasing may affect the purchasing habits of consumers. Some may have to change what or how much they buy. Ava F. ’21 remarked, “I think it can definitely affect people who might not have as much budget, especially if they don’t know about it.” She added, “I guess I’m not the one paying for my food, so it doesn’t affect me personally.”


Phoebe J. ’21 head of the Students of Socioeconomic Disadvantage Affinity, also spoke of how students of lower socioeconomic status are involved in the Commons situation. “I think we should be told about the raise in price because there’s a demographic of students that does need to know about that. And I think it really speaks to the Westridge culture of ‘it doesn’t matter how much it costs and I’m just going to buy it.’ I am annoyed, but I also think that it wasn’t intentional on the school’s part. I do wish I had known, but also I think that in the scheme of things it’s not the biggest challenge or issue for students of socioeconomic disadvantage.”


Overall, the change in prices hasn’t appeared to strongly impact people at Westridge.  Brandon explained why they didn’t notify the students of the price changes. “We decided to change the prices last minute and didn’t manage to let everyone know.” He also expressed an openness to respond to consumer feedback. “I am capable of making changes where we need to make them by listening to feedback from students, staff, and family.”


Listening for feedback is a gesture that may go unavailed if no one is even paying attention to or cares about their Commons food purchases. Phoebe J. ’21 summed this up well. She said, “We’re hungry and we grab something and type in our number, and I know I generally don’t look at the prices because I’m just hungry.”