Wondering about the psychology behind flex usage? Interested in how much you’re really paying at the Hub? Read on to hear what a hungry (okay, maybe a little hangry) student making her way through Econ 50 has to say about our campus convenience stop.
The Problems with Flex
Considering that all students on the meal plan also have some amount of flex–in other words, there is no meal plan option without flex–a few problematic things arise.
Firstly, we cannot determine the actual value of flex on the dollar because there is no ‘non-flex meal plan’ to compare the price of a ‘flex-including meal plan’ to.
Secondly, as a result, we tend to see flex as ‘free money’ of sorts. Thus, when using flex at the Hub, the inflated snack prices may not seem so jarring, because we can “just put it on flex” (overheard at the Hub…every 5 seconds).
As many of us are well aware, however, this is the time of the semester that many flex stores begin to run dry, and the more common phrase of “just put it on flex” suddenly shifts to “Claremont cash please…”
At this desperate point, if we want to continue our snack habits without change, we must turn to a payment method that makes those outrageous Hub prices a bit more stinging: real money!
The Value of Flex
Something even more shocking is how valuable flex truly is to begin with. As a friend of mine is coming to visit soon, I have become more apprehensive about spending my flex because I anticipate needing to flex her into the dining hall at least four or five times while she is here.
Of course, if I did run out of flex, I could get her into the dining hall with ‘real money’ too, so why am I so concerned about hoarding my flex in anticipation of her arrival? Well, as it turns out, flex is worth far more than US dollars. At Collins, using cash to treat a guest at the dining hall costs $10.75 for breakfast, $13.75 for lunch, and $16.75 for dinner. With flex, though, it is $4, $5, and $6 respectively. That makes $1 of flex worth about $2.75 in USD, especially if you are an avid dining hall flexer.
Taking this into consideration, I have been using my ‘real money’ to buy snacks at the Hub lately even though I am not flexed out. I know that I will end up saving more money if I use my flex to pay for my friend’s dining hall meals, as compared with an item at the Hub that costs the same with or without flex.
Even for those of us who don’t have any friends coming to visit, we may find ourselves saving flex simply to ‘flex in’ for that Saturday dinner because apparently all your meals have already been used…oops. The Ath is the best way to procrastinate, okay?
Why Does Flex Work?
So why can the Hub mark-up its prices so much, and how can flex be worth so much, without consequence?
To get truly economic, one reason is that the Hub acts as a monopoly on campus. It is by far the most convenient place to get a snack while running from Roberts North to Bauer in 10 minutes, and it is also the only place at CMC that sells snacks.
If I decided to buy Sour Patch Watermelon gummies (one of the most popular items at the Hub) in bulk and sell them at a table right outside the Hub’s door for $1.50 of flex each, I would probably get far more business than the Hub, and profit from the sales.
However, I highly doubt that CMC would be too happy about giving me, an unauthorized seller, access to flex as a payment method, or even let me sell outside the Hub at all for that matter. There is a barrier to entry for aspiring snack sellers, and therefore the Hub reigns supreme.
Also, as aforementioned, the idea that flex is ‘free money’ acts as a desensitizer to the absurdity of paying $3.50 for a Kind bar (or, if you consider flex to be worth more than USD–even as much as $2.75 USD if you’re an avid dining hall flexer like myself–you’re actually paying $9.63… yikes!).
Now, enough with my Economic Theories of Flex… let’s take a look at some products that you should definitely buy online or at a local store, especially once you run out of flex and have to face the true monstrosity of monopoly.
Energy bars // $3.50 at the Hub (KIND, Luna, Clif), $1.25 in “bulk” (packs of 12)
Kettle chips // $3.25 at the Hub, as low as $0.99 online
Sour Patch Kids // $3 at the Hub, $1.78 online for the same-sized bag
And finally, a few products that actually are not too bad, at least for Hub standards:
Pirate Booty // $1.25 at the Hub, $1 at Target
Bottled Starbucks Coffee // $3.25 at the Hub, $2.50 online if purchased in a pack of 4
Nature Valley bars // $1.25 at the Hub, generally less than $1 in bulk online
For those of you who still have flex, I congratulate you! I hope this article can help guide you in spending those last few dollars as the semester winds down.