The price of convenience

Photo by Jenny Rohl/TheNews

Story by Matthew Parks, Staff writer and Sabra Jackson, Contributing writer

Fast Track, the popular convenience-style store on Murray State’s campus, has been the subject of scrutiny from some students due to items having higher prices than other retailers.

In a price comparison by reporters from The Murray State News, it was found that Fast Track prices tend to be anywhere between 10 to 30 percent higher than those same products at mass retailers.

However, Paula Amols, director of Dining Services, said that while some prices are higher, it is due to the cost Fast Track has to pay for those items, plus an additional percentage cost to cut a profit large enough for the facility to continue its services.

Mass retailers such as Walmart or Kroger buy their products in massive quantities, entitling them to bulk discounts which they can then pass on to customers.

Amols said unfortunately the small amount of product that Fast Track buys isn’t enough to receive those discounts – but they still strive to offer the lowest possible prices to students.

“We’re totally aware of the fact that the prices [at Fast Track] tend to be higher than people pay elsewhere,” Amols said. “It’s just a function of that kind of business.”

Amols said that the store does make a small profit, but its main purpose is to provide accessible services for students and all the money they make goes back into the university.

“We do make money from the store,” Amols said. “But all that money goes back into the facility, the university and the students.”

She also said that the facility pays for its own products, services, renovations, etc. and is not funded by the university – another major reason prices may seem higher than at major chain stores.

“I think one of the biggest fallacies someone can make is trying to even compare a place like Fast Track to Walmart or Kroger,” Amols said. “We do the best we can understanding that [students] obviously have your financial stresses.”

She said the facility has major renovations planned to be finished by Fall 2017. The plan is to expand the store by around 50 percent and offer more products such as a F’real Shake Machine, similar to what Huck’s has.

Tim Bruce, executive chef and manager of dining services, said they strive to take student suggestions into consideration when making purchasing decisions and facility upgrades, although those are sometimes limited by contracts with supply vendors.

While they could potentially offer options for cheaper prices, Bruce says it would require them to significantly scale back on the number of products they offer.

Bruce said he believes dining services better serves the student body by offering a wider variety of products.

Laura Linck, senior from Edwardsville, Illinois, says she shops at Fast Track because of it’s  convenience.

“I am still going to shop there no matter what the prices are just because I don’t want to have to go off campus to get some stuff sometimes,” Linck said.

Linck said she thinks the prices have gone up from when she was a freshman, but she still plans to shop there until she graduates.

“We still have the option to go off campus to get things,” Linck said. “This is supposed to be a small convenience store for when needed but not necessarily for everything.”