This little financial mess kind of seems like it could have been preventable – college students taking advantage of unlimited food. No pun intended, but it’s almost like a recipe for disaster!
I recently heard about this story where college kids at a school in Vermont were taking advantage of an all-you-can-eat dining hall plan. It seems as though there was no extra money paid for additional servings of food. Now, how one defines the term ‘taking advantage’ can be open to interpretation.
One might look at it innocently, meaning that college kids might just eat way more than they should. This can certainly happen, and I’ve seen it happen to some degree. Once, to ridiculous extremes.
Money Conscious Friend From College
Way back when I was in college (undergrad), I lived in a dorm during my freshman year, before venturing out into apartment and fraternity land. In the dorm, we could get 3 meals a day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We could go through the line once, which meant just one of each hot entree, side, etc. Once we had the meal card swiped, we walked into the cafeteria to get drinks and some other very basic side items. These ranged from cold cereal and junk bagels in the morning, to plain bread at lunch and dinner. These additional items were unlimited. This wouldn’t pose a problem for people, since those were low-cost to the school and not too interesting to the students.
Well, I had a friend in the dorm who viewed this ‘unlimited’ option with bagels, cereal, etc as being a free for all. He simply wanted to get the most of his money, as he was paying for college himself through a lot of hard work and prior summer jobs. What he did, in the morning, was drink several glasses of whole milk, eat a couple of bagels, a couple of bowls of cereal, etc. Again, all about getting the biggest return on his prepaid food investment. And keep in mind, these weren’t the real 1 per person ‘entrees’ that were provided in the main line.
What was the result of his gluttony? After one month, he gained almost 20 pounds. All because he wanted to get the most out of his money.
Most people weren’t motivated by all you can eat of the afterthought food, but this guy was. What was funny was the story he told about driving back home after that month to see his high school girlfriend who was then a Senior. He said that she opened the door, and her big smile quickly disappeared as she looked him up and down. Her first words: “You’ve changed.”.
The Vermont Free for All Story
What’s interesting about this recent story in the news is that the university in Vermont apparently offered all you can eat, unlimited food – period. It’s all you can eat, and kids can even go back to get special to go meals later in the day after gorging on the unlimited meal in the dining hall. If they stuff themselves with 2,000 calories a meal, so be it. It’s all included in the unlimited plan, apparently!
Well, it seems as though students took advantage of this in a big way. To the extent of carrying food out of the dining hall. Yes, even bringing in tupperware containers to take food out and back with them to their rooms. Even things like salt and pepper shakers were missing.
Running out of food apparently wasn’t a part of the plan for the dining hall though.
So, what was a next step: banning backpacks from cafeterias! Apparently, they had to resort to doing this to try to stop the kids from maximizing return on investment through this arbitrage opportunity.
It’s No Surprise, Right?
The problem, as it seems, is that students seemed take advantage of the unlimited food. It’s that something for nothing urge once again! Or, maybe better put, it’s the idea of getting maximum return on investment.
The thing is, it seems like wouldn’t be a surprise that eventually, college kids would find a way to take advantage of a situation like that. If you offer somebody a potential ‘abitrage opportunity’, they just might take advantage of it.
What would I have done? Well, I might have been tempted to take some food out the cafeteria too, if it was truly unlimited like at the school in Vermont. I mean, when we’re talking about college students with very little money, it just happens. Right or not, some squirreling gone wild would happen!
As an adult, I’ve learned that just because you pay for unlimited quantities of something, it’s possible to go way overboard in taking advantage of the situation. Take what you need without causing long-term damage
My Questions for You
Do you think this is an obvious recipe for disaster, giving college students an all you can eat plan like that?
What would you have done in that environment? Would you have snuck some extra food out of there?
Have you ever gone overboard in an all-you can eat environment, simply because you had a chance to make the most of your money spent?