Harvard Square's Biggest Rip-Offs

The life of a student in Cambridge isn’t as carefree as it appears. While the town is idyllic, that doesn’t mean it fits the college budget. Too many vendors get away with too high prices, so FM has decided to call them out.

Harvard Square—the perfect college neighborhood. Little shops, great food, red brick sidewalks. But the life of a student in Cambridge isn’t as carefree as it appears. While the town is idyllic, that doesn’t mean it fits the college budget. Too many vendors get away with too high prices, so FM has decided to call them out. Here are five of the worst offenders:

01 | Pinkberry’s Deluxe Toppings
Pinkberry boasts an impressive 30-topping selection, and for $4.95 (already pretty pricey) you can get a small cup of yogurt with all the toppings that “comfortably fit in your cup.” Or so Pinkberry claims. Two special toppings, Nutella and Milk Chocolate Crunch, are singled out as the “deluxe” toppings. Should you request one, as we often do, the employee will kindly remind you: “This is a deluxe topping! Are you ok with paying an extra 50 cents?” We pay for the scoop, but we most certainly are not ok. We have two problems with the deluxe fee. The first is that the employee’s scoop-size generosity varies wildly. For 50 cents, we expect a scoop somewhere between full and overflowing, not some measly dollop with the excess swept off as if it were baking soda in a cookie recipe. Some employees get this, but others simply do not. Even worse, there’s no apparent reason why these toppings should cost more. For example, Milk Chocolate Crunch’s close cousin, the Dark Chocolate Crunch, or “crisps” as we were corrected, does not come with the extra fee. This seems wrong. If it only it wasn’t so good, then we could more properly protest.

02 | Ralph Lauren x The Coop
If the H Sweaters aren’t enough of a status symbol for you, you gotta hit them with the double whammy: the Ralph Lauren for Harvard collection. It sends the perfect message—not only do you go to Harvard, but you spent $85 on a polo shirt. If you’ve decided that you can endure the mockery from your peers and go forth with this purchase, you’ll be happy to know the collection is quite versatile. The casual prepster can go for the polo shirt with a small RL logo and a small Harvard insignia on the sleeve. Slightly less subtle is the “Big Polo,” as dubbed by the Coop website. As you could probably guess, this shirt has an oh-so- modest Polo pony that covers your entire left pec and, naturally, a jumbo insignia on the sleeve. We’ll leave the choice to you.

03 | Concept
We all have that friend. They hail from a big city and place weekly orders at Barney’s. They worry about their leather high tops being wrecked in snow. And, more than anything, they’re desperate for a luxury Cambridge outpost to replace their weekly sprees in the West Village. That’s what brings them to Concept. To appreciate the breadth of exorbitantly priced pieces in Concept, you’d best make a trip there yourself. But in case you don’t want to be seen in such an establishment, here’s one gem we thought you couldn’t miss. Above the camouflage bucket hats and neon windbreakers sits a pair of sneakers that can best be described as a mix between high top orthotics and moon-shoes. Made from holographic plastic, these kicks are perfect for a Star Trek themed party or your role as an extra in Disney’s 1999 film Zenon: Girl of the “21st Century.” And they can be yours, for the low cost of $945.

04 | Eastern Mountain Sports
Most FOPpers know the panic that hits when they realize they actually needed to bring each item on the never-ending packing list. Luckily, Eastern Mountain Sports has everything you need. Unluckily, EMS preys on your pre-FOP desperation and gets you with out-of-this-world prices. Take the spork, for example. Seems like a vital purchase for a camping trip, and should be a bargain (spoon and fork for the price of one?!). But at $15, we’d rather have finger food. Next up we have the Darn Tough Vermont wool socks. They have a lifetime guarantee. We guess that’s the kind of aggressive marketing necessary to justify the $25 price for one pair. All we can say is, if these get a hole or snag in the next 20 years, we’ll definitely be calling Darn Tough HQ.

05 | Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups
OK, this isn’t exactly specific to a single store, but it’s a big enough rip off to deserve honorable mention. Justin’s brags of “peanut butter cups so astounding they boggle the mind.” More accurately, they boggle the budget. Found throughout the Square at Cardullo’s, Starbucks, and even our very own Lamont Café, these cups are ripping you off from every angle. We tried them to see if they were worth the hype. Sure, they’re USDA organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified, gluten free, kosher, and have sustainably sourced palm fruit oil... but $3.00? No, they were good; but, like, $1.50 good.