As the University’s historic dining hall workers’ strike nears the two-week mark, Harvard is providing students with extra funds to eat outside of dining halls.
Harvard University Dining Services wrote in an email to students early Saturday morning that the University would add a one-time value of $25 to students’ Crimson Cash and BoardPlus accounts in order to introduce more “flexibility” in student dining options.
BoardPlus is an extra $65 stipend given to students each semester as part of their meal plan and can be used at student grilles and other on-campus food retail locations. Crimson Cash is a payment account that students to which students can add value then use to make purchases at on and off-campus establishments.
While students were happy to learn of their newfound Crimson Cash wealth, some were disappointed to learn that the service was temporarily unavailable at some Harvard Square locations.
Amy Y. Zhang ’18 said she was eager to use the credit at Liquiteria, and was “disappointed” to find out that the pressed juice store was not accepting Crimson Cash temporarily because of issues with the establishment's Crimson Cash processing machine.
“I went to Liquiteria and was super excited to order a smoothie with the $25 we just received from Harvard,” Zhang said. “But after I ordered my $11 smoothie, they told me the Crimson Cash system was down.”
Liquiteria employee Cassandra Alexis said the store’s Crimson Cash machine not functioning properly.
“We actually don’t know why it is not working. It usually acts up and somebody comes up and fixes it and then it starts acting up again,” Alexis said. “I don’t know when it will start working again.”
Other students said they had a similar experience at Mexican eatery Qdoba Sunday night through Monday afternoon.
“The machine won’t be up and running until Monday afternoon at 4 p.m.,” Qdoba employee Remi Jones said Monday afternoon. “It has been down all morning.”
Michael D. Conner, director of communications for University Campus Services, said Harvard has "been made aware of a few transactions that were not processed."
"Upon investigation, we found one instance where unbeknownst to the store employee, the Crimson Cash machine was in power-save mode, and another was due to a lack of paper in the Crimson Cash machine," Conner wrote in an email. He added that in both cases the store resolved the issue quickly. He did not specify what Crimson cash locations were affected.
Despite the hiccups, students were grateful for the extra funds. Richard M. Feder-Staehle ’18 was able to use Crimson Cash on Sunday at Qdoba before the machine broke down.
“I don't eat meat, so with the strike going on, my food options in the dining halls have been more restricted than usual,” Feder said. “When my roommates and I realized we could use Crimson Cash at Qdoba, we went pretty much immediately after—it's hard to pass on a free burrito.”
Feder-Staehle’s roommate Nick M. Sertl ’18 agreed.
“I'm all about the Qdoba—10 out of 10 would recommend over El Jefe's,” Sertl said referring to a local taqueria. “All in all, those 25 bucks in Crimson Cash singlehandedly helped me regain the eight pounds I lost in the past two weeks due to the strike.”
Off-campus eateries where Crimson Cash can be used include burrito joint Boloco, upscale Charles Hotel eatery Henrietta’s Table, Liquiteria, and Mexican fast food chain Qdoba. Crimson Cash can also be used in retail and grocery stores around the Harvard Square area such as Broadway Marketplace, CVS, and the Harvard Square Coop.
According to Crimson Cash’s website, merchants are required to purchase hardware provided by payment processing company Verifone that allows the establishment to connect to Harvard's transaction system. The annual maintenance fee for each location device is about $400, according to the Crimson Cash website.