For students on the Flex dining program, the start of the semester has been frustrating because card-reading machines at the only two restaurants that accept Flex dollars — Yorkside Pizza and Restaurant and Naples Pizza and Restaurant — have not been working properly.
The program, begun in 1995, allows Yale students an alternative dining option beyond the standard 21-meal plan by providing them with $100 per semester to spend outside of dining halls. This year, students living in Swing Space each receive $75 in Flex spending per semester as compensation for not having their own college dining hall. Beside the restaurants, the dollars can also be spent at Durfee’s and the A&A Penthouse.
But students and restaurant owners alike are grumbling that the Flex program has room for improvement. Yorkside owner George Koutroumanis said that the C-board machine he uses to charge bills for Yale students on the program sometimes does not work, with messages ranging from “communication error” to “host timeout.” He said problems with the system began last year and have been an inconvenience for both the restaurant and for students.
“It’s very frustrating for us. We have to spend minutes on each customer with it,” he said. “It’s frustrating for the customer because you may or may not have money with you. It takes an hour every day to reconcile it.”
Yorkside has participated in the Flex program since it began and plans to continue its role in the program, but Koutroumanis said the machines run as a “constant ongoing cat-and-mouse wheel.”
Any problems with the machines are a priority, said Don McQuarrie, the executive director of Yale Dining Services.
“We respond to them as quickly as we can, and we use a number of different resources. We try to isolate whether it’s a problem of the machine or a problem of the connections. If it goes beyond our expertise, we would typically engage IT or Telecom to help,” McQuarrie said.
Naples owner Rose Prifitera said that the restaurant was not able to accept Flex from the few students who have tried to use it this year due to issues with the machine. But she thinks that it will be resolved.
“I guess they have some sort of problem with it, but I assume they’ll straighten it out,” Prifitera said. “I really didn’t have that many students who wanted it, but if they fix it, there’s no problem.”
The program is a nice gesture, but overall does not seem that great, Audrey Pulitzer ’08 said.
“I just used it for the first time yesterday, but we can only use it at Naples Pizza and Yorkside,” Pulitzer said.