Following the Food: Where should I buy a Coke?
First, let us clarify the value exchange between meal points and pure cash. The residential meal plan options (gold, silver and bronze) have the same exchange rate for the first 2,534 meal points ($3,802). This makes up the bronze plan. From there, adding 740 meal points for $738 gives you the silver plan, and adding another 740 points for $740 is equivalent to the gold plan.
In essence, you pay the rate of $1.50 per meal point for the first 2,534 meal points and then pay at a roughly 1:1 rate for any upgrades.
We will take the perspective of the bronze plan for this comparison and use the rate of $1.50 per meal point.
There are three major options in purchasing soda: a 20-ounce bottle from a vending machine, an identical bottle from a convenience store, such as Paws & Go or Millbrook Market, or self-serve fountain soda at a major dining area, such as the Bear’s Den or the Danforth University Center.
The vending machine accepts Bear Bucks or cash and charges $1.25.
The convenience stores charge $1.60, which may be paid for in cash or in meal points. If meal points are used, the value paid would be $2.40, nearly double the vending machine price.
A large fountain soda from a major dining area costs 1.75 meal points, which equates to a $2.63 value, and a small is 1.50 meal points, or a $2.25 value.
As evidenced, these pricing differences provide incentives to students who are aware of this discrepancy. For example, students who are ahead in meal points may benefit more from buying from vending machines for the cheaper price.
Nevertheless, many students seem to combat this problem by avoiding it entirely: asking for a cup to get water and heading straight to the Coke dispenser.