Open most Western students’ wallets and you'll find more plastic than paper.
Today’s undergrads are leaving bills and coins behind for more convenient credit, mobile payments and pre-paid brand-specific cash cards. As of Monday, Western's Hospitality Services is officially taking notice by allowing students at the University Community Centre's Tim Hortons franchise to use their Tim cards.
In the works since September, director of Hospitality Services Kevin McCabe hopes it’s a step in the right direction. He explained that with constantly changing payment technologies, HS doesn’t “tend to do things all at once." Instead, it’s all a matter of student demand.
“Certainly last year, it seemed that after Christmas the whole Tim card noise was pretty loud.... We wanted to make sure that this year we had it in place," said McCabe.
Some students have appreciated the move to accept gift cards and started using them already.
"It's really convenient because a lot of us over the Christmas break got gift cards," said first-year science student Amn Marwaha. "I'm probably just going to use my gift card right now."
Fellow first-year science student Yashasavi Sachar agreed.
"I left all of my gift cards at home ... I didn't think I would need them, but this makes things easier for everyone," he said.
Just four years ago, HS franchises only accepted cash or the university’s meal plan cards. In 2012, debit and credit card acceptance rolled out across campus after heavy student insistence. HS’s next move could be a campus-wide update for franchise-specific gift and reward cards.
“With the Tim card, we’re testing it in the UCC and if it ends up being really popular, we’ll spread it across the system,” he said. “I still have not heard a request for, let’s say, Subway or for Booster Juice.... We’re still waiting to hear, and if there is demand then we’ll certainly do it.”
If students want to see gift card and reward card services from Western’s HS franchises, McCabe encourages them to speak up. HS receives feedback from online food comments at uwo.ca, their text and tell service, and from employees who voice what students are asking about.
McCabe maintained that it's students who call the shots.
“Nothing’s free," McCabe said. "Anytime we do something, there’s always a cost associated with it, and ... that’s fine if there’s a demand for it, but why put it in if there isn’t?”