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Deal of Student Service Card Deck Reveals Jokers

Column by Mark P. Hurst
Staff Reporter

Something in my mailbox the other day made me scream. Packed in a small white envelope, I had eager visions of another Coop rebate of $0.82 - but it was nothing of the sort. The hideous item I withdrew from the envelope was yet another installment in the comedy we have all come to know as MIT Food Services (new slogan: Really, Our Prices Are Reasonable). It was yet another meal card.

For those of you keeping track, this is the third card we have received this year. But many of you aren't keeping track. That is why I, a hard-working columnist, have made it my American duty to address this crucial matter: Why You Really, Absolutely Need Yet Another Card.

Let's do a quick Cards in Review for the year. In September we all affixed our registration stickers to our Old Card, the ID card we've used since freshman year. Magnetic stripe, photo, and a spot for the athletic sticker.

Things soon got better when we got the New Card (at this point, the "Old New Card"). This winner had the notable improvements of not containing a photo, registration sticker, or athletic sticker. The Old New Card was much better than the Old Old card, since it could be used for unlocking some doors some of the time (for mine, none of the time) and for buying lots of overpriced food on its New Magnetic Stripe. It also had the value added service (for you ARA types, a "Val-U-Service") that students could use stolen Old New Cards without that hassle of photo identification.

Jump to the present: the New New Card. It has a New New Magnetic Stripe, which can be used to open more doors more of the time, and a New Photo, which is really an Old Photo, having been taken from the Old Old Card, but no athletic sticker, which is still on the Old Old Card. So if you want to buy an overpriced lunch and then work it off in the gym, you have to carry the Old Old Card and the New New Card.

Please, don't laugh. We have these cards because printing this many in one year costs a lot of money, which digs the Food Service deeper in debt, then allowing Lobdell a great excuse to raise its prices. There are also important economic reasons for all these cards. I am not privy to the mysterious and wonderful dealings of the Food Service, but I imagine it's something along the lines of: "The more cards they have to carry around, the more overpriced lunches they will buy." Or: "Make the cards, and they will come." Or maybe it comes down to that less well-known theory of economics: "Raise the prices, and the demand increases." Isn't that how it goes?

You may be saying to yourself, "The real reason we got three cards this year is because we're in a transition period to a new card." Could be, but can't we have foresight of more than a week to cut down on new versions of the same old magnetic stripe? Besides, next year won't be much different. Look at your New New Card. On the front is an expiration date - in September. That's right: get ready for the New New New Card next fall. The fun never ends!

"As critical as he's been," you're thinking, "I hope Mark has something nice to say to close the column." Well, yes. It helps deflect the stream of nasty letters. The one good thing about this New New Card is that we can use it on some vending machines (some of the time). Finally we can use the meal card to buy some decent food.