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MIT Card May Be Slow In Coming to LaVerde's

By Carina Fung
STAFf reporter

The ever-expanding list of services that can be accessed through the MIT Card has never included shopping at LaVerde's Market. Sour relations between the shop's proprietor and MIT's food services board may keep the card out of the Student Center convenience store for some time to come.

Associate Director of Food Services John T. McNeill said that this past summer he had discussed the possibility of using the card for LaVerde's purchases, but that the shop's owner, Frank LaVerde, turned the offer down.

McNeill said that MIT would have to charge LaVerde's up to 20 percent of its sales if the card was used in the store. This is because LaVerde's directly competes with MIT food services, he said.

If LaVerde did take the card, MIT would have to charge him for money food services would be losing from students not using the card at ARA services, said Director of Food Services Lawrence E. Maguire.

"Aramark pays for the multi-plan and [MIT Food Services] have an obligation to maintain a certain level of business in Lobdell Food Court," McNeill said.

Card part of continuing dialog

LaVerde disputes McNeill's take on the situation. When LaVerde's Market first moved to the MIT student center seven years ago, LaVerde wanted to have the MIT Card used in his shop.

LaVerde had previously consulted for Duke University, where meal cards can be used all over campus. From the success he saw at Duke, he thought it would be beneficial to have the same system at MIT.

Two years later, Maguire considered putting the card to use in LaVerde's, but "only as an auxiliary program, which would have to be funded by outside accounts," LaVerde said.

Last spring, LaVerde asked McNeill and Maguire for the use of the card in his market and "got a stall," he said. "I have asked for it a number of other times, because I believe LaVerde's has proven it takes care of the community and deserves to be a part of the MIT community."

McNeill claimed that he has offered to let LaVerde implement the card system, and that LaVerde has refused it many times in the past because of the 15 to 20 percent sales cut MIT would have to take. "LaVerde wants the card without having to pay anything," McNeill said.

"We offered LaVerde the card. He doesn't want the card," Maguire said.

LaVerde disputes card offering

Again, LaVerde disagrees. He denies that McNeill offered him the chance to use the card, even at the increased rate of 15 to 20 percent.

"He has never never offered me anything," LaVerde said. He said that there has never been any negotiation between Maguire, McNeill, and himself about using the card. "It has always been a flat no," he said.

"McNeill said that he could not recommend MIT Card use in LaVerde's because it might adversely affect Aramark's business, which would in turn adversely affect MIT," LaVerde said.

LaVerde has asked Campus Activities Complex Director Phillip J. Walsh numerous times for card use. Walsh seems to be in favor of the idea, LaVerde said, but it's still what he described as an endless "uphill battle" with bureaucracy.

LaVerde said that he considered the 15-20 percent rate offered "ridiculous," since prices at LaVerde's would have to be raised sharply in order for the business to absorb the costs of the card.

But LaVerde also said he is "ready, able, and willing" to use the card if the Institute were to allow him to use it at a lower rate.

In the past, MIT's food service provider, Aramark, asked LaVerde to be a "preferred vendor," a status that would have required about a 10 percent cut of LaVerde's sales. But LaVerde said that he turned that suggestion down, since he did not want a connection with Aramark, and remains a competitor.

Development plans for the University Park area include a new Star Market as part of the new conference center.

LaVerde said that he was not concerned by this news, because he has heard rumors of such a development for a couple of years. Although there will probably be a sales loss, he said, a new Star Market creates "no devastating potential."

LaVerde believes that his market has "built up a good reputation and loyalty with the MIT community." Most students would rather just purchase items at the nearby Student Center than walk the extra distance to University Park, he said.