MarquetteCrash

Paying with MarquetteCash is a common way for students to pick up a latte at the Brew Bayou or print off a report from a PrintWise station. Less common, apparently, is using MarquetteCash at the 18 off-campus businesses that accept it. Most of the businesses, except for close-to-campus locations, report little traffic on their MarquetteCard machines.

MarquetteCash — the debit card-like system of settling bills with money stored on a MarquetteCard — is overseen by "e-learning" company Blackboard Inc., according to Rob Mullens, Union Station manager. Marquette at first had to shop the system out to vendors, he said, but now it mostly takes care of itself.

"Some places have come to us and said 'I'd like to be on there,' and other times we did some recruiting," Mullens said. "It pretty much takes care of itself now."

The first off-campus location to accept MarquetteCash was the Domino's Pizza location at 719 W. Wisconsin Ave. in 1998. Off-campus shopkeepers who accept MarquetteCash pay a 10 percent fee per transaction, according to several vendors. Mullens declined to say whether that money went to Marquette or Blackboard.

Hits…

At some near-campus businesses, MarquetteCard is a hit.

Rebecca Koller, manager of Marquette Tanning and Laundry, 811 N. 16th St., said the business receives one or two payments by MarquetteCash per day and more during their heavy tanning season in February and March.

Marquette Tanning and Laundry has accepted MarquetteCash for about three years, Koller said, and is able to attract students by offering it as a form of payment.

"Some of them may not have cash, so if they know they can use their MarquetteCash here, they come in," Koller said.

Marquette Tanning and Laundry is across the street from the Campus Town East and below Campus Town West apartments, making it a likely destination for residents with armloads of dirty laundry.

Vicky Vasudeva, owner of Eagles' Café, 1633 W. Wells St., said her restaurant has seen a lot of MarquetteCash activity since it began accepting it about three months after opening in May.

"It's used quite a bit," Vasudeva said.

…And misses

At most of the 18 off-campus locations, however, MarquetteCard users are few and far between.

Cory Wellens, manager of CD Max, 1428 E. Brady St., said he only sees a customer use MarquetteCash about once every two weeks. The Kinko's location at 209 E. Wisconsin Ave., reported similar levels of activity.

Suzanne Weisling, manager of Milwaukee Flowers and Gifts, said she joined the MarquetteCash system about four years ago because she thought it would attract students to her business on at 1925 W. Wisconsin Ave. However, reality proved to be different.

"It's like nil," she said. "We can go days and days and weeks and weeks without using it. We shouldn't have it anymore, but I don't want to stop, since it's relatively new."

Some locations have even dropped MarquetteCash because it isn't worth it, they say.

Detour Clothing, 1300 E. Brady St., accepted MarquetteCash up until about a year ago, according to owner Jason Meyer.

"Nobody used it," he said. "It was a good month if I got one (person to use it)."

Meyer said the 10 percent fee and discount granted to students who used their MarquetteCash was too expensive to continue, since the markup on his designer labels is small.

"Sometimes, I was almost paying students to buy my stuff," he said.

Meyer also said he was promised promotional material would be delivered to students by postcards and e-mail, but never saw any evidence of that.

"It's unfortunate because it was a cool thing and I like the idea of it, but day-to-day, it just didn't work," Meyer said.

Weisling also said she was promised promotional material, which she hasn't seen.

"That's kind of a joke," she said of Blackboard's promotion efforts.

Weisling joined when SACash, a branch-off of Student Advantage Inc., was running MarquetteCash, according to Mullens. He said he was not aware of when the transition from SACash to Blackboard was made and would not comment on Weisling and Meyer's statements about missing promotions.

This article appeared in The Marquette Tribune on April 12 2005.