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Why don’t all campus businesses use MarquetteCASH?

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You’re a student looking for food but have no cash on hand. What’s plan B?

Many students turn to MarquetteCASH, a quick and easy way for students to purchase food, books and other goods across campus straight from their Marquette ID cards. Robert Mullens, Union Station manager who is in charge of Marquette card services, estimates at least 90 percent of students use money through the MarquetteCASH program in some way, including for laundry, printing and vending machines.

“I believe they are satisfied as it provides a mechanism for students to make purchases without having to carry a lot of cash,” Mullens said in an email.

In addition to on-campus goods, more than half of the businesses not affiliated with the university located within campus boundaries accept MarquetteCASH as a method of payment. Many managers indicate the program makes it easier to do business.

“It’s a convenience for the students,” said Scott Hermanson, general manager at the Papa John’s located on Wells Street. “I would estimate about 8 percent of our revenues come from MarquetteCASH.”

Despite its accessibility, not all campus vendors are involved in the program. Businesses not affiliated with Marquette including Qdoba Mexican Grill, the Ardmore Salon, Jimmy John’s, Starbucks and others do not accept money from the university program.

“As far as I know, it’s just the corporate nature,” said Mike Burnett, shift supervisor at the Starbucks located on Wisconsin Avenue. “We try to have a national consistency in what we provide.”

Other businesses either declined to comment or were unavailable to explain why they do not take part in the program.

MarquetteCASH started on campus 16 years ago. It is operated through a software application called BbOne, which is part of the commercial suite offered by Blackboard Transact, a company based in Washington D.C. Not only does the software support cashless transactions, BbOne also guarantees parents that the transactions will take place between students and local, university-approved vendors.

There are restrictions, though. Marquette does not allow MarquetteCASH to be used for tobacco products, alcohol, lottery tickets, pornography or birth control products, according to the university’s website. Mullens said part of the program is “maintaining the standards of a Catholic, Jesuit university.”

Enforcement of this policy is often automatic. For example, the 7-Eleven on the corner of 17th and Wells streets has software in its register that blocks the purchase of these items with MarquetteCASH.

Beyond these automatic measures, though, Mike Whittow, assistant to the vice president in the Office of Administration who serves as the contact between the university and Campus Town businesses, said the university enforces this policy through “secret shoppers,” in which students or faculty will attempt to buy restricted goods with money in the program.

“It’s really the only way we will find out,” Whittow said.

If the university discovers a vendor did not follow these rules, the administration can request BbOne to terminate the business’ participation in the program.

This is what happened at Sobelman’s, the popular bar and grill located at the corner of 16th and Wells streets. Last year, an assistant manager at the restaurant accepted MarquetteCASH to pay for alcohol, and the university suspended Sobelman’s participation in the program.

“It was one of those situations where we weren’t babysitting our staff,” said Melanie Sobelman, owner of the restaurant. “I knew going into it we could lose it. You’re playing with fire at a pub and grill like this.”

Sobelman said the assistant manager was fired. Regardless, the restaurant lost a lot of revenue due to the incident.

“It hurt our business super bad,” said Linda Sobelman, manager of the restaurant and mother of Melanie Sobelman. “We are such a busy restaurant, and we contribute so much to the university. I just can’t believe they would take it away.”

“It only took one time to drop the ball,” Melanie Sobelman added, shrugging. “We definitely learned from it.”

Both Melanie and Linda Sobelman said they hope the university would reconsider its decision.

The university’s website states “no appeals and no second reinstatement will be considered by Marquette” in the case of a vendor not complying with MarquetteCASH restrictions. Whittow, however, said such a decision may be reversed.

“I’m not saying that we would not look at reinstating someone, but they need to prove that they have the ability to monitor alcohol, tobacco and other items,” Whittow said. “It would be on a situation-by-situation basis.”

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