Students empty the shelves of the PCV Market and other Campus Dining stores on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2022. Students were told WOW dining dollars would expire when fall quarter began. Credit: Henry Connolly | Courtesy

With $160 of dining dollars set to disappear by the end of the final WOW day, wine and viticulture freshman Laura Maring waited an hour and a half for the last of the grocery stock in Poly Canyon Village Market.

Maring ended up missing the Week of Welcome (WOW) club showcase on Sunday afternoon while attempting to drain her remaining funds. But with empty shelves, Maring was still left with extra dining dollars.

WOW participants began the week with $200 to spend at Campus Dining facilities and markets. Rather than rolling over into students’ accounts after WOW, several emails alerted first years since mid-August that their dining dollars would expire once fall quarter began.

So, students swarmed campus markets on Sunday in hour-long lines to spend their remaining money before it was taken away — resulting in stock shortages, store closures and an overwhelmed Campus Dining staff.

As a result, Campus Dining changed its policy on Tuesday to allow WOW dollars to roll over into the fall quarter balance.

“We apologize to the students who went to lengths to use all of their WOW dining dollars over the weekend,” Campus Dining said in an email sent to students on Tuesday.

In prior years, the students’ fall quarter meal plans began at the beginning of WOW. Consequently, many students ran out of dining dollars by the end of the quarter. This year, Campus Dining allocated a separate $200 for WOW to avoid that issue.

Campus Markets began turning people away at 2 p.m. on Sunday because their shelves were cleared, according to anthropology and geography sophomore and campus market employee Jesse Horsley.

“We had about two or three hundred people in the store at the same time and we did not have any crowd control because we do not have enough workers,” Horsley said.

Henry Connolly | Photo Courtesy

While freshmen were told their dollars would expire, transfer students and WOW leaders were told their remaining balances would roll over into the fall quarter.

Students are anticipated to eat a total of 17 meal times at Campus Dining facilities during WOW with an average of $12 per meal by dining administration, Associate Director of Campus Dining Jess Dozier wrote in an email to Mustang News.

“Based on historical trends, we did not predict that students would miss or skip meals during WOW in the numbers that they did, then visit the markets at the levels that we saw,” Dozier wrote.

Several students interviewed by Mustang News while waiting for their groceries said they experienced GrubHub wait times upwards of an hour, a lack of appealing food options on campus and unpredictable WOW schedules — all of which they said contributed to their remaining balances.

Business administration freshman George Brunder, with $70 remaining in his WOW meal plan, said protein shakes were the only thing he actually wanted to buy.

“It definitely seems like a big waste because you are forced into buying stuff that you may not want to get, but you don’t want to waste all your money,” Brunder said.

Markets will take at least one to two days to be restocked, Dozier wrote.

According to a Campus Market manager, it may take up to a week to fully restock as the stores did not foresee the masses of shoppers they had Sunday.

Dozier wrote that Campus Dining appreciates the students’ “patience and grace” during an unpredicted struggle. The WOW funds expiration policy is being reconsidered for next year, with the rolling over of funds being discussed, he wrote.

“It was well intended for students to have money to spend during Move-in and WOW so they would not have direct out of pocket expenses,” Dozier wrote. “Like always, this was a Learn by Doing moment.”