Dollars On Dollars In 8 Places: The JasperCard Story

by Gabriella DePinhoNews Editor

It’s a typical Friday night, you’re hanging out with your friends and you get hungry. The solution to your craving is usually solved by a trip to a deli where you pull out your Jasper Card to get the sandwich of your dreams. This system seems so natural to students at Manhattan College, but in fact, this system has not been around for very long and is more complex than a midnight Benson from Best Deli and Grill.

Charles Lippolis, the coordinator of the One Card office, started working on campus in 2011. Manhattan College originally had an off-campus dining program through a company called Off Campus Solutions.

“When I first came [here], we used a company called Off Campus Solutions, OCS, but then they decided to move out of this business,” said Lippolis.

The college had to find a new way to provide the same service to their students. Ken Waldhof, the director of business services, started working at the college in fall of 2013 and helped to bring this off-campus Jasper Card system to life.

“The program started in the fall of 2014 so just going on about 5 years ago. When I first came to the college in September of [20]13, I had acclimated myself to the different areas and learned that we did not have an off-campus program at the time. Where I had worked previously, we had and it was fairly successful. The local merchants like it, of course,” said Waldhof.

The program is managed through a third party called DishOut. According to DishOut’s website, the company was founded in 2011 and “immediately became a player in the closed-loop stored-value space with customers in a variety of verticals including higher education, hotels, ISOs, restaurants, and retailers.”

DishOut only works with the off-campus locations. The on campus dining options that accept Jasper dollars and Dining dollars are managed through the One Card office.

Waldhof said, “What they [DishOut] do is they provide the local merchants with the hardware and the connectivity to access our card system on a regular basis. They manage the relationship, they sign up the merchants and then they manage the accounting back and forth. We basically fund DishOut and DishOut, in turn, compensates the local merchants for the business that’s processed at their location using the Jasper Card and Jasper Dollars.”

Lippolis works with DishOut in setting up the system.

“My part of the technology is giving them a merchant number in our ID card system. The company DishOut sets them up with a card reader, kind of like a credit card reader and… it goes into a gateway or an API, that’s I think the term, basically to route all the transactions,” said Lippolis. “So if they swipe a card, it knows which account to debit the money from.”

He continued.

“We actually work with DishOut because they handle all the technology and provide the security once it leaves the college network. Security is the big benefit of DishOut,” said Lippolis.

DishOut also helps the college expand the program.

“DishOut themselves also has a team of people who they also visit the area a couple times a year and they’ll walk the neighborhood and see if there are any new merchants have opened up,” said Waldhof.

Throughout the years, businesses have joined and left the program. Two of those businesses include Dunkin Donuts and Broadway Joe’s, a beloved pizza option for many students.

“My assumption is that because of the popularity of those two places they probably felt they don’t need to be part of the program,” said Waldhof.

The program, though beneficial, comes at a cost for the participating companies. Participating companies have to pay a monthly fee to DishOut in addition to a fee per transaction.

“It does cost them something for the management and the technology to be there. Basically, all of the merchants that participate in the program, a small percentage of each sale is shared between DishOut and Manhattan College, so we derive a benefit of it,” said Waldhof. “We help promote their local businesses through the program. We’re promoting them.”

In a 2014 article, The Quadrangle reported on Broadway Joe’s decision to no longer take the Jasper Dollars in which Lou Porco, the owner of Broadway Joe’s, said “Accepting Jasper dollars did not cause us to lose profit.”

The fees for the program at the time were an 8% charge per swipe, 15 cents per transaction and a $30 monthly charge for the machine needed to accept Jasper dollars.

With Broadway Joe’s being as popular of a pizza spot as it is, taking Jasper dollars may not have been necessary for them to get students into the place. For other businesses, accepting the card makes the location more attractive to students.

Goodfella’s Pizza has been accepting Jasper dollars since the program went live. Mike Orfano, an employee of Goodfella’s, finds partaking in the program has been beneficial for business.

“Students become more loyal to us and we become more loyal to them. It’s a convenience for both them and us,” said Orfano.

Ariel Coronado, the owner of Blue Charcoal Grill, which has been accepting Jasper dollars for a year and three months, spoke to the benefits of the program.

“This gives me an extra edge as an option,” said Coronado. “Some of the students, all they have is that card, so the pizza place doesn’t take it, only the deli takes it but if you’ve had so much of the deli and you want a break, you end up here so I want to keep this option.”

However, the cost of partaking in the program has increased since Broadway Joe’s decided to leave the program.

“I pay $45 [a month for the system] plus the processing fee per transaction… I spoke with them so that we can figure something out because during these months [the summer months] there’s no usage so I’m basically just paying the 45 dollars,” said Coronado.

In regards to the current per transaction fee, Orfano said, “It’s more than a credit card fee for sure. It’s probably eight or nine percent.”

Along with Blue Charcoal Grill and Goodfella’s Pizza, the Jasper Card program is currently accepted at Buffalo Wild Wings, Burger King 1434, Best Deli and Grill, Gourmet Market and Bagel, Jasper’s Deli, New Riverdale Gourmet Deli and Pizza Supreme. Students are also able to use their Jasper dollars in the school bookstore.

Waldhof is also looking to expand the Jasper dollar program on campus in another way.

“I’m talking to a vending company about getting the vending machines to also accept Jasper dollars,” Waldhof said. “The convenience of having your ID card with you versus carrying cash or a credit card, if you want something to drink or snack on, ideally, in time, I’m hoping to have it in place by the fall that most if not all the vending machines will accept Jasper Dollars.”

While the school and DishOut are working to find new ways to expand the JasperCard program, students are hoping for more options.

Junior Olivia Haveron chimed in on what she wants to see with off campus options.

“I feel like there should definitely be more off-campus options. The delis are great but it’s the same thing over and over again and you’re not getting a variety of choices. Also we only get 25 dollars each semester which isn’t a lot,” said Haveron.

The meal plan for students in the four residence halls on main campus only gives the resident students 25 dollars to use off-campus each semester but students have the option to add more Jasper dollars to their card. When students add money in increments of 100 dollars, they recieve a ten percent kickback.

Junior Ryan Askin wishes the school would expand the options available with the Jasper card program.

Askin said, “From the eight places [that accept Jasper dollars], four of them are delis and two of them are pizza places… A chinese place would be nice, Asian Tokyo maybe. Burger King is fine but it’s not for everyone. They’re not the healthiest options.”

While New York University and Fordham University, two big competitors for Manhattan College, offer more meal plan options than Manhattan offers students, Manhattan stacks up well against and even rises above its competitors in regards to off-campus dining.

Julia Mancuso, a freshman at New York University’s Manhattan campus, described her experience with the NYU meal plan options and off-campus dining choices.

“Dining dollars allow you to buy off campus food but meal swipes are for dining halls and certain coffee shops and cafes located around campus. I used most of my dining dollars at Starbucks,” said Mancuso. “I am satisfied [with my options]! NYU had really different foods and services at each dining hall and I can pretty much know there will be at least one thing I like.”

Mancuso said she knew of about six or seven places around her NYU campus that she was able to use her Dining dollars. According to NYU’s dining location website, there are 4 cafes available for Dining dollar usage, a P.O.D Market that accepts Dining dollars and a campus marketplace that houses outside vendors that accept the Dining dollars.

Melissa Canavan, a sophomore who spent her freshman year mostly at the NYU Brooklyn campus, had a different experience with meal plans than Mancuso.

“I didn’t like it but I was a freshman at the engineering campus and we only have one dining hall in Brooklyn with horrible food options,” said Canavan. “Most people in Manhattan enjoyed their meal plan but NYU definitely makes you get a larger meal plan than you really need… There are more choices in Manhattan.”

A student from Manhattan’s biggest rival, Fordham University, shared about her experience with Fordham’s dining options. Kristen Egan, a sophomore at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus, had choices with her meal plan but limited options for places to eat.

“I picked a much smaller plan than last year after realizing how little swipes I actually need and how much more I value DCB, our dining dollars,” said Egan.

She continued.

“Our meal plan does not allow us to eat at places off campus but we can use our meal plan at different places on campus other than our dining halls such as Cosi, Chopstix, Boars Head, Urban Kitchen, Salt&Sesame, and Starbucks.”

While Egan could only speak to Rose Hill’s campus not allowing for off campus dining options, The Fordham Observer’s article “Declining Balance, Diminishing Returns: Comparing LC and RH Meal Plans” published in March of this year confirms that Fordham Lincoln Center meal plans do not offer off campus options.

Both NYU and Fordham house outside vendors on their campuses in the same way Manhattan houses Starbucks, but NYU and Fordham do not give students the same option to leave campus as Manhattan does. Though Manhattan students are used to the convenience of the Jasper dollars, not every college student gets the same experience that Jaspers take for granted.

Editor’s Note: Maria Thomas contributed to reporting.