This article is being rerun from Issue 8
The popular food ordering app Tapingo is stealing students’ money through multiple methods of on-campus currency.
At the beginning of this semester, some students started to notice that there was a $0.59 “service fee” being added to their total while using the app Tapingo. Most students on meal plans shrugged it off and thought that the meal plan would subsidize it. However, that is when they noticed that, after every time they ordered, the $0.59 would come out of their Sodexo Bucks balance allocated to them at the beginning of every semester.
Excluding buying anything else with Sodexo Bucks and depending on which plan you have, this means your balance would be gone after either 169 or 338 orders. Students with meal plans are not the only ones affected by this.
The school and Sodexo promote how paying with Dining Dollars saves 10% everywhere on campus. This statement is true. However, ordering with Tapingo can negate that fact. To use Tapingo and benefit from the 10% discount of Dining Dollars, one would need to purchase something at least $5.90 to save money.
It was not always like this. Last year, when Tapingo was first introduced to campus, the service fee was nonexistent. “It used to be free, but now it is not, no matter when you downloaded the app,” says Spaceflight Operations senior Jaclyn Wiley. Now, a year after implementation, the service fee is here to stay with many not even knowing what is happening to their money.
Tapingo is a great app in theory with the most popular method being used to order Starbucks at peak times. That being said, this service fee being passed off to the students without properly being informed looks bad on Sodexo considering they pushed for the app in recent times. “I think it’s really unfair that the school is making the students pay for a service that the school is supposedly paying for,” says Wiley.
Fifty-nine cents is not a lot, initially, but can stack up over time. The hidden fee that students cover with the app should be made apparent by Sodexo and the university. Time is money, but with this app, you are better off waiting in line.
Response from Tapingo
Like most service companies, Tapingo charges service fees to cover the operating costs of our program and service at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. The value of that service fee is based on industry norms and research. At ERAU that service fee is $0.59, and this value is consistent with the majority of markets we operate in.
In order to drive user adoption and engagement upon launching at a campus, we employ a range of marketing techniques – including discounts and promotions. Our launch period varies from market to market and may last anywhere from a few weeks to a year. Generally, at least
two weeks before we plan on introducing service fees, we implement a “fee-free period.”
During this period, we communicate a temporary discount on our normal fees, so that users can try Tapingo at no risk. At Embry-Riddle, the fee discount period ended on 9/24/17, and we introduced fees on 9/25.This fee discount is clearly displayed to users in the order checkout screen within the app. During this fee discount period, there’s an “i” (information) tag next to the service fee line that users can tap for more information.
When this is tapped, a message appears that reads “Take advantage of our intro free period, limited time only!” Once this fee discount period ends, the discount no longer appears, and users can see on their checkout screen the Subtotal of their order, the Service fee charge, the Tax amount, and the order’s Grand Total, all before hitting “Tap to Pay.” Per our agreement with Sodexo, at ERAU students can use their Credit Card, Eagle Dollars, Dining Dollars, or Sodexo Bucks to pay for service fees.