When the CVS in the Commons closed its doors in January, The Elli convenience store in Ellicott Complex became the only place on campus where students could purchase dish soap and a snack in the same transaction.
But with little competition came a steep price tag.
The Elli is as much as 200% more expensive than the Wegmans on Alberta Drive and the Walmart Supercenter on Sheridan Drive, according to a Spectrum analysis that compared The Elli’s prices to that of its competitors (The Spectrum analyzed six common products sold at Wegmans and five common items sold at Walmart).
Campus Dining and Shops tries to keep prices at The Elli and its other campus eateries as low as possible, but struggles due to the lack of buying power and storage that other bigger name stores have, CDS marketing and communications director Raymond Kohl said in a Feb. 7 interview with The Spectrum.
The Spectrum compared the prices of a dozen eggs, a half-gallon of whole milk, StarKist canned tuna, a 10-count box of Tampax tampons, Amy’s Thai Pad Thai — a microwavable meal — and a bag of Lay’s original potato chips at The Elli against its competitors.
The price discrepancy frustrates Arianna Marquez, a sophomore civil engineering major who lives on campus and “stress bakes.” She does not have a car and goes to The Elli about once a week to grab “basic things.”
“[The Elli has been sold out] a couple of times,” Marquez said. “Usually late at night [when] I want to make dinner or need it for tomorrow or I want to bake — I do a lot of baking so I need a lot of butter.”
On Monday, The Elli only had two boxes of 10-pack Tampax tampons left in stock, at $5.29 apiece. The Elli was out of stock for other brands and sizes of tampons but was well-stocked with a myriad of pads. Wegmans carries the 20-count version, instead of the 10-count, of the same brand and style of tampons for $3.79 — 40% cheaper than The Elli.
StarKist canned Tuna is $2.89 at The Elli and $1 at Walmart. A half-gallon of whole milk at The Elli sells for $2.99, 25% more expensive than Wegmans’ and 66% more than Walmart’s. Amy’s Thai Pad Thai frozen meal runs students $6.99 at The Elli, two dollars more than at either Wegmans or Walmart.
UB’s Parking and Transportation offers a Mall-Market bus route to several stores — including Wegmans and Walmart — on Saturdays. It also runs a dedicated Wegmans trip on Wednesday evenings.
Fiona Lombardo doesn’t live on campus, but the junior theatre performance major also doesn’t have a car. She says The Elli is the only place she can grocery shop without hitching a ride or using Instacart, though she is not a fan of the store’s prices.
“[The Elli’s] prices are always so inflated, and you can’t get any fruits or vegetables,” Lombardo said. “I think the idea of an on-campus [convenience] store is great but I don’t know if Ellicott is the best place for it because it’s out of the way unless a student has classes or lives here.”
Prior to its closure, CVS lacked a large selection of fruits and vegetables, carrying only apples and bananas.
Julie Frey is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Julie Frey is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. She is a political science and environmental studies double major. She enjoys theorizing about Taylor Swift, the color yellow and reading books that make her cry. She can be found on Twitter @juliannefrey.