When students pick up a drink at the campus food court, they have dozens of options.
Some drinks are from the fountain. Some drinks are prepared on the spot. Other drinks are bottled.
With different sizes and different prices, choosing a drink can still be confusing. An analysis by The Collegian of drinks at the food court shows price discrepancies as large as 80 cents for beverages of comparable size.
At the drink fountain, Chick-fil-A has a unique setup. It offers only one drink: its fresh-squeezed lemonade. The lemonade, which must be purchased in a Chick-fil-A Styrofoam cup, costs more than any other fountain drink in the food court. The lemonade costs 35 to 80 cents more than comparable-sized drinks at Subway and Taco Bell Express.
Subway and Taco Bell sell the lowest-priced fountain drinks, which are all Pepsi products and sold in Pepsi paper cups. A 16-oz. small costs $1.30 and a 21-oz. medium costs $1.40. In comparison, the Chick-fil-A lemonade presents the biggest cost difference. A 15.3-oz. medium lemonade is sold for $1.75, and a 22.5-oz. large lemonade is sold for $2.20.
Panda Express sells its own branded cups with the same Pepsi-brand fountain drinks. Panda Expressâ€™ cups, though, are more expensive than the Pepsi cups. Panda Express also offers the largest drink cup in the food court, a 44-oz. large Panda cup.
In an e-mail interview, Debbie Adishian-Astone, director of Auxiliary Services at Fresno State, said that Panda Express sets its own prices. She said Pandaâ€™s higher prices may be due to the fact that Panda is required to pay Dining Services a percentage of its sales. Chick-fil-A lemonade is made through a specific agreement with the Auxiliary, Adishian-Astone said, but she didnâ€™t say why the price was so much higher.
For bottled drinks, the cost discrepancy is anywhere from 10 to 50 cents. The vending machines outside, near the USU west patio, offer the same bottled water and Gatorade that students can buy in the â€œgrab-n-goâ€ cases inside.
Students who choose to buy a 20-oz. water bottle at the vending machine will pay 50 cents more to get it. Gatorade costs 10 cents more.
Students like Cristina Regalado, a criminology major, question the reason for the vending machine price discrepancy.
â€œWhatâ€™s the difference between getting [a bottled water] inside compared to outside?â€ Regalado said.
According to Adishian-Astone, Pepsi manages the vending machines on campus. She said there is a limit on how often Pepsi can raise the prices, but the company manages all vending operations.
Brent Hansen, a marketing coordinator at Fresno State, explained why Pepsi products are everywhere on campus.
â€œThe entire university has an exclusive contract with Pepsi,â€ Hansen said. â€œContractually, [the university has] various things that have to be abided by.â€
Adishian-Astone said the 23-year agreement with Pepsi, signed in 2003, expires in 2026.
While the agreement is supposed to be exclusive, Hansen said the university would consider bringing in other beverages if students requested drinks that arenâ€™t available in the food court.
If there is a bottled drink for which a similar product is not bottled and distributed by Pepsi, then the university could make it available, Adishian-Astone said.
Student reactions to the price discrepancies in and around the student union range from indifferent to angry.
â€œThe producers of the drinks can sell it or market it however they want,â€ said Sarah Ellenberger, an equine science major.
But Ellenbergerâ€™s friend Sarah Hart, a deaf education major, took exception to the price discrepancies, especially for bottled water.
â€œThat bothers me,â€ Hart said. â€œI want it to be a dollar everywhere for water.â€
How much for a drink?