The University and the U-Store have an agreement that restricts the products that each entity can sell through their retail operations, a move that prevents competition for clients. The agreement on the University side is handled by Campus Dining and applies to such locales like the C-Store and Studio 34.
The little-known agreement became known last month when a Campus Dining employee sent a letter to University President Christopher Eisgruber '83 complaining that he was reprimanded for attempting to give out pencils, pens and note cards while working a shift at the C-Store, according to a copy of the letter obtained by The Daily Princetonian.
The employee, Barry Bloom, explained that he was told by Director of Retail Dining and Catering Operations Andrew Fleischer that the C-Store could not sell pens, pencils and note cards due to a contractual agreement between the C-Store and the U-Store.
The C-Store and Studio 34 are fully owned by the University, while the U-Store is an independent corporation although it operates out of University property.
But most of the details of the agreement — in particular, to what extent both entities avoid competing for clients and what products face such restrictions — remain uncertain.
Sykes confirmed that the agreement exists and explained its contract with the University mentions the types of products that can be sold at the U-Store. Sykes noted, however, that he was not aware of University policies regarding its own retail dining outlets.
“Our agreement is with the University directly; we don't deal with the C-Store or Studio 34,” Sykes explained. “They're really our competitors, if you think about it.”
Sykes declined to elaborate on the specific details of the contract, explaining that it was confidential.
University spokesperson Martin Mbugua also confirmed the existence of the agreement but declined to provide any specifics.
“We continually evaluate our services, and look for every opportunity to enhance the services where possible,” Mbugua said. “The arrangement in place is determined by a contract.”
Fleischer also said the arrangements in place are determined by a contractual agreement with the University but did not respond to multiple requests to explain further.
According to Bloom, the C-Store used to carry pens, pencils, note cards and other school supplies but removed them from its inventory three years ago. Currently, neither the C-Store nor Studio 34 carry pens, pencils or note cards, but the U-Store does.
Bloom said that he was given a written warning after the incident and was told that while he was on the clock at the C-Store, he was not allowed to provide any of these supplies to students looking for them.
Campus Dining executive director Smitha Haneef did not respond to a request for comment.
Bloom said that the supplies he was offering to students were his own and that he was not attempting to sell the pencils to students. He added that he was not aware of the specific terms of the contract but that the only stationery the C-Store currently sells are letter envelopes.
Bloom added that the C-Store was set to be revamped over winter break and that he had already suggested to Fleischer that it once again carry school supplies because students come in looking for them “at least once a day.” He noted he was told to start a petition.
“My only intention was to help the students who needed it, especially during midterms week,” he said. “I believe that we should always be looking out for the best interests of the student, and hopefully, everything we do will have that in mind.”