The U-Store is, on average, the cheapest option for a broad range of campus essentials. Considering its proximity to most residential colleges, as well as the new policy which allows undergraduates on the unlimited dining plan to spend their $150 per semester of dining points or Paw Points at the U-Store or C-Store, the U-Store is especially convenient for students.
The ‘Prince’ analyzed prices of 27 of the U-Store’s more than 5,000 items and compared those prices to the prices of the same items from five convenience stores around or close to campus. The items were organized into six categories: beauty, beverage, grocery, health, household, and snack. The ‘Prince’ manually collected price data from the U-Store, C-Store, CVS, Wawa, and Princeton Convenience as well as Amazon, as an e-commerce alternative.
U-Store membership prices were also included as a potentially cost-saving option. According to U-Store president Jim Sykes, “probably 80 to 90 percent of students become members.”
Prices of items were standardized by quantity across all stores. For example, a single deodorant stick’s price from Wawa for $3.99 is doubled to compare with a two-pack of U-Store deodorant for $9.99.
The U-Store has lower prices than its competition in most categories. As a a non-profit organization, “the only reason [the U-Store] exist[s] is to serve this community,” Sykes said.
He also noted that the U-Store has benefited from Pay with Points, an Undergraduate Student Government initiative implemented in the fall of 2022. “The sales have been dramatically better since they implemented that [dining points],” Sykes said.
Wawa does not sell household goods and sells the most expensive snacks and health products. Amazon prices may be less expensive if students buy items in bulk, but were only analyzed in U-Store item sizes.
“A couple of times a year we try to do a price comparison with Wawa and generally CVS,” Sykes said. “We don’t really compare against Princeton Convenience Store. In the case of both CVS and Wawa, they are paying less than us from the vendors because they have much larger buying capability.”
Sykes said the U-Store is a hybrid between a convenience and grocery store in terms of pricing and selection.
There are other convenience stores in town. Princeton Convenience opened in September 2020 and focuses mainly on household goods, and its products are often more expensive.
Amazon and the U-Store sell all the most common items analyzed while the C-Store sells the fewest. When one store’s pricing is far higher than the others, it is often Wawa or Princeton Convenience. Often the U-Store membership or Amazon is the least expensive.
Wawa was not the least expensive option for any item analyzed.
When analyzing the prices of individual items, Amazon, followed by the U-Store, is often the low-priced store, even though Amazon is the most expensive option 26% of the time. This means that only 18% of Amazon items analyzed are not either the highest or lowest price for an item analyzed.
Four of the stores analyzed offer memberships and additional savings, often at a cost.
For higher-weight items, the U-Store is often the best option. With a Prime membership, Amazon ships for free, so their prices are higher for heavier items to compensate for lost shipping revenue.
CVS ships items for $5.49 and is free for orders above $40.49. All items analyzed for CVS are available at the Nassau Street location and online and can be ordered for pickup.
The U-Store, Amazon, and Wawa sell produce, which was not considered in this analysis. Amazon produce is sold through Whole Foods Fresh and is delivered within two hours, but Frist Campus Center mailing still has to process the shipment before it is retrievable. All customers, including ones with a Prime subscription, are charged $9.95 in shipping on orders under $50, $6.95 on orders $50 – $100 , and $3.95 on orders from $100 – $150. Orders above $150 qualify for free shipping.
While the U-Store with membership is the most cost-effective in all categories but one, it is not always the most convenient. Rocky, Mathey, and colleges are closest to the U-Store, Whitman is equidistant to the U-Store, C-Store, and Wawa, and Forbes, NCW, and Yeh are all closest to Wawa.
The two convenience stores located on Nassau Street are, on average, the furthest from all residential colleges and are open for the fewest hours per day after the C-Store.
The U-Store is open every day from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., the C-Store is open every day from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Wawa is open 24 hours a day, every day, Princeton Convenience is open 7 a.m. to 12 a.m. weekdays and 8:30 a.m. to 12 a.m. on weekends, and CVS is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.
Andrew Bosworth is a data contributor.
Please direct any correction requests to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.