Bottom’s Up, Budget’s Down: Rising Soda Prices

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For those of you who haven’t noticed, soda prices have gone up between this year and last year.
Believe me, I noticed. As did anyone with ears as I walked away from the machine, laden with the change having to put in two dollar bills. ‘But it’s just a quarter’ you say? Well, that’s 25 percent inflation, in a nation where the rate stays around 2 to 3 percent on average. You may notice that the 25 percent increase sounds oddly familiar to the more than 30 percent increase in tuition that was enacted oddly at the same time as the soda increase.
So, being the statistical nerd I am, I asked myself, ‘Is there a relationship between the UC budget cuts and the raise in the soda prices?’ I looked into it.
While the person I talked with was very helpful and courteous, he was merely the acting head of food services and was unable to readily provide the answers I was looking for. The former head was the person involved with the contract agreement with Pepsi, and he is now down at UCSD.
While I was assured that there is no link between the budget cuts and the raise in the price of soda, it just seems too convenient to be coincidence.
Admittedly, 25 cents is just 25 cents, and if you go to, say, Magic Mountain the soda tops $3 there. However, even Park West’s soda machines (also contracted through Pepsi) still sells them for $1. Park West is a division of the Irvine Apartmment Communities. The IAC is THE monopoly of Irvine housing that most all of we Irvine resident students must deal with. If they were losing money on the soda machines at $1 each, I think it’s safe to say that they would also raise the price like UCI did.
This tells me that UCI would still be making a profit if we are supposed to believe that it was Pepsi that raised the price of soda to $1.25, then how is it that Park West is able to have soda at $1? It seems more likely that there is a relationship between the budget cuts and the raise in soda prices.
Now, the next question is, where is the extra money going? Obviously, an extra quarter for every soda isn’t going to solve the UC budget problems, but it is still going to provide for an increase in funds. As was pointed out by a UCI employee, they’re not getting a raise anytime soon, and as all of us know, our tuition isn’t coming down anytime soon. So where is this extra income going? I haven’t had a chance to do enough muckraking to get to the bottom of everything, but I can’t see what directly is affected by the raise in soda prices, except our finances.
Students are already paying for budget deficits in increased budget cuts, but they needed more funds. Where to turn to now? They can’t raise tuition much more; there was already enough hostility from raising tuition the 30 percent, imagine how ‘friendly’ everyone would be to find out that they would raise it an extra 5 or 10 percent? So where should they get the other money they might need? Well the students of course! Raise everything subtly so hopefully no one will notice too much.
Understandable, they need the money, it’s not their fault the budget has less meat than Angelina Jolie.
Fault goes to a combination of fiscal mismanagement and just less-than-spectacular economy. Or so I’ve been told by the media, and when can’t we trust the Rupert-Murdoch-owned media? But, if it is an attempt to make up for budget cuts, then there’s not much we as a student body can do about it. I do have another idea …
Maybe it really is just Pepsi’s fault. I never really like Pepsi. Then again, I don’t like Coke either. I like Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. The vending machines do have Mountain Dew, but the only problem is there’s too much caffeine in Mountain Dew and the vending machines don’t sell Dr. Pepper. The problem with this scenario is that we’re on contract.
UCI has contracted us to Pepsi, so the only place we can buy Dr. Pepper or other coke or 7-Up products is in Zot ‘n’ go. The machines throughout campus are owned by Pepsi, so why would they let anyone else in on the deal? Basic principles of economics, right now Pepsi has a monopoly over us. Thus, we need to open up our school to competition. The most useful example is the baker competing with another. If one lowers his prices, they will get more customers, and then the other will lower his in competition etc. Eventually you get a setup that’s best for the consumer through competition.
Students need to wake up and smell the soda, until we get rid of the monopolies, we are at the whim of Pepsi, and we will only see a fair selection if we walk over to the Zot ‘n’ go. Until then, whenever you buy a drink, you either will get change back or will need to bring it with you, and you will continue to hear me jingling my way from one class to the other.

Preston Reed is a third-year psychology major.

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