The Irascible ProfessorSM

Irreverent Commentary on the State of Education in America Today

by Dr. Mark H. Shapiro
It isn't pollution that's harming the environment. It's the impurities in our air and water that are doing it. ...  ...Dan Quayle.
Commentary of the Day - March 15, 2000: The Great American Campus Water Scam:
Regular readers of The Irascible Professor may remember Scott Rice's guest commentary on Pepsi SchoolsKrispy Kreme U (aka Cal State Fullerton) is a Pepsi School.  The administrata here several years ago made the decision to grant Pepsi exclusive "pouring rights" on our campus.  Those rights extend to bottled water.  If you want to buy a bottle of water here at Krispy Kreme U, you have exactly one choice - Aquafina, which is a product of the same company that makes Pepsi.

Some people feel that bottled water is scam in and of itself.  After all why should you pay several dollars per gallon for water, when perfectly good water from the tap costs a small fraction of a penny per gallon.  However, thanks to clever marketing, the bottled water industry has managed to convince people that ordinary tap water is somehow unsafe.  It is true that a few municipal water supplies have problems, but the vast majority supply water that is perfectly safe to drink.

Nevertheless, folks are willing to pay big bucks for "designer water" so where's the scam?  The National Resources Defense Council actually found that some bottled water has more contamination than regular tap water.  But that's not the scam here at old Krispy Kreme U.  The NRDC also made a fuss about the fact that expensive Aquafina is produced from cheap old tap water.  It doesn't even come from some mountain spring somewhere out there in the pristine wilderness.  To be sure test results from the NRDC actually showed that the reverse osmosis process and charcoal filtering used to produce Aquafina actually does result in water that has very high purity, higher purity than most bottled water.  So where's the scam?

Well a 20 ounce bottle of delicious Aquafina "purified water" will set you back exactly $1.00 if you purchase it from one of the scores of vending machines Pepsi has strategically located in every nook and cranny of our campus.  If you purchase a bottle at the campus dining facility (or at other over-the-counter locations on campus), you get a real bargain.  The 20 ounce container goes for a discounted 99 cents.  The scam it turns out is that you can buy the exact same 20 ounce bottle of Aquafina for only 69 cents (plus 3 cents deposit) at the Sav-on drugstore just one short block from campus.

So why are Krispy Kreme U students being charged 43% more for the same bottle of water here on campus?  You guessed it - those "exclusive pouring rights".  The local Sav-on sells several brands of bottled water.  Even with the huge markups associated with this product, their prices have to be competitive.  However, when you have "exclusive pouring rights", you can charge any price you think you can get away with.  One hopes that our Krispy Kreme U students will be curious enough to ask the administrata where that extra 43% profit goes.
The Irascible Professor would like to conduct an informal, unscientific survey.  If you work or study at a campus that has "exclusive pouring rights", compare the cost of bottled water on your campus with the cost for the identical product at a drugstore or supermarket nearby.  Send the IP an email with the information.  He will compile and publish the results.

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