Jessica Fry is a typical freshman staying at the residence halls at UAA. When she runs out of supplies or wants to have her favorite drink she does what most freshman without cars do, she goes to the Bear Necessities mini-store.
“To go to a Safeway or something…I have to drive there or I have to bug someone to get me there,” Fry said. “Where the Bear is, I don’t know, I try and shop wisely there, so if I absolutely need something… I can drop in there and get something, simple.”
The Bear is convenient, but what is the cost of that convenience? Take three college freshman staples — milk, Top Ramen and toilet paper — and compare them to the cost of the Safeway products.
Darigold reduced fat milk at the Bear costs $1.50 more than the Safeway options. According to Bear cashier Beatrice McCarty, milk is the item that goes out of stock faster than others. McCarty also noted that most items in the convenient store are clearly marked up. When Fry went to buy her favorite Hubert’s Lemonade drink McCarty warned her about the price.
“I’m just going to let you know that is $4.99,” McCarty said.
Fry fits the model for the typical customer at the Bear. According to McCarty, most people come into the Bear for a Monster or a Mountain Dew. Another student who frequently shops at the Bear is history major Andrew Clark.
“[I visit] probably about two times a day. Usually just [for] something to drink or to snack on,” Clark said.
Clark, like most freshmen living in the residential halls, doesn’t have a car. Clark relies on the Bear for items like toilet paper and miscellaneous snacks and toiletries. At the Bear, off brand toilet paper costs $0.99 per roll. At Safeway there are a variety of brands that cost less per roll. Signature Home toilet paper costs $5.99 for 12, or $0.49 per roll and Angel Soft toilet paper costs $9.49 for 12, or $0.79 per roll. Safeway also stocks brands that are more price comparable to the off brand sold at the Bear. Toilet paper like Charmin costs $13.49 for 16, or $1.19 per roll.
Another college staple, Top Ramen, is $0.69 per packet at the Bear as compared to Safeway’s four packs for $1, a cost per packet that’s equal to $0.25 each.
The Bear is conveniently located a minute from the residential halls, whereas the closest Safeway is over four miles away. The Bear is located closer but often times the limited supply of items at the Bear runs out. For McCarty, one of the biggest problems she faces is keeping items in stock.
“[The milk] is gone and I don’t know when we are going to get in more,” McCarty said. “Those Hubert’s Lemonades, I just stocked the top, and the middle shelf is gone. Basically mostly sodas, energy drinks and chips. The guy just came in and stocked chips today. It looks nice, but trust me, it was pretty bare.”
Items at the Bear run out quick, especially popular products like garbage bags.
“We only have three [garbage bag boxes] on the shelf now. We’re just down to three and we are probably not going to get any more until Monday. Everybody on the weekend always comes to us like, ‘do you have garbage bags?’ and we are like, ‘they’re not there. I’m sorry.’”
The Bear runs out of garbage bags frequently but other products are consistently in stock. In some situations, the convenience the Bear offers is hard to beat, especially when it comes to emergency situations.
“A lot of people at the beginning of the semester were pretty sick so a lot of cough medicine and stuff like that,” McCarty said.
It looks like the Bear may cost students for its advantageous location, but students in the residential halls seem to be settling for it’s convenience.