Swipe right in: Market goes automated


Victor Wu

Swipe-in stations help eliminate lines outside of Market. (Photo by Wenhao Wu | Assistant Visual Editor)

Gone are the days of waiting in line for an employee to manually take students’ IDs in order to sign them into Market Central.

The dining hall received a futuristic face-lift over the summer, greeting students in the new semester with a self-swipe system at its entrance.

Market implemented this system to help avoid traffic jams and make entry more efficient at Pitt’s busiest dining hall, Abdou Cole, a manager of Pitt Dining by Sodexo, said.

This already seems to be working, according to Larry Zabkar, a dining services manager. The updated swipe system kept the entry lines moving at the busy midnight meal event last week.

“Most of the kids seem to be acclimated,” Zabkar said. “It’s not rocket science.”

The new system is being tested at Market with the potential for expansion to other dining halls depending on its success. The setup includes five lanes, in contrast to the previous two, and students wanting to swipe in their friends simply scan their card twice.

Only one cashier — who now deals primarily with cash, credit card and panther fund transactions — staffs the entrance at Market instead of the previous two. But Cole confirmed in an email that the automated system created zero job loss.

“In fact, we have and are hiring more employees at Market Central,” Cole said.

Jack Hurley, a senior biology and urban studies double major, has seen four years of dining hall changes and crowded two-swipe holiday meals, and is not impressed by the new feature.

Swipe-in stations help eliminate lines outside of Market. (Photo by Kyleen Considine | Visual Editor)

“It seems kind of flashy,” he said. “You can’t help but wonder how much they spent on that.”

Grace Jewett, a first-year administration of justice major, unintentionally witnessed Market’s transition into the modern age when she arrived on campus early for summer session. She said that although the automated swipe stalls are certainly faster, they are not without fault, as the machines take a few seconds to refresh.

“It’s sort of congested when a lot of people come down because you have to wait for the screen to pop back up again,” she said.

Cole did not respond to questions regarding the cost of the new system. Hurley said as long as the costs were reasonable, no harm was done in the small effort to revamp Market Central and give students a more exciting dining experience.

“It kind of looks like you’re entering some type of space station,” he said.

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