If you’ve ever been short on time and needed a quick fix to satiate your appetite, you’ve probably found yourself at Seeds Marketplace, the gourmet store on campus that provides students with everything from freshly prepared salads to red velvet cupcakes.
Though Seeds does well by selling its salads and sandwiches, they also have a section for market goods, where everyday pantry items are sold at a significant mark-up.
Compared with local markets and convenience stores, Seeds is the most expensive place to buy groceries in the USC area. Seeds marked up their prices up by as much as 80 percent compared to nearby Fresh & Easy, Ralphs and CVS.
For $2.69, one can buy a 4 oz. box of saltines at Seeds. $2.99 at Fresh and Easy purchases more than three times that amount of crackers, and four times that amount at Ralphs.
When asked about how prices at Seeds are determined, Kris Klinger, director of USC hospitality, said that the department has little control over each item’s price.
“We charge what we basically pay for the product, plus mark-up to pay for the labor to be able to provide these products,” Klinger said.
What makes Seeds so different from markets such as Ralphs and Fresh & Easy is its small size, Klinger said. Because Seeds does not buy products in bulk as these larger chains do, it costs more to purchase the products being put on the shelves.
“Seeds is a small marketplace, and if you go to other small marketplaces, the prices are going to be more expensive than Ralphs [as well],” Klinger said.
Students tend to have mixed views about Seeds, regardless of its prices being on the higher side.
“Seeds is a lot more convenient for students who live on campus and for in between classes and that’s why people pay for it,” said Emily Vu, a sophomore majoring in global health.
Klinger defended the marketplace at Seeds, saying that USC Hospitality tries its best to meet the needs of everyone on campus.
“We’d sort of miss out on what our reason is for being on campus, to serve the students, staff and faculty,” Klinger said.
Many students refuse to pay these high costs, and prefer instead to visit larger markets with lower prices and wider selections.
Logan Childers, a sophomore majoring in international relations and East Asian languages and culture, said that he does not shop at Seeds because it is “too expensive” and there is “not a lot of variety.” For him, “other grocery stores are still more convenient.”
Compared to CVS and Fresh & Easy, the price of Lucky Charms at Seeds is marked up anywhere from 66 to 75 percent; at Ralphs, customers can even get a special deal on Lucky Charms if they buy five boxes, lowering the price from $4.59 to $1.50 per box. Not only is the cereal cheaper at these markets, but also better deals are also available when products are bought in larger quantities.
“I normally go to Seeds twice a week because I like their salads, [but] I don’t really shop here,” said Jeffrey Zhang, a sophomore majoring in business administration and international relations and Spanish.
This appears to be the trend with students: Most will visit Seeds a few times a week for meals, but almost no one will buy its market goods.
Though Klinger admitted the market is not the section of Seeds that earns the most, it is the convenience “for the folks that do need [it],” which Klinger believes makes it a necessary part of campus.
Follow Morgan on Twitter @megreenwald