University Retail Manager Andrew Gilroy has come under fire after boasting about the ‘success’ of the Market Square complex on campus. Up until now Gilroy has largely remained reluctant to comment on the beleaguered project, other than to shout out about its apparent success and the excellent service Costcutter provides for students.
But Gilroy’s own staff and Costcutter employees have broken the silence to attack the "laughable" comments which have left him marginalised. It has also undermined the credibility of the University Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, used to finance the building of the complex.
A Costcutter insider told nouse of the "sneaky" routines employed by the store. "Products are targeted everyday for price increases, especially the fruit and vegetables. I wouldn’t shop there" the source revealed.
Gilroy refused to "enter into a dialogue" over the company’s pricing policy. But did defend the actions of Costcutter by saying all profits were ploughed back into the University for students. However, the Costcutter leak has revealed that just in the past few months Costcutter has had to "let people go because they were making a loss", something Gilroy also strongly denies.
He maintains that students are getting a fair deal and Costcutter are, in fact, receptive to students’ concerns, through their suggestion box. This has been described as a ‘hollow’ and ‘pathetic’ gesture to win students over. Many have complained that they were unaware of the customer response facility until brought to their attention by nouse. The cards are tucked discreetly behind the entrance, and it is quite understandable why students did not know of the introduction of the service.
It’s not just students who are increasingly disillusioned with the letting system. One of Gilroy’s deputies, managing the Halifax store, stepped out of line last week to reveal that there were huge fundamental failings in the whole private partnership project. With sky high rents and just a thirty week student market, "nobody wants to know", she revealed. Services Officer, James Byron, also voiced his concern about how slow and cumbersome the process for let application has become, in light of the Union’s own attempt to occupy a let in conjunction with Endsleigh Insurance.
This condemnation for the private finance initiative system comes as planning has begun to build another Market Square style project a stone’s throw away in Alcuin College. However the question remains. Is there really an appetite for businesses to occupy the space, once the builders have left and the desperate search to find someone willing to move in begins?
Steve Cook, owner of Mail Boxes etc. is itching to move in to one of the dusty lets. But stubborn University officials have not made it easy, and after months of negotiation his application has still not been granted. His frustration is obvious, as is the mounting aggravation of students. The business would provide foreign students with a permanent mailing address. It would also provide a photocopying facility, that would be much cheaper than current University charges.
Incessant delays of this nature have stirred anger and resentment amongst students.
One disheartened shopper said he was "fed up" at being "taken for a ride" by the retail giants. "They don’t have student’s interests at heart, in fact, I think they’d do anything to get one over on us" he protested.
It seems nobody is willing to take responsibility for the mess the University now faces filling the empty lets. As squabbles over who is to blame continues, it is the students who are left with an overpriced and overly powerful retail service on campus.