Owners and employees at Uptown Greenville’s restaurants and retailers who have been participating in East Carolina University’s Bounty Bucks program, which started in May 2019 to allow students to use Bounty Bucks as payment at their businesses, have mixed feelings about the program.
Bounty Bucks is one of the spending accounts that students can set up to use with their ECU 1 Card. Funds can be deposited into the account, and once they are, it can be used as a debit card, according to ECU’s 1 Card website. Students can set up a Bounty Bucks account by contacting the 1 Card office. After, they are free to use the payment form on campus and at participating restaurants and retailers uptown.
The Bounty Bucks program was created to expand Bounty Bucks usage to uptown’s businesses, according to Uptown Greenville’s website. A lot of these businesses have seen Bounty Bucks being used frequently at their locations, while others believe that the newer program needs more recognition among students and parents of students.
Smashed Waffles, located at 718 Dickinson Ave., is one of the restaurants in Uptown Greenville that accepts Bounty Bucks as payment, Hunter Harrison, co-founder of Smashed Waffles, said. He said the restaurant began taking Bounty Bucks when the program first began last year.
“We tried (using Bounty Bucks) last summer, but nobody really knew about it until last fall when the fall semester started. We were one of the first businesses to use them,” Harrison said.
Bounty Bucks can be used at Smashed Waffles for all its food and beverage items, including waffles, sandwiches and coffee products, Harrison said. The restaurant also occasionally has discounts for students, he said, but doesn’t have any at the moment due to uncertainty about fall semester.
Harrison said that while Smashed Waffles has seen Bounty Bucks used at the restaurant, he hasn’t seen them used very often, which he believes is due to the program not being well known among ECU students.
“I think that the struggle with the Bounty Bucks program is just awareness at this point. I don’t know how many students and parents are aware of the program because it is a little bit unique from the standard meal plans,” Harrison said. “I think if the awareness would be a little higher, we would probably see (Bounty Bucks) used more often. I’m not saying we don’t see them, it’s just not really as prevalent as other payment methods that we accept.”
While the Bounty Bucks aren’t used at the restaurant very often, Harrison said Smashed Waffles has received positive feedback from the students and parents of students who have utilized them.
Harrison said that Smashed Waffles will continue to use Bounty Bucks at the restaurant, and that he believes the Bounty Bucks program needs more support from uptown businesses and students so it can gain awareness.
“I think that it’s definitely a good program. ECU really hasn’t had a program for local businesses up until the Bounty Bucks program came out, so we were fully supportive of the university getting behind the local businesses, especially the ones uptown or the ones that are considered uptown close to the university,” Harrison said. “I just think it helps attract students here, you know, the businesses that are around here.”
University Book Exchange (UBE), located at 516 Cotanche St., has accepted Bounty Bucks since May of 2019, Yvonne Perry, general manager of UBE, said. She said students have purchased textbooks, school supplies, art supplies, East Carolina University licensed apparel and spirit gear with their Bounty Bucks.
Perry said the Bounty Bucks don’t expire and recently students have more options to shop with their Bounty Bucks at different locations. She said she hopes more uptown businesses will sign up to accept the Bounty Bucks method of payment.
“I think it (Bounty Bucks) are beneficial to both students and the community; and helping small businesses,” Perry said.
There are some spending restrictions for Bounty Bucks usage, according to the Merchant’s list on ECU’s 1 Card website. These restrictions include purchases of alcohol, drug paraphernalia, tobacco, lottery tickets, gift cards, firearms and ammunition, tattoos, piercings or professional services, the website said.
More information about the Bounty Bucks program can be found on ECU’s 1 Card website, along with the entire list of uptown businesses and on-campus locations accepting Bounty Bucks.