Connect with us

All Articles

The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

Housing and Dining officials now advise students paying by Off-Campus Flex to expect transactions to take “about 45 seconds from swipe to signature.”

You can thank technology straight out of 1996: dial-up modems. Merchants use them to connect to the Flex network, and in an e-mail to Bwog this week, Michael Novielli of Student Auxiliary and Business Services confirms that the wait-times are here to stay.

He says the recent troubles at Nussbaum & Wu and Westside are indeed the result of that dial-up network, and though CUIT is being consulted about faster alternatives, for now, “a faster solution does not exist.”

Until then, before you pay with Flex, you may want to have a few self-deprecating witticisms ready to avert the fury of exasperated customers waiting behind you in line at Westside.

Novielli’s full e-mail to Bwog is after the jump.

I wanted to update you all briefly on some of the feedback we’ve received from students about Off-Campus Flex. Over the course of the past two weeks, some students have shared that they have experienced longer than usual wait times at Westside Market and other merchants. We also understand that system was down for short periods at Nussbaum & Wu and other merchants. We have worked to resolve all of these issues.


We do, however, want to be open about how long students should expect a transaction to take: Since all of the merchants currently use a dial-up modem to connect, students should expect a typical transaction to take about 45 seconds from swipe to signature. We understand that this is longer than students typically wait when making purchases using Flex & Dining Dollars on campus, and we are sorry that is the case. At this time, a faster solution does not exist, but we will work with our colleagues in CUIT to determine if a faster alternative is possible in the future


Our staff has tested Flex at several locations over the past two days, and the system is now fully operational. If you hear of any additional issues, please do not hesitate to bring them to our attention. We apologize for the inconvenience.


All the best.

Leave a Reply to examples Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.



  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Hmm, it seems Michael Novielli is waiting for a fully operational flex system as much as the Emperor was.

  • Really? says:

    @Really? “At this time, a faster solution does not exist.”

    I’m pretty sure technology has progressed past the 20th century.

  • not seas says:

    @not seas why doesn’t this happen with credit cards? presumably, they, too, have to connect to a network of some kind, yet it only takes seconds to pay with debit.

  • Well, actually says:

    @Well, actually In the past two days, Nussbaum AND Westside’s flex has been responding within 8 seconds. I know Westside had someone go in and reconfigure both systems (Flex and Credit Card) a couple days ago when they both shut down in the middle of the day. At Nussbaum they told me that things have just started working faster lately.

  • yo cuit says:

    @yo cuit there is a distinction between a solution not existing, and you guys being too lazy and bureaucratic to find it and implement it.

  • examples says:

    @examples There are lots of other schools that have adequate, 21st century systems. Harvard has Crimson Cash, for example, which “usually instantaneous” and “speeds up the cashier lines – [you] just swipe-n-go.” ( Moreover, they have over twenty locations they can use it (

    What’s the deal here, CUIT?

    1. well says:

      @well last I checked Columbia doesn’t believe in doing “best practices” studies of its peers. Yale has had an off-campus flex-like system as far back as 1995. It took us 12 extra years to figure out how to do it.

      also, Columbia IT’s has two approaches to “Security”: 1) Don’t use technology 2) Cripple already outdated technology beyond usefulness.

  • AJ must be says:

    @AJ must be flipping out right now, he has to spend 45 more seconds in scary Harlem then walk 2 blocks to the shuttle, oh no his life is so hard.

  • So... says:

    @So... If this is a dial-up problem, isn’t the solution just to yank the cord out of the jack, wait 60 seconds, and then plug it back in?

  • penn state says:

    @penn state has a ridiculous flex-type system. they get discounts at a lot of the places that accept it, your parents can add money to your account on their own (like transferring money to your bank account), if you run out of meals on your meal plan it takes it out of your lioncash account, and there is an endless list of places that accept it.

    basically, flex is an embarrassment to the university. we’re supposed to be smarter than this.

  • I was says:

    @I was talking to the owner of the little grocery store below the Heights, and he told me that the reason they no long accept flex is because Columbia want 20% of the proceeds, instead of the initial 8% they originally said.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Is this why Community automatically charges a 20% gratuity?

  • ... says:

    @... you wait for sum-mer, then… you wait… for rain… you wait…………. you wa-ait………

    patience…. patience…. it… will… come….

  • Have Your Say

    What should Bwog's new tagline be?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

    Recent Comments

    :) you're a shining star!!!!! (read more)
    Senior Wisdom: Rania Siddique
    July 8, 2020
    The other deans also sent emails, but guess y'all will just ignore those because y'all think CC is the only (read more)
    Columbia Announces Reopening Plans For 2020-2021 Year
    July 8, 2020
    did you ever get it? :( (read more)
    Fake It Till You Make It
    July 8, 2020
    This was really really dope and I can tell you worked hard on it. Thank you! <3<3<3 (read more)
    “Body Image During a Pandemic:” A Zine
    July 8, 2020

    Comment Policy

    The purpose of Bwog’s comment section is to facilitate honest and open discussion between members of the Columbia community. We encourage commenters to take advantage of—without abusing—the opportunity to engage in anonymous critical dialogue with other community members. A comment may be moderated if it contains:
    • A slur—defined as a pejorative derogatory phrase—based on ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or spiritual belief
    • Hate speech
    • Unauthorized use of a person’s identity
    • Personal information about an individual
    • Baseless personal attacks on specific individuals
    • Spam or self-promotion
    • Copyright infringement
    • Libel