Make friends with a freshman, get a free meal

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Starving upperclassmen at BYU prowl down the hill to the freshman dorms and hunt their next victim. Free lunches at the Cannon Center for students with freshman meal plans may be their only hope for surviving the poor college days.

Tyler Wernli, a recent BYU grad who majored in economics, learned to apply classroom principles to real-life situations. Wernli and his friend used to go to the Cannon Center, quickly befriend some freshmen with meal plans, and get a free lunch.

Getting a free meal may be as easy as making a friend with a freshman. Photo illustration by Chris Bunker

“My friend and I were notorious for doing this,” Wernli said. “We were ruthless on how we worked the system.”

The economist approach

Wernli and a friend had several basic approaches when trying to get a free lunch from a freshman. In the economic approach, they would go up to a freshman and offer $3 in cash in exchange for a meal at the Cannon Center. The freshman student would then slide their card so Wernli would get the discounted dining dollars rate.

“The card rate was cheaper than the cash rate,” Wernli said.

The least successful approach was begging random students, so Wernli realized that finding someone he knew from his home ward or other connections proved to be the best way for him to get a free lunch. However, Wernli’s accomplice was set on flirting with freshmen girls.

Be a flirt

Wernli said his friend would flirt with a girl who had another girlfriend with her, and the four made a perfect match.  The only downside to this was that Wernli felt he had to follow the lead of his friend.

“I was at their mercy,” Wernli said. “I was like his pet monkey, and he would get me in.”

Although he often had to work for his free food, Wernli described this sacrifice in just three words: “All worth it.”

Wernli assured their tactics were always legal.

“We never would sneak in,” Wernli said. “We would always find a way that was legit.”

Be a friend

Matthew Stephens, from Vacavilla, Calif., often swipes his card for friends or family when they are in town.

“I’m going to have extra money at the end of the semester, so I might as well spend it on someone else,” Stephens said.

However, Stephens does not give to strangers very often.

“I do remember giving lunch to a stranger once,” Stephens said. “He asked me if I had any money on my card because he didn’t have any money for lunch. He didn’t really introduce himself. He just asked if I could buy him lunch.”

Stephens didn’t feel as though he was being taken advantage of and thought the stranger was pretty casual.

Caitlin Wright, a history major from American Fork, said she would be a little apprehensive giving a free lunch to a boy who flirted with her just five minutes before. Wright said she would probably think it was a scam and tell him that she was busy.

However, Wright did mention that if she were friends with an upperclassman, the scenario would play out differently.

“If a friend is in need, I’ll help them,” Wright said.

According to Wernli, however, getting a free meal is not so much about helping a friend, but more about the economics involved.

“A dollar saved is a dollar earned, so I earned a lot of money and a lot of free lunches at the same time,” Wernli said.

He mentioned that his economics teacher always taught him that in economics there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

“But I disagree,” Wernli said.

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