Although the Lobby Shop may be an easy source for many of students' housing and food needs, the West Campus convenience store often charges higher prices than other local and on-campus grocers.

It's no surprise that convenience store prices are higher than grocery store ones. A 2009 study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives found that convenience stories charge less than 15 percent more on average. In comparison, prices for several items in the Lobby Shop were about double those at Harris Teeter on Ninth Street. 

And with limited selections of fruits and vegetables and stripped-down offerings of basics like laundry detergent and paper towels, some students offered criticism of the Lobby Shop. Duke Stores did not respond in time for publication.

“Normally I don’t buy too many things here,” senior Afua Ansah said in reference to the store in the Bryan Center. “The prices are really expensive.”

A carton of eggs from the Lobby Shop costs $3.87. The same number of eggs at Harris Teeters can sell for $0.97 with a VIC card—the store's member program—and $1.49 without. 

The same trend holds true for several other staple items on the Lobby Shop’s shelves. An 8.9-ounce box of Cheerios is $5.95 at The Lobby Shop, but $3.49 at Harris Teeter. A packet of Maruchan ramen noodles is $0.49 at The Lobby Shop and $0.25 at Harris Teeter. A half-gallon of milk is $2.79 at the Lobby Shop, but $1.65 at Harris Teeter.

At the time of The Chronicle's visits, the milk was also fresher at Harris Teeter. The Lobby Shop’s freshest milk was set to expire Oct. 16, a mere eight days after purchase. Harris Teeter’s, however, had an expiration date of Oct. 23—a full week later than its counterpart.

Despite the mark-ups, Ansah praised the availability of various products at The Lobby Shop.

“They have a good variety of different items,” she said. “I’ve never encountered something that they didn’t have.”

The Lobby Shop indeed has a wide range of items, though some products are definitely better-represented than others. Students can choose from a range of over 50 types of chips, seven types of Oreos and an entire aisle devoted to on-the-go snacking. When it comes to health-conscious staples like fruits and vegetables, however, the Lobby Shop leaves something to be desired.

The store's vegetable selection consists of small bags of baby carrots at the bottom of a side refrigerator. The store also offers just three kinds of fruit—apples, oranges and bananas.

“Fresh fruit—that would be really helpful,” Ansah said.

The Lobby Shop is also limited in terms of household items. 

Although it offers basic seasonings like salt and pepper, as well as kitchen essentials like tin foil, wax paper and paper towels, such items are limited in variety and relatively expensive. A 2.8 square meter Bounty paper towel roll, for instance, was $2.25 at the Lobby Store. At Harris Teeter, a 4.7 square meter paper towel roll was available for $1.29 with a VIC card, and $1.79 without.

“On West Campus there’s not, like, much you have to cook,” sophomore Josh Young said. “But if I was going to try cooking something, it’s like, 'What are you going to do?"'

The Lobby Shop's prices of some goods also differ from prices of similar products from other on-campus vendors. Bananas, for example, cost $0.49 at the Lobby Shop, but $1.19 at East Campus's Trinity Cafe. Meanwhile, a tube of Crest Tartar Protection toothpaste goes for $3.89 at The Lobby Shop, but the Crest Cavity Protection toothpaste from Duke Pharmacy costs $2.09. 

Still Ansah said she is not upset about the the discrepancy between the Lobby Shop and the other stores. Although going to Harris Teeter and other stores can be a challenge for students without cars, Ansah noted that there are workarounds. Her church group, for instance, provides transportation to stores like Wal-Mart and Target. 

Budgeting food points properly can also help keep Lobby Store items affordable, she said. 

Young, however, said he took a more passive approach.

“I’m well-fed at West Union,” he said. “I have everything I want over there.”