Reusable Container Racket: Going and Making Green


By Jeff Malarky 

Do you know what arbitrage is? It’s a financial term. I wouldn’t really expect you to get it. Most of you aren’t like me; I’ve seen The Wolf of Wall Street seven times and The Big Short twice. So, bear with me for a second as I educate you and tell you a bit of a story about my rise and fall from grace.

Arbitrage is about taking advantage of price differences of the same asset in order to make a profit. Allow me to illustrate with an example. Shop A sells cookies for $5. Shop B sells cookies for $8. High prices for cookies, I know. That’s Joe Biden’s America for you. But, that’s not the point. If I buy my cookie at $5 at Shop A and sell it to Shop B for $8, I’ve made three dollars. Now imagine that with stocks and bonds and all those other financial thingies that your little brain can’t possibly begin to understand. 

Now, are you familiar with those stupid green reusable containers that the dining regime has started making us use at Rand? You check them out, use them, and return them. Sounds simple, right? Did you know that if you don’t return it after 3 days, you get charged $5? 

Naturally, I saw there was profit to be made here. If someone were to take your container and charge you $2 to get it back, wouldn’t you do it? After all, it’s better than having to pay $5. It’s almost like I’ve created a sort of reverse arbitrage, in a sense. I’m exploiting a price difference between two markets to force you to pick how much money you’d rather pay. 

I see how you might point out a certain risk in this plan. What is stopping you from just going to the Office of Student Accountability? You could. And I might get in trouble. But, if you do that, I’ll burn your container. And try as you might, you’ll never get through to somebody in dining that will hear your sympathetic pleas and somehow stop your $5 lost container charge. You lose either way.

So, I got to work, and my plan worked great. Employed on a large enough scale, I was raking in tens of dollars per day. Watch somebody drop their container off, take the container and put it in my backpack, and then approach them and explain the situation. They always chose to pay the $2. 

It was working like a charm. Until it wasn’t. One student wasn’t content to play my little game. She said she was in moot court or something like that. That she was training to be a lawyer. I wanted to mute her. But alas, I couldn’t. I tried bargaining. Dropped my price to $1.50. I even offered her 10% equity in my venture. She didn’t budge.

I wasn’t surprised when I got a knock from VUPD on my door later that night. My contraband had already been disposed of and my money had been shipped off to a secure account in the Caymans. Anyway, even if I was doing something wrong (I wasn’t), I figured that the money was better off in my hands. 

I refused to talk with the VUPD officer. He said he was just there to give me a citation and a referral to Student Accountability, whatever that means. I’ve watched enough TV to know that cops are always out to get you and to never say a word. I simply put my arms out and waited for him to cuff me. I’d walk out the Scomb lobby with my head high and hands behind my back. But most importantly, with dignity and respect. The officer refused to arrest me, a clear sign that I had already won the first battle. 

Now, let me bestow a bit of wisdom onto you. A defendant is always asked to plead ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. You are never required nor advised to prove your innocence. So naturally, I pleaded not guilty. I argued my case well, but the judge (who refused to present me with her law degree) was unmoved. They claimed to have security camera footage. And they had somehow traced my Western Union wire transfer. 

When asked about how I should be punished, I had no qualms. I knew I would happen to die in a freak jailhouse accident that was secretly orchestrated by those who would take my spot in this criminal empire. The revolution eats it young, and I would be no exception. 

And truthfully, I’m not worried at all. I’ve built something bigger than myself. Cutting off the hydra’s head only grows two more. Foolish students will continue to participate in Vanderbilt’s meritless sustainability initiatives that are merely a way to shift the blame onto the average consumer and deflect attention away from the pollution of large corporations and institutions long after I’m gone. And people will continue to profit from it. 

  • April 2, 2024