Price Center’s Sunshine Market to be converted to a Just Walk Out HDH location

With Just Walk Out technology appearing in Sunshine Market this fall, HDH will officially make its way into Price Center.
Price Center’s Sunshine Market to be converted to a Just Walk Out HDH location
Image by Hana Tobias for The UCSD Guardian

Only a year after Housing Dining Hospitality took over Audrey’s Café, Price Center’s Sunshine Market is becoming a HDH-run Amazon Just Walk Out market. According to recent emails sent out to UCSD Bookstore and Sunshine Market employees, the market will close on June 24 and reopen as a HDH market location in Fall 2024. Sunshine Market will be the first on-campus market to transition to JWO technology since Roger’s Market, Sixth Market, and Seventh Market made the change in Fall 2023.

JWO markets have become a staple of everyday life for many students living on campus, supposedly providing an easy way for shoppers to get in and out as quickly as possible. UC San Diego Today stated that the transition is meant to save time for students and staff, help the markets to extend their operating hours, and allow staff members more time to assist customers. 

However, some students have expressed frustration with erroneous charges on their accounts, having to wait in lines just to enter JWO markets, and the sterilization of the shopping experience. Eleanor Roosevelt Senior Madeline Mozafari is among the countless shoppers expressing privacy concerns about the markets. 

“As a person who values her privacy and does her best to avoid companies which use unnecessary data collection, I don’t see the need or appeal for JWO markets,” Mozafari said. “Especially with the recent news that Amazon’s AI technology doesn’t even work and requires humans to review footage and transactions.”

Regardless, from the perspective of UCSD administrators, the benefits seem to be outweighing the drawbacks.

Director of Triton Auxiliary Programs Josh Kavanagh has cited a major reason for this transition as the new Pepper Canyon West neighborhood, set to open in Fall 2024. With housing in Pepper Canyon being expanded dramatically to accommodate more transfer and upper-division students, the issue of residents’ grocery access has become more pressing. By reopening Sunshine Market as an HDH location, UCSD will provide these students with much easier access to groceries they can purchase using Dining Dollars.

Sunshine Market opened in the 1970s under the name “the Sunshine Store,” specializing in quick bites, health and beauty, and more unique snack items. The market’s diverse products and welcoming atmosphere have earned it a dedicated group of regular customers over the years. 

Because of its notable history, Senior Director of Campus Dining at HDH Jeff Palmer has expressed that preserving the market’s original charm will be a major priority during this transformation. According to Palmer, “HDH also plans to host focus groups to gather student feedback and insights,” which may help to mitigate the erasure of its unique offerings. 

Despite this, students are heavily criticizing the HDH takeover in online spaces like Reddit.

“I love sunshine for all the cool stuff they sell that the HDH markets don’t, if HDH just turns sunshine into another boring market it will be a huge loss,” commented user hetchyhetchy. As HDH markets tend to all sell a specific set of products, the wide variety of specialty items at Sunshine Market like canned tea and boba drinks, protein bars, and international candy will likely be removed from shelves next year.

“Sunshine Market currently has a very nice, chill atmosphere which I enjoy, especially in a crowded and loud place like Price Center,” Mozafari said. “It’s a good size and has a lot of options that are laid out well. There’s a TV playing in the back and a coffee station and a generally good vibe. I don’t think a transition to a JWO market would keep these vibes intact. They may as well remove the ‘sunshine’ from Sunshine Market.”

“I kinda like it cuz I always wanted some sort of place in the price center area that accepts dining dollars,” wrote Reddit user Used_Return9095. 

But while many find it convenient to have another place where they don’t need to spend ‘real money,’ Dining Dollars can’t always pay for the same amount of food due to HDH’s significant price gouging. 

“It’s nice to have [an] on campus market that’s not connected to HDH,” user MoonBat1334 added. “HDH markets are so $$$ and in the last 3 years I have seen their prices go up so hard.”

Even more strikingly, this change may negatively impact the small businesses that currently sell products through the market. Sunshine Market often carries products from local snack and candy vendors — items that can’t be found on the standardized shelves of HDH markets. The majority of Sunshine Market’s prepared foods like baked goods and deli sandwiches are also sourced directly from local bakeries. And with all HDH locations sourcing their food from the same primary vendors, it is unlikely that the market will continue these longstanding partnerships.

A common concern when it comes to the rise of JWO technology is the displacement of student jobs, as it eliminates the need for cashiers working checkout lines. Palmer asserted that, similarly to workers in other on-campus JWO markets, Sunshine Market staffers will remain busy; current employees will still be needed for customer service duties such as greeting customers and restocking shelves. But given the number of baristas who left Audrey’s Café this past year, it’s unclear whether current employees will want to keep their positions once they are under HDH management.

Interestingly, HDH’s takeover of Sunshine Market was announced just after Amazon revealed that it is phasing out the JWO system in its full-size Amazon Fresh grocery stores. But as this change will only affect existing Fresh stores and not convenience stores or third-party locations, it seems that UCSD’s markets are in the clear. 

“The shift in Amazon Just Walk Out will not impact our current or future projects with Amazon,” Palmer said. “Amazon is fully committed to our campus partnership.”

The future of HDH influence and JWO technology on campus is vague, to say the least. While the university appears to have no current plans to implement this technology into any other markets, the suddenness of Sunshine Market’s transition has left many students uncertain. According to Palmer, “HDH is continually evaluating opportunities that will better serve students and the campus community.”

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About the Contributors
Abby Offenhauser
Abby Offenhauser, Staff Writer
Abby is a first-year Literature/Writing major, ardent listener of fiction and talk podcasts, and lover of satire.
Hana Tobias
Hana Tobias, Photographer
Hana is a fourth year Cognitive Science major.
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