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  • Writer's pictureLife & Style

Are campus bake sales a thing of the past?

by Rory Buccheri

courtesy of Unsplash

One of the biggest shifts triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic was in the way we handle payments and transactions on a daily basis. Many retailers got ahead of the curve and started accepting exclusively card payments from the beginning, while some others struggled massively to make this transition.

This is the case for small businesses and food retailers all across Aberdeen. Unsurprisingly, the same struggle applies to groups and societies who organise bake sales on our very own University campus.

Bake sales, in a pre-pandemic world, were generally understood as a way to fundraise for either a charity or society development by selling home-baked goods. It was tempting to step out of a lecture theatre at 11am having a case of the midday munchies, and get a slice of fruit pie, a cream-filled doughnut or a muffin.

You’d get a couple of coins from your pocket, and there you had it: a sweet treat to make your day…and to help the society whose members had stayed up all night making that delicious Biscoff muffin for you.

You used to see lots of bake sale events and desks with sweet goodies popping up on campus. Based on the assumption that people would carry cash with them, it was easy to make a good profit in-between classes. With a shift to cashless transactions, it tends not to be the case anymore.

Mind you, bake sales on campus have not completely disappeared. However, fewer and fewer people are carrying cash with them nowadays. The difficulty of moving to contactless or card-only could be a great obstacle for those groups and societies who cannot adapt to this shift.

The Gaudie Life & Style has interviewed a couple of societies and forums who have recently hosted a bake sale to get their insight on the matter. We have spoken to Hyacinth, Social Media Manager for the LGBTQ+ forum, and Lori, representing the AU Trekking Society.

“It’s a bummer when you see people being interested, but they don’t have any coins with them.” Lori said they were not surprised to see this happening, but there was nothing they could do due to the nature of Societies bank accounts.

“We just hoped to see someone show up, and in a few cases saw people keen to support us. The real obstacle was that they didn’t have cash, and it wouldn’t make sense to go to an ATM to get £3.”

LGBTQ+ Forum bake sale poster

On the other hand, the LGBTQ+ forum managed to adapt to this new normal: “We had a card reader, which helped us a lot – and many people were surprised about hearing we took card as well as cash.”

Of course, it may not always be convenient to allow for such small card payments, due to the nature of contactless and the fees paid for each transaction. Societies might have to set, for example, a minimum expenditure, which for the nature of bake sales is not exactly ideal.

However, as the LGBTQ+ forum sale proved, this small step could “make it easier for people who wanted to buy something”.

“The event worked well. We had people who came because of the publicity on social media, and others just passing to go to classes.”

When asked how they felt the sales went compared to the past, Lori expressed that “we as a society didn’t have many expectations. Even pre-pandemic, it really depended on many factors: the day, the time, the building…”

Hyacinth, instead, said they were not part of the forum pre-2020, but the overall sale went undoubtedly well, with “only few leftovers left.” Definitely a win in terms of zero-waste too.

The challenges of moving to card-only transactions are many when it comes to small-scale casual events like bake sales. Adapting can mean a lot of work, but can also result in visible results.

We do not feel like it’s time to call the time of time of death on bake sales just yet. The hope is that, with more and more students coming back to campus, the activity engagement will pick up on its own.

Whether cash or card, that’s an upgrade that societies have to think well about. In some cases, like quick bake sales, that might make all the difference.


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