Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 11
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
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Library Bows Out of One-Card, Heartland and PRS Plans Intact

Ellen Gilbert

After the most recent Princeton Public Library Board meeting at which some board members expressed reservations about a debit card with the library’s imprimatur, Heartland Payment Systems CEO Bob Carr offered library director Leslie Burger a chance to bow out, and she did.

Plans for the card to be distributed through the Princeton Regional School (PRS) system remain intact, however, along with the possibility that other area schools may sign on to the arrangement, which gives students and their families a chance to use their ID card as a debit card while making a donation (one-half of one per cent of the charge) to a favorite local agency (still including the library) or receiving cash back.

The Princeton Education Foundation will be the sponsoring organization (and potential recipient of donations) for PRS. Heartland CEO Bob Carr said that it is not clear yet whether the name “Princeton Education Foundation” or “Princeton Regional Schools” will appear on the cards, which will be distributed when the fall term begins. Other schools choosing to participate will get cards “branded” with their own name.

Mr. Carr emphasized the fact that using the card for purchases is optional; “a person does not need to register the card,” he said. Cardholders may also decide whether or not to receive promotional materials from participating merchants.

Hamilton Jewelers, Main Street Bistro, and the Nassau Inn have officially joined the program, reported Nancy G. Gross, Heartland’s executive director of marketing. Incentive for merchants to participate include no-cost advice from marketing specialists and help in designing loyalty programs if they sign on by the end of March. Merchant visibility will be further advanced by the presence of an online merchandising site.

Mr. Carr said that he “respectfully disagrees” with the criticism that the prospective program discriminates against small, and, particularly, minority merchants who cannot afford to participate. “Some merchants can’t afford to advertise,” he commented. “It’s not an issue about our card.

“It’s all experimental, all brand new. Tying so many pieces of technology to one card is the beauty of it — but it also creates complexity.” Mr. Carr suggested that the library board “wasn’t knowledgeable” about all the implications of the card and that it wasn’t “worth the trouble” to pursue an arrangement with them, noting however, that “we’re still strong supporters of the library.” There is no university involvement in the program at this point, although Mr. Carr expressed the hope that it would eventually “tie in all stake-holders, meters, garages, etc.” In the meantime, he said, “We have enough traction to move ahead.”

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