University Bookstore must keep students/customers in mind

Brendan Keep and Brendan Keep

Would you shop at the University Bookstore if there was another store close by that sold the same mix of items? I sure wouldn’t.

The Bookstore’s policies are not at all designed to attract customers, but many students still shop there because they have few or no alternatives.

It isn’t only the bookstore’s poor policies that are a disservice to its customers.

Many of the bookstore’s employees seem to have given themselves over to the belief that since there isn’t anywhere else for students to go, they don’t need to worry about treating them with the respect they deserve as customers. Let me illustrate with a few examples of students’ experiences at the bookstore.

One student, needing to buy some binders, took the time to get bundled up and make the trek from Harshman to the bookstore at about 8 p.m. She arrived, only to find that the bookstore was closed.

Upon asking the cashier working in the Peregrine Shop why the bookstore was closed, the cashier replied that they had gone back to their normal hours on the Sunday after the spring rush.

This makes sense, but the paper sign displayed right outside the bookstore still read the bookstore hours were 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. This happened the Thursday after rush was over; the hours had gone back to normal on Sunday, yet the sign had still not been changed.

Simply printing a new sign displaying the correct hours would not exactly have been difficult. When she suggested to the cashier to change the sign, the cashier merely kept repeating “we close at 7:30.”

And the plight of yet another unsatisfied customer. This student ordered his books ahead of time online. He purchased the books on his bursar account, but he wanted to use a gift card so he could pay for his own books, rather than his parents getting billed for them.

Regrettably, the online system doesn’t allow purchases to be made on gift cards. At the time, registers in the Multipurpose Room were the only ones able to do returns.

He told the woman working there that he wanted to return the books and then buy them again using the gift card. The only registers available to make purchases were located in the bookstore. The cashier refused to carry the books over to the bookstore after doing the return so he could buy them back.

This trip takes a grand total of 10 seconds, 15 seconds if you walk slowly. When the student asked the cashier if there was any way to buy the books using the gift card, the cashier responded “I can’t help you,” and “I don’t know.” Both of these phrases are cardinal sins in the world of retail.

Of course, the bookstore and its employees don’t have to worry about these sins, since many students have no choice but to shop there. Disheartened and disgruntled, the student was forced to make another trip a week later, when returns and purchases were once again united in the singular location of the bookstore, to do what should have taken five minutes.

Perhaps you think that the bookstore makes up for this lack of service with cheaper prices? They are, after all, partially subsidized by the University.

I realize that it’s probably unfair to compare the bookstore’s prices to those on the Internet since Internet companies are a completely different kind of business, so I didn’t bother doing that.

Instead, I took a short walk over to the Student Book Exchange. I picked five typical freshman, general-ed classes, GEOL 100, ENG 112, CS 100, MATH 115, and IPC 102, and found out how much they cost, new and used, at the University Bookstore and SBX.

The results were pretty shocking. If all the books were bought new, the total from the bookstore was $586.15. At SBX they only cost $492.54. That’s a difference of $93.61.

Think that used book prices are any different? At the bookstore the total came to $439.80 for used books, as compared to only $364.30 at SBX. Even used books were $75.50 cheaper at SBX.

Shouldn’t our bookstore be able to offer cheaper prices, since it buys books in much larger quantities than SBX? Isn’t the bookstore supposed to be on the students’ side?

I don’t want you to think that every cashier at the bookstore is rude, or that no one working there is willing to help. But the experience of many students has been that generally the employees are not very eager to help the customer.

Additionally, they should be willing to offer competitive prices to their loyal customers. At the very least, they should treat students with the respect they deserve as customers, and not as if they have no other option.

I didn’t even have room to mention the fact that students are forced to leave their bags on the floor in the lobby (making ourselves vulnerable to theft) because they think we’re going to rob them blind. As if they aren’t already doing that to us.

Send comments to Brendan Keep at [email protected]