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April 18, 2024

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Spring Housing Guide

Stores are dying for attention

In an attempt to salvage what is left of their business in Bowling Green, the SBX bookstore is threatening to bring anti-trust charges against the University.

Representatives from SBX say the University’s B!G Charge violates anti-trust laws and is taking business away from their store.

Lawyer Dan Kinsella, who represents SBX, recently sent a letter to the University explaining that he will take action in court if they do not agree to allow the B!G Charge to be used at off-campus businesses.

Kinsella and SBX manager Ken Kokomoor said they hope the University will work with them outside of court.

“We want to try to work something out, and if they do not do that then there will be a lawsuit,” Kokomoor said.

Kokomoor has been working for three years to get the University to allow the B!G Charge to be used off-campus. He actively supported state Bill 162, which would have forced universities in the state to open up their charge cards to businesses in the community.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives, but failed to be passed by the Senate.

While Kokomoor was fighting for Bill 162, SBX and its sister bookstore BEE-GEE continued to experience decreased sales. At the end of February 2005, Kokomoor and stockholders decided to close BEE-GEE.

The closure, combined with the failure of Bill 162, lead them to consider bringing anti-trust charges against the University. Kokomoor said he did not make this decision alone because the store is owned by Student Book Exchange Incorporated.

“This is not a decision I made solely,” Kokomoor said. “We all had input, it was the stockholder’s decision to go ahead with this. We don’t want to see what happened with BEE-GEE happen to this store.”

He said he has attempted to work with the University for years, but they haven’t cooperated in allowing the B!G Charge to be used off campus. The University did start the City Bucks program last year, however, Kokomoor said that it has done little to encourage students to shop off campus.

“City Bucks was the University’s supposed solution to this, and they just aren’t working out,” Kokomoor said. “They are not seeing the response that they had expected.”

Kinsella said the University is like any other retail establishment and should be forced to follow anti-trust laws. He said the University is in a monopoly position to gain more sales by excluding SBX from the B!G Charge program.

Anti-trust laws were created to protect the consumer and promote competition. He said he hopes the University will allow the B!G Charge to be used off campus so businesses that compete with the University can survive. He said the existence of another bookstore in town creates competition.

“If my client has to leave the community because their sales are down, there would be no competition, and the University store could charge whatever they wanted,” Kinsella said.

He hopes the University will implement a system that works similar to Ohio State’s BuckID, or University of Toledo’s Rocket Card. Both cards allow students to use their student I.D’s at off-campus business locations.

UT began their off-campus Rocket Card program three years ago, after receiving requests from students. David Wahr, manager of card and parking services at UT, said they have seen nothing but positive results in allowing students to use their card off-campus.

“Everyone seems happy,” Wahr said, “if anything, we see students coming in requesting more businesses be added to the card.”

Wahr said it makes businesses happy because it encourages students to patronize their shops and restaurants. It also helps UT because they receive revenues from the businesses where it is used. He said business increased at the dining centers at UT because students tend to put more money on their cards and have more money to spend on campus.

Kokomoor said he hopes the University will follow UT’s example and work with local businesses.

Terri Sharp, who works in the Office of Marketing and Communications at the University, said BGSU has received the notice from Kinsella and SBX, and they are currently deciding how the situation will be handled.

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