Bookstore is a gold mine

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 4, 2008

I always dread the beginning of the semester.

In fact, I like to call this, “the time when the campus bookstore is going to try its hardest to squeeze every penny it possibly can from you.”

This never made sense to me. The school has as much of your money as it could get from you in tuition and fees, but now it is going to force you to pay hundreds of dollars for books.

At most every school, the textbooks are required. If there are no required textbooks, then the professor may use a website or give the students handouts. But, normally the book is required.

During my first years as an undergrad, I went to the bookstore to buy my books and I almost had a heart attack when I saw how much they were.

I am not sure how it is at other schools, but at my college, during the end of the first and second semesters, a company came to the bookstore and bought back students’ books.

My first semester, I went in the bookstore to see what I could get for my books. I learned quickly that the system is extremely flawed.

Sure, it sounds wonderful to a broke college student when someone tells her she can take her math and political science books, which she will never use again, to the bookstore and sell them for some extra cash.

Unfortunately, they leave some details out.

First of all, let’s say that the student paid $80 for the political science book and $118 for the math book. When she takes the books back, she is expecting to get a reasonable amount back for the books, right? Wrong.

What the bookstore doesn’t tell you it that you may have paid $80 for the political science book, but guess how much you are going to get back for it? $20.

And what about the math book? The bookstore failed to mention that very often a publishing company puts out a new edition of a book. Normally the only thing that changes between editions is the page numbers, so what it the point of putting out a new edition?

The point, dear student, is that the company has found another way to squeeze more money out of your pocketbook.

That is right. Here is what happens.

You bought the second edition math book for your fall semester class. Yet, when you go to sell the book in December, the bookstore informs you that the book is no longer used anymore. The company has put out a third edition, which will be required for the class for now on. Now your book is useless in the company’s eyes.

Not only that, but the new edition also costs more than the old edition. So, people who take the class in the future have to pay more for the book.

After witnessing these scenarios, I could never go into the bookstore during book buy -back time. It just made me so mad. From then on, I bought most of my books used on-line. It was so much cheaper this way.

However, in order to buy your books on-line, you an ISBN number. This helps you be certain that you are ordering the right books for your classes.

It was easy to get the numbers from my undergraduate college. I just went in the bookstore at the end of semesters and wrote down the numbers I needed.

Now, as I prepare to go to graduate school, I see again how flawed the system is. I have not been able to go to the bookstore of the university that I will be attending. So, I called the bookstore and asked them if they could give me the numbers.

Do you know what they said?

“I am sorry; we do not give ISBN numbers over the phone.”

Do you want to know what they really meant?

“I don’t want to give you the ISBN numbers because I know you can get the book a lot cheaper on-line and I don’t want to lose out on making money. I don’t care that you paid an outrageous amount of money to attend school here. I don’t even care that a parking pass costs $300. No. I want all of your money I can get.”

That’s what he really meant.

My sister faced a similar situation when she called her school’s bookstore. They wouldn’t give her the numbers.

This makes me so angry.

Something is wrong with this picture. How hard would it be for the person in the bookstore to get up from his seat, walk over to the bookshelf, write down about five numbers and either give them to me over the phone or e-mail them?

I wouldn’t think it would be so hard.

But, hey, what do I know?

I am just a poor graduate student trying to get an education.

The bookstore people are so much more intelligent than I am.