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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Bookstore Rip-Off: Corporation making a buck by burdening students

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Student purchasing pricy textbooks.

The “UMass Boston” bookstore leaves a lot to be desired. By the quotes, I mean it’s not actually the university’s bookstore. The concession is actually run by Follett, a private corporation that manages bookstores throughout the US and Canada.

The university website has a whopping 51 words about the bookstore. In those 51 words, it boasts that the store is “so much more than a place to buy textbooks.” I’ll be the first to admit that the candy selection is okay, but other than that I don’t really see it.

While I have nothing against Follett per se, I do take issue with the fact that the bookstore in the Campus Center is marketed as if the university runs it. UMass Boston is a public institution, but the bookstore is not. 

I perceive a conflict here.  The university’s job is to provide an affordable education for students. Yet it’s the bookstore’s job, as a business, to make a profit, and it makes this profit by taking money out of students’ pockets.

What’s worse is how they make their profit. As people who have dealt with buying books from Follett know, very often they package books in bundles which cannot be split up. In one case, for example, a 100-level French course bundle priced at more than $200 came with a textbook, a workbook and eight CDs. However, the professor admitted the CDs were unnecessary. How can that cost be justified? Especially for an introductory level course?

So, Follett pads its profits by selling unneeded items. What about when you’re done with the course? Sure, they will take back the CDs if “it’s a set that needs them,” but only on a case-by-case basis.  (You can look on efollet.com to find out.) A student will be lucky to sell that textbook back for $50 at the end of the semester. 

The operation of the bookstore also leaves me unsatisfied. Every semester, store management seems taken aback by the number of students buying textbooks.  How can they not adequately plan to keep the lines to a reasonable length, every single semester? Sure, they add more people and registers, but they don’t add enough — not when you’re waiting in line for 45 minutes (and getting ripped off in the bargain).

The bookstore sells overpriced UMass gear and office supplies that have been sitting around so long the sharpies have dried out. Sometimes they get it right, like when they sell whiffle bats and balls. But let’s be clear: its chief function is to sell the textbooks that we need for our education. It’s not totally ridiculous to ask the university to kick Follett off of the campus and take over bookstore duties. The university should be able to decrease the cost of textbooks significantly, if it isn’t looking to make a profit.