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Used saves?

Posted By Brian Schroeder On February 4, 2005 @ 12:00 pm In Forum | No Comments

The beginning of every semester is always so full of hope and wonder. Hope for the coming semester and wonder as to how the hell the campus bookstore managed to rip us off yet again for so much farking money. This year I did what the cartoon character on the posters told me to do and I bought used books from “my” bookstore because “Used Saves!” After looking at my receipt I began to question the validity of this statement. Eventually, I realized that he was pulling some very tricky grammatical shenanigans.

“Used Saves!” is what those in the advertising industry call a “faulty comparison.” Not only are we unsure as to what “used” saves, we’re not even sure for whom “used” is saving. The short answer is that it is not saving any money and it is certainly not saving any money for me.

Normally I buy all the books I need from the bookstore, trying to purchase used books when I can, and put them on the credit card and don’t really give much thought to it. Back in high school I had to buy my own books so I quickly became numb to their outrageous prices. At least my high school bought the books back for a decent amount and we usually weren’t forced to purchase new editions. By now I just don’t even bother looking at the total price. That is, until this past semester.

For five semesters, not including my year abroad, I trusted the bookstore when they said “Used Saves” and that they try to obtain a competitive price for their books. This semester I am taking a literature course that required me to purchase 11 short novels and collections that we would read over the semester. I was able to purchase most of them used so I felt that I had done well. After looking at my total bill I was amazed to see that I was still charged a very significant amount of money, considering I had borrowed most textbooks and only purchased one actual textbook-workbook combination. It turns out, loyal readers, that used does not save at all. Let’s examine the evidence.

“Elective Affinities” by Goethe costs $10.95 new and $9.75 used. “The Marquise of O-” by Heinrich von Kleist is $13.00 new and $9.75 used. “Mother Courage and her Children” by Bertolt Brecht is $6.95 new and $5.25 used. Georg Buechner’s “Complete Plays, Lenz, and Other Writings” is $14.00 new and $9.75 used. Gunter Grass’ “Cat and Mouse” is $13.00 new and $9.75 used.

Considering that I had to tear off the stickers and wipe off the black marker that covered the MSRP for each of the books, I don’t think that the bookstore wanted me to know this when I bought each of these books used. When I looked on Amazon.com, the exact same editions of the books were sometimes cheaper than the used editions I had purchased at the bookstore. I have no idea how much over the MSRP the bookstore charges for these editions when they are new, but I do know that the very well managed used bookstore I go to in Kansas City has practically brand new used books for more than half of their MSRP. Kind of makes you wonder how hard the bookstore is working to save us money, doesn’t it?

The lamest excuse that I hear for why things are expensive at Wash U is “overhead” and “convenience.” The rest of the world seems to deal with overhead well, so why can’t our bookstore? Either they’re not smart enough to operate a successful business or they’re evil and enjoy ripping the students off. Take your pick, but until something changes around here they’re both pretty bad excuses for what they are doing.

My advice for students is to make a concerted effort to buy books from anywhere but the campus bookstore. You wont need most of your books for the first week, and most novels won’t be needed for weeks or even months. I’ve always wondered how much “used saves” and it turns out that in the end I’m getting screwed. Even if it is just a few dollars per book, it’s worth it to me to take my business somewhere else and let the free hand of the market reach back like a pimp and slap whoever it is who has to inflate the prices of the books just to make an “honest” living.

Article printed from Student Life Archives (2001-2008): http://www.studlife.com/archives

URL to article: http://www.studlife.com/archives/Forum/2005/02/04/Usedsaves/

URLs in this post:

[1] Sell textbooks back: http://www.studlife.com/archives/Forum/opinions/2002/01/18/Selltextbooksback/

[2] Saves the Day: ‘Under the Boards’: http://www.studlife.com/archives/Cadenza/2007/11/07/SavestheDayUndertheBoards/

[3] Bookstores: http://www.studlife.com/archives/Cadenza/2002/07/20/Bookstores/

[4] Beyond the bookstore: Finding your textbooks for reasonable prices: http://www.studlife.com/archives/special-issues/freshman-press/2006/08/28/BeyondthebookstoreFindingyourtextbooksforreasonableprices/

[5] Bookstore isn’t to blame for high prices: http://www.studlife.com/archives/Forum/2006/01/25/Bookstoreisnttoblameforhighprices/

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