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A square deal from an obtuse bookstore

By Bradford Senning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 2, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Bradford Senning

We demand that business give the people a square deal. In return we must insist that when anyone engaged in business honestly endeavors to do right he shall be given a square deal."

So said Teddy Roosevelt in 1913. And it's hardly less important today, when business is given so much breathing room in such a laissez-faire environment, that ethical codes still be based on, well, ethics.

The ASUA Bookstore recently changed its book return policy. You can bring your receipt, your book in perfect condition, even a note from your mom saying what a good kid you are - it doesn't matter, your refund will be paid in in-store credit instead of cash.

Cindy Hawk, Assistant Director of the ASUA Bookstore claims that the bookstore has had to tighten its book refund policy because a lot of people are returning things. With the increased competition of on-line booksellers, the ASUA Bookstore is aghast to discover that students are trying to get back some of what they lost in being screwed by the ASUA Bookstore's high prices.

Now when students return books, they find they have to pay for them anyway, only indirectly by being forced to buy books amounting to or exceeding what they originally paid. Not only that, they have to use the credit slip they are issued within six months. That means if you don't have to buy any books between now and next fall you lose the money.

Let's start at the beginning, page one of the retail management textbook. Refunds are offered to customers to ensure their satisfaction. What retailers have found is that customers make the decision to buy more often because they have the post-purchase option of returning a product. And more often than not, customers are satisfied with what they buy.

I often buy a book at the ASUA Bookstore then check the Arizona Bookstore on Park Ave. or Scholar's Bookstore on Speedway and Tucson Blvd. to see if a used or cheaper copy comes into stock. I'm not a picky customer. I just buy what costs least. If the ASUA Bookstore refuses to give me a cash refund then they will miss the opportunity to sell to me those few times when the books I've bought from them are really the cheapest around.

The Arizona Bookstore and Scholar's Bookstore both give cash refunds and sell books at a fair price. I recommend them. If you are still looking for books, give them a call. The Arizona Bookstore is 622-4717. Scholar's Bookstore is 326-3115.

The ASUA Bookstore finds itself in a kind of monopoly. It has a cozy central location and is accessible. So the bosses feel that they can charge inflated prices and have all sorts of Hitler-inspired policies. They don't feel like they have to compete based on prices because their location causes people to buy regardless of price.

The Arizona Bookstore is just beyond the rock wall on the west side of campus. Scholar's is an easy trot east of campus. There are also web sites that sell textbooks and send them right to your door. Although I don't know their return policies, you might want to give them a try.

If you've already bought from the ASUA Bookstore and got one of those nasty six-month credit slips when you returned unused books, I advise you to save your credit slip until the end of the semester, buy some textbooks and return them immediately. It will be like renewing your credit slip until you need it in the fall. After that slip is all used up, go to a bookstore that doesn't suck.

Liberal arts majors (English, art history, philosophy, etc.) have the option of going to Bookman's on Grant and Campbell or The Book Stop on Campbell two blocks north of Grant. Although they don't carry textbooks, they've got a huge supply of used books, all of them at half the cover price instead of the inflated 75 percent that ASUA charges.

What the ASUA Bookstore implies by making up such a policy is that you are going to take it lying down. We may speak softly, but we carry a big stick. So let them have it. And go to a bookstore that's going to give you a square deal.

Bradford Senning is an American literature and creative writing senior. His commentary appears every Tuesday. He can be reached at