How bookstores steal your cash

What I always found to be the central notion of the short-lived “back to school” weeks was the absurd amount of money, hard earned or otherwise, that virtually evaporates in preparations for the upcoming semester. This is the creation of the “starving student,” and lasts anywhere from two to five years. Really, it’s just a big scam.

To put it in perspective, I have personally spent $2100 on books and tuition so far for the fall 2010 semester of the communications program at Capilano University. This is relatively inexpensive compared to, say, business studies at SFU. Speaking of expensive, at SFU your average four course semester will set you back around $3500, not including the exorbitant prices they demand for food.

Let’s not forget that some of you, especially the freshmen, deck yourselves out with all new technological gear and top-of-the-line stationery. That soon will become very secondary when you see the prices for books. Very, very secondary.

A big point worth mentioning is the sale and buyback of books that goes on at the beginning and end of each semester. Seemingly, this is a good way of getting some of your money back for books that you will never thumb through ever again.

I did a bit of research at the Capilano U bookstore to see what the book prices were for various courses. The average price for major courses like psychology, accounting, and microeconomics is roughly $140 for a new book and about $110 for a used one. Since the bookstore had not started the buyback yet, no figures were available for what the value is for buybacks. Generally, you can sell a book back for around one third of what you paid.

What is enraging about this situation is that they resell the used books at only a 20 to 30 per cent discount, making a juicy 100 per cent profit. How? Well, the average mark-up for any book at university bookstores is somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent. That is industry standard according to former American Psychological Society president Henry L. Roediger III.
So if a psychology textbook is marked up to $140, and you are given an optimistic 40 per cent, or $56, through a buyback, the book will be resold for around $110, leaving a profit of 109 per cent. This is probably the biggest, most vulgar con that nearly every educational institution perpetrates on students. The people that mastermind this plot are the same kind that feed dogs chocolate dipped Jalapenos.

Now, you can go and blame the Liberals for the insane price of universities in BC. You can even claim that the whole education system, in collaboration with credit and loan agencies and publishing houses, is really just a trap to lock you, the student, into the nation’s enslaving credit system and start sucking you dry before you even have anything close to a career. If you hold that position and opinion, then you are most definitely right, but really the only thing that can be done in the short run is this: be smarter with your money.

Stop being sheep and wasting your money on “wants” instead of “needs.” Clothes for example. No one remembers what you wore last April, and quite frankly, less people give a rat’s tit what you’re going to wear this September. Also, cramming ten nights of partying into two weeks before the start of the semester will only act as napalm on your bank account and will leave you with nothing to drink away some of the pain induced by 7000 word research essays and exam season. In all sincerity, this is probably when you’re going to need a drink the most.

//Sasha Lakic   

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