The Lalastack Of Old Books And Glasses

The Campus Bookstore: An Employee’s Advice

If you’ve ever stepped foot on your college campus, you’ve probably been into the bookstore. Some schools have large bookstores with everything from school merchandise to home decor, while others have only the school essentials. Regardless, the bookstore is a spot on campus that nearly every student knows. I’ve worked in the bookstore for a little over a year now. It has its perks and its disadvantages, but I’ve learned a few things. Here’s what I think you need to know about the bookstore.

 

1. We know..

Yes, things are expensive in the bookstore. We know. All the logoed and brand name apparel probably has licensing fees included in the costs. The books are sold to us by the publishers and then we sell them to you at a price that will make a profit, as a capitalist institution does. Please don’t complain to me about the prices. I am but a minimum wage worker who is also spending too much money on school. We can’t lower the prices for you, but there are things you can do to save money at the bookstore.

 

2. Sign up for the mailing list.

Being frugal but still want a school sweatshirt? Join the mailing list! This way, you’ll get an email every time there’s a sale or coupon you can use in the store and you’ll never miss a deal. Some stores also have an app that lets you access coupons (for Barnes & Noble campus stores, the app is My College Bookstore). Lots of stores also have clearance racks, and if the end of a season is coming, you can probably find that cute shirt you’ve been eyeing all semester marked down from its original price. 

 

3. School supplies might be cheaper somewhere else.

If you’re in a pinch, the campus bookstore usually has most of the supplies you need. But a binder costs around $5, a pack of pencils for the same, a composition notebook for $3. Bookstore vouchers from the bursar’s office are great for covering these costs, but not everyone can get those. While we love having customers, we also understand that many college students already struggle with funding, and spending unnecessary amounts on the basics may not be the best option. Most of your fundamentals of school stationery can be purchased at a lower price from your local dollar store. And calculators—especially your TI-84s and TI-89s—can be found cheaper on Amazon or secondhand from other students who no longer need them. Shop around for the best deal!

 

4. There’s not much we can do about the line.

You know which line I’m talking about. The line that wraps around the building while you’re carrying seven pounds of books and supplies for heavens knows how long? Yeah. That one. Unfortunately, the bookstore just gets busy during the first couple weeks of classes. Even when every register is operating, there just is not a way for six people to quickly check out 70 people with 3 or 4 or more books each. 

My advice? Be patient. If you don’t want to be patient, I urge you to reconsider. Once you’ve decided to be patient, if you have the means but still don’t want to wait as long for your books, you can always buy them. The rental process is much longer, which keeps you at the register longer. However, if you prefer to rent, don’t feel guilty! We understand everyone’s circumstances are different and will never rush you or pressure you into buying. You’ve got to do what’s best for you, so don’t worry about the people behind you in line. 

Another tip: order your books online and either pick them up in the store or have them shipped. In our store, once your order is processed, all you need to do is bring your confirmation email with the box number and somebody will hand off the books to you. If you find out after your first classes you picked up a book you don’t actually need, you can always return it. Which brings me to my last point:

 

5. Be crystal clear on the return policy.

For merchandise, the bookstore operates the same as any other retailer: bring in your item with the receipt within a certain time period (usually 30 days) and you can return or exchange it. The book return policy, however, can be confusing. At our store, textbooks can only be fully refunded up until a certain date. After this date passes, you can only get a refund for a book if you have proof you dropped the corresponding class. Loose leaf textbooks that are bundled with an access code must be returned together. Access codes that have been scratched off can’t be taken back.

There’s a lot of rules when it comes to returns, but if you’re ever unsure, just ask an employee. We’re here to help you, and we want you to get what you need. But please don’t get mad at us if we can’t take your return. The return policies are not set by the people in the store; if I could give you your refund I would gladly do so, but the policy is well beyond my pay grade. Triple check your ISBN numbers and always confirm with your professor that you have the correct book or access code.

These are my biggest tips for navigating the campus bookstore experience. One other thing you need to know: bookstore employees are on your team. Most of us are either current students at your school, students at a different school, or recent college graduates. We know what it’s like to be on the other side of the counter, and we don’t want the bookstore to be just another stressful place on campus. Some things are out of our control—c’est la vie—but we will always do our best to help you. If you ever need anything, don’t ever be afraid to ask us!