The University Bookstore is one of the most convenient ways to get textbooks at the beginning of each semester, but its return policy is restrictive and often leaves students in the dark.
According to the bookstore’s website, students can return textbooks during the first week of classes for a full refund, as long as they have the original receipt. After the first week of classes, students can return textbooks for up to 30 days, but they must show proof of a schedule change in addition to the original receipt. Before the bookstore adopted this policy, students only had two weeks to return textbooks. The new policy was introduced and reviewed when the University renewed its contract with Barnes & Noble College in 2016.
Although the bookstore has extended the amount of time students have to return textbooks, the Editorial Board still believes that this is an unfair policy for a few reasons. First and foremost, the language used in the return policy is vague and misleading. The policy states, “A full refund will be given in your original form of payment if textbooks are returned during the first week of classes with original receipt.” However, the length of the first week of classes may be different each semester — classes sometimes do not begin until the middle of the week, and students are only given until that Friday to return books with no proof of a schedule change. That is not nearly enough time for some students to determine whether or not they want to keep their textbooks. The bookstore does not specify that “the first week of classes” does not mean the first seven days of classes; it could be as few as three days.
Moreover, professors often say that texts are required before the course begins, but then find alternative texts or decide not to use a text that was originally planned, prompting students to return their textbooks. Additionally, we have numerous ways of obtaining textbooks online or through other students, and we may decide to return our textbooks in order to save money. Textbooks can be a huge investment for students, and bookstore student-employees even recommend more cost-efficient options like Chegg and Amazon to students who are concerned with affordability.
In reality, a student who intends to rent textbooks from the bookstore each semester is left with few options under the current policy. Either a student can attempt to be proactive and preorder the required materials while running into the risk of having to return books within the small window, or a student can alternatively wait until classes meet, rush to purchase the books during the add/drop period and potentially miss assignments pertaining to required readings.
This Editorial Board believes that the bookstore should accept textbook returns until the end of the add/drop period, with no restrictions. Although having 30 days is better than having two weeks to return books, as the return policy previously allowed, students do not necessarily need 30 days to make a decision on whether or not to keep their books. It seems almost pointless to allow 30 days to return books if there is going to be such a large restriction anyway. During the add/drop period, students know what courses they plan to continue on with and what textbooks they will need for the rest of the semester, and we should certainly not have to show proof of a schedule change.
Perhaps the Bookstore Advisory Committee, a group of faculty, staff and students that works alongside Auxiliary Services to advise on bookstore procedures, can work together to change the policy. It’s certainly positive that the bookstore engages with the community once a year during committee meetings, and if it wants to meet the needs of students, the bookstore should work to change the return policy.
The bookstore should be on our side. It is here to serve us and help us obtain our required materials in pursuit of academic success, not to create unfair policies that negatively affect us.