A new policy at the UC Davis Bookstore has students thinking twice before they purchase texts for waitlisted classes.
The UC Davis Bookstore is now charging a 10 percent fee on all returned books in an effort to cut the losses it usually experiences on returned textbooks. The 10 percent restocking fee follows a trend in campus bookstores across the state, including UC Riverside and San Jose State University, and is the industry standard for restocking fees.
“The problem that we’ve experienced is the amount of returns we’ve had, which comes to approximately $1 million each quarter. What we have seen over the course of several years is an escalation in terms of the returns we’re taking at the store,” said Charles Kratochvil, director of the UC Davis Bookstore.
The restocking fee was put into place in an effort to discourage waitlisted students from purchasing books that they may not end up needing, and to ensure that enrolled students will have access to the textbooks they need.
“A book not in a student’s hand for a full week of school is almost disastrous in the quarter system,” Kratochvil said.
To return unsold books, the bookstore has to cover the cost of freight and shipping to the publisher, which often charges its own set of restocking charges.
Since the beginning of fall quarter, the bookstore has witnessed a 47 percent drop in returns, totaling $368,039 less in returns compared to returns in fall 2008.
There are three circumstances in which the restocking fee does not apply: when courses are cancelled by the university, when the faculty has changed textbook requirements and when a SISWEB printout verifying proof of a dropped class is presented within seven days of dropping.
“I think that everyone is unhappy about it when they see it right away,” said Jason Lorgan, book department manager. “But when [the set of circumstances] is explained, it relieves them. People who this hasn’t relieved have said they’ve been upset because they were buying it until their Internet order came in.”
While Kratochvil and Lorgan have not directly received negative feedback from students about the restocking fee, student reactions have reached micro-blogging site Twitter, where one student called the restocking fee “ridiculous and a rip-off,” and mentioned that she won’t be buying her books from or selling them to the bookstore in the future.
According to Kratochvil, the UC Davis bookstore is the cheapest of any of the other UCs for both new and used textbooks, with used textbooks retailing at 75 percent of the original value.
To maintain their promise of the cheapest textbooks to students, the bookstore promises to match the lowest retail price on the market.
“We guarantee the lowest price. What we can’t be competitive with is when a student sells a book to another student, but we accept that,” Kratochvil said.
Since winter 2008, the bookstore tripled the number of lowest price matches, from 195 in winter 2008 to 609 in spring 2009. This lowest price guarantee also helps the bookstore compete against increasingly popular online retailers like Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com.
“The affordability of textbooks is very important to us. I look at why textbooks are so expensive and how we can make them more affordable. It is our desire to make them as affordable as possible,” Kratochvil said.
GABRIELLE GROW can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.