BYU Bookstore: Taking More Than You Think

This article may seem out of place for a family-focused publication; however, it represents the new direction that Stance is moving. No longer are we merely about families, we are also for families, a publication that discusses a broad spectrum of topics that families, and others, are interested in and can benefit from. Financial issues, as this article highlights, fall squarely in that category. 


by Dustin Schwanger

In the hustle and bustle of the new semester, we are trying to find the quickest and easiest (and cheapest) ways of getting the things we need, especially books. When I was about to start my semesterly ritual of getting my booklist and looking everything up on Amazon or, trying at all costs to avoid the lines and prices at the bookstore, I found that you can buy your books from the bookstore online, and the used prices were even cheaper than the other online sellers. How convenient! So, I ordered the two used books that I needed and was satisfied that I got the best deal—I didn’t even have to pay shipping.

After I ordered the books, I got the usual “we received your order” and the “we processed your order” emails. For some reason I opened both of these emails. I noticed that the first email said that I was charged the used book price, but the second email said that I was charged the new book price. After calling the bookstore to fix the error and being told that it wasn’t a mistake—that the new book was substituted, without my knowing, because there were no used copies—I decided to pick up the books to see whether anyone would tell me, assuming that I didn’t open those emails as most students don’t, that my order had been changed. No one did. I promptly, then, walked to another desk across the hall and returned those books.

There are two major problems with this situation. First, I agreed to pay only the used book price. I didn’t permit them to take anything else out of my bank account. And second, the biggest issue, How many students don’t read the “we processed your order” email and inadvertently buy the new books? How much more money is the bookstore taking from unaware students?

These are the questions I brought up to the bookstore’s customer service. The employee who responded to my email was very gracious and said that from that moment, students would be  notified in both emails that it is possible for a substitution to be made and that “by this Monday [it was Friday, August 15, when he emailed], a student will be notified about the substitution before adding a book to the shopping cart.” I was, again, completely satisfied.

Today, Saturday, August 25, I decided that I would see whether these changes were actually implemented. So, I bought one of the same books that I had previously bought, but no message appeared telling me that a substitution had been made. (This made me worry that my curiosity had just cost me $65.) In both subsequent emails there was a small disclaimer at the bottom of the email saying that there is a possibility that new books could be substituted for used. However, just as before, the first email said that I was charged the used book price and the second, the new book price. The bookstore didn’t follow through with its commitment.

This lack of follow-through still begs the questions, How many students don’t notice that they are actually buying a new book when they were expecting to buy a used one, and how much extra money is the bookstore getting through not explicitly telling students that they are buying new books when they thought they were buying used? If this issue is resolved, I will immediately write another article expressing that fact, but until then, the bookstore should feel the displeasure of the students it is meant to serve through our buying everything we can from other vendors—no matter how inconvenient.