Students unhappy with university’s used book buyback system

Because money is not in abundance for the average student, he/she will do what is possible to save here and there. What better way to make a little pocket change than sell used course textbooks that will likely never be needed once the course is completed? It may appear to be an excellent way to go about doing so, but students feel the system put in place by Laurier is unfair.

“I think it’s unfair,” says second-year Criminology student, Natasha Holland. She elaborates, sharing one of her own experiences, “We pay high prices for textbooks that we need, which if fine, that’s original price, and I understand that. I paid $100 for a book for a religion course and at the buyback they offered around $10. I don’t see why the buyback prices couldn’t be more reasonable.”

Laurier, like many other universities across North America, hires an external source to buy back students’ used textbooks. Follett, in Canada since 1983, is hired by Laurier, and in Brantford, each year sets up at the Research and Academic Centre West wing lobby. Here, students can take their used textbooks that they no longer need, and in exchange, receive some cash.

Although this is an easily accessible and advertised option, students still feel that they are being “ripped off,” when often offered very little money for their used books, even if in reasonably good condition.

Natalie Wasik, a fourth-year Concurrent Education student, certainly feels this way. She says, based on her observation, “Students buy textbooks for the full amount from the bookstore, but when they go to sell them at the buyback, they are given less than half the amount back or sometimes even less.”

Since trying to sell some of her used textbooks at the buyback in her first year at the university, Wasik has not gone back, feeling that Follett “cheaps out the student,” and tells the student that the book is “not in demand.”

“I don’t know what they do with these texts that they say are not in demand,” says Wasik.

While students express dismay over the current system, bookstore management had a more optimistic view.

“As far as a buyback system goes, I feel this is the best system that is available, for both students and the university,” says Tara Velanoff, the Brantford campus manager of retail, printing and distribution services. “I can understand the students’ frustrations; I was a student once. I want to offer the best we can to the students.”

Velanoff explains that Follett does market research, by analyzing the demand for and whether or not there is a newer edition of the used textbooks all over North America. Because of these factors, according to Velanoff, the buyback prices that the selling students are offered seem low.

Michael Zybala, the associate director of the bookstore systems at Laurier, believes that the program in place is “really good,” adding that students, “in most cases, are getting the value for the books they are selling back.”

Regarding the student sentiment of being “cheaped out,” Zybala still feels that although unfortunate that some students will receive low buyback rates due to low demand, these students are still getting the “top dollar.”

Kayla Doucette, a third-year Contemporary Studies in Child Education student, is also unhappy with the buyback system. She sees the external company as undermining the students’ need for money for school.

“I still just find it frustrating, because it seems all companies are just in it for the profits, and it’s already hard to afford the education on top of books. So to offer such low prices almost seems like a slap in the face, seeing as we are already in debts from our education,” says Doucette.

Doucette, Holland and Wasik all agree that the best way to solve the problem immediately was use alternative options, one of which is to sell directly to other students who need the used textbooks for the same courses. Velanoff suggests that students might want to consider doing some of their research to determine the market value of their items and then decide which course of action to take.

Zybala reiterated his belief that the university’s current program is “really good” and that “it’s important that students understand the process, and that we can help them make an informed decision.”

Kayla Doucette has her own ideas for solving this problem. She suggests cutting out the middle man, Follett, and the school taking matters completely into its own hands, by conducting the buyback on its own.

“The university should be doing it themselves and giving people at least a decent amount back seeing as most professors don’t care what version of textbooks students use,” Doucette suggests.

Currently, students also have the option to advertise the used textbooks they wish to sell over a Facebook group called “Laurier Brantford Used Books.” With over 2,600 members in the group, it continues to be a popular place for students to sell their unwanted academic literature. With continuing discontent over the university’s system, this group could become the new system.

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