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April 13, 2015

CSU bookstore offers little known textbook discount

By Melanie Morris

Shopping for textbooks can be a stressful and expensive experience. Viking Outfitters, Cleveland State University’s bookstore, attempts to make the process a little more affordable by offering a program that can give students a discount.

The Best Price Promise allows students to show the staff at the bookstore a lower price they’ve found for a book they want to purchase. After the staff double checks and verifies the price and its source, the bookstore will sell the book for 10 percent less than that price.

This program has been available in one form or another since 2006. However, School of Communication Professor Eileen Berlin Ray said she doesn’t believe that most students know the program exists.

“Ask your students if they know about this,” she said in an email to other professors in an attempt to spread the word. “I’m betting that most don’t.”

Keith McCann, director of the bookstore, said the program has in fact been promoted in various ways. Posters are put up around campus before the start of a semester, students receive a folder with information about the program at orientation and if you’ve shopped at the bookstore before, you’re likely to receive an email about the program before a semester starts.

McCann said that there’s usually a steady stream of students requesting the program at the beginning of every term. Although the program seems straightforward, students must pay attention to the fine print.

“There are restrictions and that is where the challenge may lie in why the word about the program doesn’t make it to everyone,” McCann said.

He explained that marketplace or consolidator websites are not considered eligible comparisons. In other words, websites like Amazon and eBay — where an individual is selling a book at their own price — cannot be used.

Amazon Prime and Barnes & Noble are examples of websites that can be used because these books are stocked, shipped and owned by these companies. Chegg can be used in certain circumstances; the book must come with all of its components (CDs, access codes, etc.) and if Chegg doesn’t specify whether the book is new or used, it’s considered used by the bookstore.

The program is only available for in-store transactions and students can use either a printed copy or an electronic version as proof of the lower price. The bookstore will then research the item and use the price they find.

“You’d be surprised how often the price we verify is even lower than what the student shows us,” McCann said.

Students can use the program for both buying books and renting as long as the ISBN and advertised condition of the book match up. McCann recommends that students be informed of their options.

“If a student decides to do the research and they find a better eligible price, then they get rewarded,” he said.

Not all students find the program to be beneficial, though. Kaley Bond, a senior psychology major, has heard about the program but has never used it.

“I always order my books online because it’s still way cheaper than 10 percent off,” she said.

Not all students feel the same. Mark Morris, a freshman criminal justice major, wishes he would’ve known about the program when he bought his books last semester. He had to shop at the bookstore because he didn’t order his books online in time for the start of his classes.

“Since I had no other option than to buy from the bookstore, I could’ve used the program to my advantage,” he said. “I probably would’ve saved some money.”

While the exact payback depends on each transaction, Berlin Ray encourages students to give it a try. She said the bookstore should interview students about their experience and make changes based on the feedback.

“I think the program sounds promising but not if students don’t know about it,” she said. “Students should definitely consider it.”