The Occidental Bookstore’s new policy, which forces students to prove that they dropped a class in order to return books, represents the continuation of a broader Bookstore effort that attempts to protect itself from the free market rather than compete within it. The Bookstore ought to change course and compete in the free market instead of instituting anti-consumer policies designed to shelter itself from the market because, in America, that is how business works.
The bookstore’s flawed policy is aimed at denying students the ability to quickly buy the books for the first week of classes while ordering their books online, and then returning their books when their order arrives. And while several bookstore employees assure this board that this is a significant problem, the problem is rooted in the bookstore’s insistence on protecting itself from the market while jacking up prices instead of participating in the market by offering competitive pricing. If the bookstore changed its business model into one more compatible with a free market system, it wouldn’t have this problem because people would just buy from the bookstore outright, considering the massive competitive advantage the bookstore retains in convenience.
While the bookstore is correcting its return policy, it should also change its “voucher system” to avoid confusing students. The first step is to stop telling students, especially first-years, that they get a “600-dollar voucher,” because that term can be confusing. It may be okay to give students the option to bill expenses to their student account instead of using a credit card or cash, but don’t confuse them by saying they have a “voucher” to do that with. (In this day and age, maybe because of the social security debate’s use of the word “voucher,” people associate the word with free money). Secondly, the respective student account systems (e.g. the bookstore voucher system) allow students to purchase with ease and even promote a mentality where one can begin to forget they are even spending real money, because unlike even a credit card, some students will likely never even see that bill that they are racking up. Let’s practice good consumer protection at Occidental by reforming the “voucher” system – and let’s start by giving it a more honest name.
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