The Bookstore at New Paltz came under a lot of heat from both professors and students for being ill-prepared for the wave of textbook-searching students this semester. Disorganization, a lack of books and continuous delays left many frustrated. To combat these issues, an open forum was held on Oct. 3 at noon in SUB 63 where anyone was welcome to voice their concerns and brainstorm solutions.
About a dozen professors attended, but there was an apparent absence of student interest.
“I wish there had been more people there, but I felt those that were, students, administrators and faculty were very engaged and participated fully in the discussion,” Steve Deutsch, executive director of Campus Auxiliary Services, said.
Neebo, a bookstore management company, held an open discussion which was led by Garrett Barton, the recently appointed regional manager and Sean Mulloy, the interim general manager. They explained to the audience why issues arose this semester and how they plan on fixing things as well as how to draw in business.
To encourage sales, the bookstore offers a “Best Price Promise.” If a student finds a textbook less expensive than the price offered at the bookstore, they can show proof of the lower price and purchase the book for 10 percent less than that price to ensure that the bookstore has the better price compared to competitors.
Despite this promotion, Barton said that $935,000 worth of books was left sitting on the shelves last year. Managers base their order numbers for upcoming semesters by reviewing data history. Therefore, about half the number of books were ordered for the fall semester to prevent a great loss in money again. But as Barton said, the previous numbers were skewed due to Hurricane Irene damaging the store right before the start of the fall 2011 semester.
This semester, there were $460,000 worth of books left over, but students still complained about empty shelves.
“The teacher was going to base her class around that textbook and none of us had it,” said Jobson.
First-year student, Dylan Rose, said he had a negative experience with the bookstore.
“I ordered a composition package online at the end of July and they said it would ship within 2-3 business days, but it didn’t arrive until the second week into school,” said Rose. He was forced to pay for extra shipping costs because his mother had to mail it from his home to school.
To obtain accurate data for future ordering, Barton said the store will acquire enough books for each student enrolled in every class for the upcoming spring and fall semesters. This will allow him to see how many students are actually ordering from the bookstore as opposed to outside competitors such as Amazon, Chegg or local outlets like Inquiring Minds.
However, inaccurate book totals due to Hurricane Irene cannot be the sole cause of the bookstore’s dilemmas, according to Barton.
At the end of each semester professors are required to fill out adoption forms which state whether or not they plan on using the same textbooks next semester. The earlier the forms are sent to the manager, the sooner books are ordered and shipped to the store for next semester. This process also allows students to receive more money when they sell back their textbooks at the end of the semester. For example, the deadline for adoption papers for every fall semester is April 15 of the spring semester. If the manager knows that a book for a specific class will be used again, he/she can offer more money in buy-backs because the book will still be useful. However, history shows that professors are having difficulty getting adoption papers in on time.
Collectively, the group ended the forum agreeing to improve on communication between professors and the manager to expedite the adoption form process. One idea that James Schiffer, Dean of liberal arts and sciences, brought up was to re-amp the bookstore advisor committee that was instated in the past, but has since drifted apart.
Mulloy also ensured the audience that he would make himself known to professors and even visit them personally to remind them to hand in their adoption forms.
“I thought the forum was a success,” said Deutsch. “I felt that people walked away feeling as though they were heard and the new managers of the bookstore were made aware of important issues. I would say that issues were not resolved, that was not the purpose of the forum, but were addressed and I feel confident that performance in bookstore will improve in the short and long term.”