When TJ Riordan bought a book for his Managerial Accounting class, he had no idea how thoroughly it would prepare him for the course. Upon removing the book from its glossy shrink-wrap, Riordan discovered another student’s homework wedged within its pages.
Though the book had been packaged and sold as new at the USF Bookstore, the papers found inside it suggested otherwise.
“I immediately took the book back to the Bookstore,” Riordan, a business major, said. “I asked one of the girls working there, ‘when you sell a new book, it’s actually new, right?’ She looked at me like I was crazy until I said, ‘I mean, if this book’s supposed to be new, why is some girl’s homework in it?’ and explained what happened.”
Confused, the sales representative turned to textbook manager Todd Urbansky, who exchanged Riordan’s old book for a new one.
“Packaging used books and selling them as new ones is certainly not a policy of ours,” Urbansky said. “It’s something we’d never knowingly do. I’ve never seen anything like that happen here before.”
Criminology and International Studies major Nicole Albright had a similar problem. When she took the shrink-wrap off a textbook she bought as new from the USF Bookstore, she found that the first three chapters had been highlighted.
“They were very nice and happy to refund me the difference between the price of a new version and the price of the old version,” Albright wrote in an e-mail. “I’m sure it was a simple mistake, and they fixed it for me right away.”
Riordan said he was more concerned that the Bookstore was trying to pass off new-looking used books as new ones to increase profits than dealing with the hassle of having to return his textbook. However, the Bookstore does not shrink-wrap new book packages, such as the one Riordan bought, according to USF Bookstore general manager Grace McQueen.
Instead, books are packaged by the distributors and then shipped to college bookstores. In order to prevent used books from being confused with new ones, McQueen said all books the Bookstore purchases from students are marked with ‘used’ stamps and stickers directly at the Buyback window before they reach another section of the Bookstore.
“Most of the students returning books right now are returning them because they have dropped the course that the textbook was needed for,” McQueen said. “The only thing I can think of is that a student took the book to her first class and decided to drop the course, and she accidentally left notes from the class inside it. Since the book was just purchased, it was still a new book – meaning no markings were in it and she had a receipt showing she just bought it – so we repackaged it.”
Though this explains how Riordan’s book could have appeared as new, Bookstore managers are less certain how the highlighted book Albright received could have been repackaged as a new one.
“We do shrink-wrap used book packages, but I’m not sure how the student could’ve gotten a used book package and paid full price for it,” McQueen said. “Obviously, we’d give students a full refund if this happened to them. They have receipts that prove how much they paid.”
With a receipt, students can receive a full refund for any book they have purchased during the first week of classes, as long as they haven’t written in it. These books are still technically new because the original buyer never used them, save for taking them home or to a first class.
Should a student attempt to return a new book during drop/add week that shows signs of wear, however, the student will only be able to receive 50 percent of the book’s ‘new’ price, and the Bookstore will sell the book as a used one, McQueen said.
“We’re managed by Barnes & Noble and under contract with USF. Because of Barnes & Noble’s reputation and the trust USF has put in the company, we’d never knowingly engage in such an ethical problem,” said McQueen. “We cater to students, and there’s nothing we’d want to do to lose their trust.”