Biff!!! Zowee!!! Kapow!!!
No, you're not watching an old Batman rerun. And I'm not doing a one-on-one interview with consumers pumping gas at their local service station.
This is the sound of my wallet being beaten to death while trying to buy college textbooks.
As most of my blogfriends know, I'm going back to college alongside the Big Kid. I always wanted to get my Paralegal Certificate, and circumstances being what they are, now is a great time to do it.
Classes start next week.
The college we're attending is promoting the heck out of its "Women's Re-entry Program".
Let me say that again.
Ha! Ha ha ha ha ha! And Ha!
I've already commented on my difficulty with the entire admissions process in previous posts.
Big Kid and I don't qualify for any financial aid or grants.
That's ok. We qualify for in-state tuition, and it's a--koff--bargain.
But even at used prices, the books we require for our classes from our college bookstore are a little over 1/4 of our total combined tuition.
That's if there are any used books available. Tack on another 30% or more for new books.
I understand that colleges rely on revenue from the bookstores, but this has become outrageous.
Instead of competitively pricing their textbooks, they exert an enormous amount of energy and manpower to keep you from being able to buy them elsewhere.
It's reminiscent of the old Colorado Mining Camps. There's only one store in the camp, and it's owned by The Company. You gotta buy your supplies there at a huge mark-up, simply because there's no place else to shop.
You'd imagine that colleges would have grown out of that mind-set in this age of the internet.
When the Big Kid came back from college last spring, he was an absolute medical mess. He had to re-take two of the classes he failed that last semester down in the city over the summer because they were required.
I called the bookstore to find out if the English 121 book he had at the previous college (we paid $93.79 for it) was also used for THIS English 121 class.
They refused to tell me. I asked for the ISBN number, and was refused.
"You have to come to the book store personally to ask. We're not allowed to give this information over the phone."
So we went down into the city, we had the wrong book, and shelled out another $72 (used) for the correct one.
Afterwords, just for comparative purposes, I went to Alibris online and found out that we could have purchased either book, used and in excellent condition, for around $35.00.
So this time, I got the info available on the college website (author's last name, abbreviated title, edition, astronomical price) and went to Alibris first off. Found the closest matches, including ISBN and went to the bookstore to compare, along with our class schedules.
Half of the books we needed weren't even there. There were just empty sections with tags where the books were supposed to be.
I asked the lovely young clerk with a Charlie's Angels-do about it. She came over and took a look at the empty spaces and said, "Well, we're out. You'll have to go buy them at the main campus (far far away) or order them online from our website. You can pick them up here at the end of the week."
I said, "Can I at least get the ISBN numbers or titles so I know what I'm ordering?"
She gave me the hairy eyeball and snapped, "We're not allowed to give that information out!". And flipped her hair and flounced away.
If we choose NOT to order from the campus bookstore, we have to show up at class the first day unprepared because the college refuses to tell us what exact materials we need, either on the phone or in person?
How messed up is that?
I stood there helplessly for a moment after Miss Hair stomped off, not knowing what my next step should be. Then I turned my head.
The freaking tags in front of the empty spaces had the ISBN numbers printed large as life!
So I whipped out my pen and copied them down while she glared at me from behind the counter.
When I got home, I went to Clevermoms coupon site and got an online coupon for 20 bucks off a purchase of $100.00 at Alibris.
Even with expedited shipping (around 25 dollars), I purchased mostly NEW books and saved almost $300.00 off the "used" price the college offered.
What in the heck is wrong with this picture?
I would have been more than happy to forgo the high shipping price and the wait for delivery if I could have bought these same books at a reasonable mark-up at the college bookstore.
I don't MIND supporting the college as long as they aren't strong-arming me and robbing me blind!
But you know, in the end, they got me.
When I left the bookstore (which was hot and airless), I stopped by the nearby vending machine kiosk.
Put a dollar bill in to get a Diet Pepsi. Clicked on the button, nothing. Clicked on a different button, nothing.
So I hit the change return.
Got 3 quarters back.
Looked at a little note taped on the machine.
"For refunds go to the bookstore and request forms B4 or B7".
Thought about facing Miss Hair again.
Pocketed the quarters and scrammed.
I'll just use them for the parking meters that charge $1.00 an hour in the required student fee-paid (whether you have a car or not) parking lot.