Bookstore policy potentially confusing

Shane Finneran

Nursing student Shantell Lacy attempted to return a textbook at the City College bookstore on Feb. 8 but gave up after speaking to the cashier, who mentioned that the last day for a full refund was Jan. 29.

“They should at least give us until the middle of February,” Lacy said.

What Lacy didn’t realize — and what the large return-policy sign hanging near the cashier station didn’t mention — is that after Jan. 29, the bookstore will work with customers who believe they deserve their money back.

“The store folks make exceptions every day for refunds,” said Nancy Wichmann, bookstore manager for the district.

For example, customers who can provide proof that they dropped a class are likely able to return a textbook from that class. A student facing military deployment should also be entitled to a refund.

Lacy said she had hoped to get her money back because her professor told her that the book, originally a required text, wasn’t necessary after all. According to Wichmann, the bookstore will try to issue refunds in such situations after consulting with the professor to figure out why the book was originally listed as required.

Dee Porter, who runs the City College bookstore, reiterated its commitment to serving its student customers.

“We will always err on the side of the student,” Porter said.

In an email interview, Professor Darius Spearman said some of his students were hesitant to buy books because they were not sure if they were going to be able to add a class.

“I had suggested that they just buy the books and follow along with the assignments, assuming that they could return them by the Feb. 4 (add/drop) deadline,” Spearman wrote. Some of his students responded that the bookstore’s return period ended a week earlier, on Jan. 29.

Wichmann and Porter explained to City Times that — as indicated in the formal refund policy, a half-page blurb available in the bookstore — it’s actually the no-questions-asked return period that ended on Jan. 29.

That period was adjusted in fall 2010, when the district’s bookstores began selling each semester’s textbooks a few weeks earlier than usual. The earlier start to selling was required by updates to the Higher Education Act, which governs federal student aid programs.

The bookstores at UCSD and SDSU also end their broad return period before the add/drop period ends on their campuses. Those bookstores remain willing to consider issuing refunds for students who drop classes.

Similarly, City College’s bookstore is willing to work with customers who have valid reasons to return textbooks after the initial return deadline — though some students might not realize it.

“A lot of my students did not understand that to be the case,” Spearman said.