The Bean Blog (currently on hiatus)

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

I Support the Little Guy...To a Point

As I mentioned before, I am returning to school this semester. Last night was my first night. It is weird being back. It's been almost two years since I've taken a class, and as I walked through the familiar hallways, I couldn't help but feel like I'd stepped back in time.

Two years isn't that long, so I was surprised at what I remembered and what I didn't. For instance, I am taking two classes, so I went to the Penn bookstore, which doubles as a standard Barnes & Noble on the first floor, university bookstore on the second floor. I got the books for my French class, which I've been dreading, but I couldn't find the course number for my other class, a sociology class. That was a bit strange considering that the class starts tonight. I was thinking, Maybe there's just a bullpack or something, and then I had one of those forehead slapping moments were I remembered the screwy bookstore situation at Penn. Some professors shun the nice, large, adequately staffed Barnes & Noble because they don't want to support a corporation. So instead of ordering the books from Penn's official bookstore, they order them from one of two other, independent bookstores.

They are both much smaller, but at least one of them, named Penn Book Center, has some room inside of it and during the crunch to get books at the beginning of the semester, they have three registers open and a staff person at each one. The other bookstore, A Room of One's Own (I think), is tiny. They've got two registers but only one credit card machine, and of course everyone is using a credit card. The average cost of books is $120 per class. Now, most kids, even Ivy League kids, aren't carrying $300 or more in cash (if you're buying for more than one class). And this place has these narrow aisles, and you end up being wrapped around the tiny store with 50 or more kids actually standing in line outside the store.

Now, I understand the desire to support the little guy. I really do. But I expect the little guy to make arrangements for the mass traffic descending upon him predictably at the beginning of each semester. How hard would it be, how much money would it cost, to at least up the credit card machines to two? Is that unreasonable? From what I can tell, professors have no idea what it is like at that place. I tell them, "Please, just order from Penn Book Center. It's also independent, but at least they can handle the crowds a little better than A Room of One's Own. Please! Do it for the kids!" When I tell my professors about it, how it's packed full of students, how we're climbing over bodies, pushing and shoving, just to find the damn books in the first place, and then there's the massive wait. Miserable!

I guess it makes sense that I would have forgotten all that. That's just the sort of thing that a girl likes to block from her memory. Tonight, I will go to the Penn Book Center and hope that the sociology book(s) is/are there, and that I will not have to make the dreaded trip to A Room of One's Own.


  • My school has a similar situation. There's the campus book store, which is large and roomy and conveniently located in the student union. These guys have been really bad about supplying books and coursepacks in the past, so many of the professors boycott them and instead order their books through one of three smaller bookstores off campus. One of those three hardly counts since it is so far off campus that I doubt many students use it. Ned's was the original off-campus store, so many professors feel a loyalty to him. Mike, who I understand used to run Ned's, opened his own bookstore near Ned's. Some of the professors who liked Ned's feel a loyalty to Mike since he was the person they always dealt with at Ned's.

    Ned's is small and cramped, but it's nothing compared to the smallness of Mike's. For one thing, the line for books at Mike's is mostly outside the building. Mike has done all he can to make us comfortable out there (like supplying hot or cold beverages for free) but it's still outside. The inside is so small that students can't browse the books themselves. Instead, we approach the counter and give our class list to a staff member. The staff member retrieves our books from the shelves behind the counter. It's kinda nice to have the full-service treatment, but I'm one who likes to pick my books myself.

    Luckily, being an art student means I get to avoid most of the book buying hassle. Don't think I'm getting off cheap, though. Instead of books, I get to drop my cash at our only art supply store.

    By Blogger Whimsy Chick, at 9:22 PM, January 12, 2005  

  • Sometimes I think that professors don't think. The bookstore thing is a great example. I've had many professors talk lovingly of A Room of One's Own as a great bookstore that everyone should go to. Yeah, wonderful. It is a nice bookstore to go to when there aren't 250 students crammed into its narrow aisles. Of course, the profs have made me hate it so much that I never do go to it because of all the bad experiences I've had.

    Another thing professors do that grates on my nerves is say things like, "Oh, it's about 150-200 pages of reading a week. That isn't that bad." Uh, yeah, if that was the only class I was taking, it would be fine. But I'm taking three other classes with professors who also think 150-200 pages a week isn't that bad. And then they're all offended when you don't read everything. Hello! Welcome to the real world!

    Not that I'll ever be a professor, but if I was to become one, I would remember all this bullshit and not subject my students to it.

    By Blogger Oz, at 10:24 AM, January 13, 2005  

  • since they're "smaller" books.. they may not have them.. but i do enjoy buying my books on :) i got a good amount of them on there and saved some pretty pennies. good luck with your classes!

    By Blogger Jean, at 8:10 PM, January 18, 2005  

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