Renting College Textbooks Can Be An Even Bigger Ripoff Than Buying Them
Ah, college days. They are full of fun, excitement and learning new things. A lot of bright-eyed college students are excited to start working in their chosen career. However, there often is just one small problem. The fact of the matter is, many college students are shell-shocked to learn just how expensive going to a university can be. Everything from the tuition to transportation costs and the books can all cost money. Unfortunately, some of it can cost a lot of serious money. Of course, the first hurdle to clear would be the tuition. However, after you get that paid off, then you have the college textbooks to contend with. These can be very expensive to say the least. Of course, some college students have figured out that “renting” a college textbook can be a lot cheaper than out-and-out purchasing it. However, unless one is careful renting a college textbook can become just as much of a rip off as actually buying one. Are you thinking going the rental route with your textbooks? That’s all well and good, but here are some things you should consider first:
Yes, it’s cheaper to rent a book. However, there are some serious downsides.
There is no question that renting your college books is a much cheaper way of obtaining them than outright buying them. One anecdotal case had college bookstores selling many of their books for $160 and offering them for a rental price of $35. There is one small problem with this setup, though. First of all, when renting a textbook, it is imperative for students to return them on time. If the student fails to return the book on time, it could be mean they are subject to some “over-compensatory” late fees. One example was of a student who rented a $136 Italian language textbook, but was then charged $315 from a collection agency after he returned it late. He had to work extra hours at his bartending job in order to pay the humongous late fee.
There is no “across the board” standard for late fees.
When it comes to the privilege students have to rent textbooks, doing research ahead of time is key. Even if they rent books all of the time, if they have done it with a lenient company before that doesn’t mean that a different company will be as lenient when it comes to late fees. Indeed, one of the worst offenders when it comes to late charges for renting textbooks would have to be Barnes and Noble College Bookstore at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, New York. When a student does return one of their textbook rentals on time, this bookstore will generally charge 75% of what a new book would cost and a 7.5% processing fee. Considering that many of these books are upwards of $200 or more, that would roughly be a late fee of $150 for a college student who is often already strapped for cash as it is.
Thinking this might be a good situation for a class-action lawsuit? Think again.
Of course, in normal situations, these humongous abuses of late fees for renting a book would be ripe for the pickings for a class action lawsuit. But before all you legal majors start making this your thesis project, please be aware that in many of these bookstores there is a clause that specifically prevents such an action. For example, at Amazon and many other college booksellers there is a clause that specifically states that “customer disputes be handled through arbitration.” This essentially kills any chance of a class-action lawsuit succeeding. Of course, the student still has the option of mounting a legal challenge on their own, but no one is going to go to such humongous expense just over late fees of just a couple hundred dollars.
So how does a college student go about avoiding this unfortunate and needless expense when they rent textbooks? One word: organization. They need to be fully aware of just when the deadline is for returning the textbook and have the process fully completed by then. Although there are many legal experts that would argue that this practice of charging exorbitant late fees could be illegal, about the only recourse the student has at this time is just being certain the books are returned on time. Of course, there are alternatives to getting a hard copy. If you can function with an online version of your college textbook, there are many internet storefronts available and you definitely would avoid the hassle of these humongous late fees.