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Coop Announces 1 Percent Rebate

By Rishi Shrivastava

The Harvard Cooperative Society announced a 1.0 percent patronage rebate for fiscal year 1992. The patronage rebate is a refund Coop members receive based on their purchases in year.

The rebate is a slight drop from the 1.1 percent rebate issued last year. The rebate was 5.5 percent in 1990 and 5.0 percent in 1991. Financial difficulties have caused the rebate level to drop in the last two years, according to a Coop press release.

The Coop's problems resulted from "the difficult economic environment which persists in the New England region," the press release said. Total sales dropped by $3.5 million to $53.4 million, although membership increased by 5,696 to a new high of 134,510 active members.

Caryl B. Brown G, a student member of the Coop board of directors, said that people are spending less money because the economy is still in recovery.

Coop members may also have spent less money because last year's rebate was so low, according to Coop President Jeremiah P. Murphy Jr. He added that Coop members account for 53 to 55 percent of sales.

The press release revealed that Coop earnings increased by $9,714, which excluded refunds and included tax deductions. This increase in earnings had resulted partly from steps the Coop had made to control personnel and health costs, according to the press release.

Despite the drop in sales, the Coop plans to maintain competitive prices. Murphy said that MIT students will continue to receive a 15 percent discount on clothing with an MIT insignia when they present their student identification.

The Coop plans to "examine the potential for new initiatives, such as an expanded mail program" and to "upgrade its facilities and merchandising concepts," according to press releases.

Customer satisfaction addressed

Murphy said that to increase sales, the Coop will have to maintain competitive prices and continue orienting its merchandise to fit customer needs.

With the help of students from the Sloan School of Management, the Coop has sought to determine customer needs and increase customer satisfaction. For example, the Coop now sells Levis Jeans and computer software in its Student Center location.

Brown said that the addition of scanners at cash registers speeds up check-out lines and illustrates the Coop's commitment to customer service.

Murphy said the Coop relocated the women's department to the back of the store and upgraded the walls in an effort to please customers. The women's underwear section was located just inside the Kendall Square store's main entrance.

Student reaction to the announced rebate was overwhelmingly negative. Vinod Rangarajan '97 said, "I don't like the rebate because prices are too high to start with and you don't get much back anyway. It makes me want to shop at other stores."

Marjorie J. Cresta '94 agreed. She did not believe that the low rebate was justified, despite the present economic downturn, she said.