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Coop Refund Called a Success; Students Not So Sure

By Deborah Cheng

Approximately half of the MIT students who purchased textbooks for the fall term at the Coop at Kendall Square returned between Oct. 17 and 31 to take advantage of a 10 percent textbook refund offer, said Coop President Jeremiah P. Murphy.

Murphy called the refund successful, although he would not disclose exact statistics on how many people made use of the offer. More MIT students than Harvard students took advantage of this refund, he said.

The refund on textbooks was offered in place of a rebate on all general purchases, as the Coop has done in years past, Murphy said. Purchasers were required to bring textbook sales receipts with them to the Coop to take part in the refund, he said.

Murphy did not indicate whether a promotion similar to this term's would go into effect for next term, but said that the decision would be made in December. However, he did say that Coop officials would consider it strongly because of its recent success.

While Murphy was pleased that many people took advantage of the refund - students got back a total of several hundred thousand dollars - he also wondered why more people did not get involved.

Drawbacks to refund offer

Of the students who did not go back for the refund, most either forgot about the promotion or did not feel that it was worth looking for receipts and making the trip back to Kendall.

"My receipts are buried somewhere in my room," said Janelle V. Brown '98.

Most criticism dealt with the service at the Coop. Shihyu Wang '98 said that there were long lines for people waiting to get the refund. The Coop should have made the process more efficient, she said.

Other students complained that the event was not well-publicized.

Murphy felt that the Coop was successful in announcing their promotion. Banners were hung around the stores in Kendall and Harvard Square. In addition, notices were placed in local student newspapers, and fliers announcing the rebate were distributed with every Coop purchase.

A few students felt that the Coop might have raised its prices to counteract the refund.

"I bought a book for a class over the summer and when I compared [the price I paid for] it with the people who bought it this fall, [the Coop] had jacked up the price by like 10 bucks," said Angel R. Martinez '95. As a result, "the rebate was a joke."

Murphy denied that the Coop had taken any such action. "The refund program we decided on was done well after we bought the books and had them on the shelves," he said.

In fact, Coop employees had checked prices at other bookstores, Murphy said. "In all cases, we were selling at the same price or less before the refund," he said.

Another criticism involved the unavailability of certain books during the specified shopping period.

"We wanted to give as long a period" as possible for purchasing books, Murphy said. "Certainly, by the middle of October, everyone should've gotten their books."

Moreover, he said that the Coop was not necessarily responsible for late arrivals. "It depends on the circumstances," he added. "If the professor orders the books [only] two weeks before classes start, then we can't guarantee that they'll be on the shelves in time."

Despite these reservations, most students who did get their refund were generally satisfied.

"It's better than getting nothing, like [we did] last year," said Michael Y. Liu '97.

Murphy said that the refund was mainly a marketing strategy aimed at getting students to return to the Coop. For this reason, refund planners set aside a full one-and-a-half months for students to purchase their textbooks, he said.

A similar promotion was enacted during the 1992 spring semester, but was less successful. At that time, Murphy said, the Coop was experimenting with the promotion and provided a shorter shopping period. The shorter timescale was at least partly responsible for that refund's tepid success, he said.