August 22, 2006

Students Search for Supply Discounts

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The beginning of a new school year calls for many rituals as students begin to gather bedroom supplies, pack away clothing and prepare for life at Cornell.
Even seemingly mundane rituals such as school supply shopping, however, only add to the high cost that a college education entails. Consequently, sales and offers that school supply stores offer become crucial.
New students may head straight to the university bookstore, assuming it to be the best option. In reality, however, this may not be the cheapest option for students.
Some students, like Jaime Sackett ’07, have stopped doing the bulk of her school supply shopping at the Cornell Campus Store.
Instead, she now relies on Staples. Sackett believes that the Cornell bookstore is overpriced and has a smaller selection of merchandise.
“The Cornell bookstore [mostly] has Cornell products. It doesn’t have Five Star and I think other notebooks tend to rip,” Sackett said.
Sackett may be correct in her theory that the Cornell bookstore’s products are higher in price.
For instance, an eight pack of Crayola markers may cost $5.99 at the bookstore, while Staples is currently holding a sale cutting the price of the markers down to $3.59.
Staples also sells three ring binders, which are not on sale, at a cheaper price then the bookstore, beating the book store by 30 cents for a half-inch binder.
Similar to Staples, Target holds sales on school supplies to help cut down costs.
Not only does Sackett believe that the Cornell products are of a poorer quality, she also believes the University causes the prices to rise.
“You are probably paying for the Cornell name,” Sackett said.
According to Cornell Campus Store employee, Margie Whiteleather, it is difficult to compete with prices of large chain stores because the store does not buy as large a volume. While this smaller volume may affect pricing, it helps the store carry more specific items to college students’ needs.
“We do have a lot of expertise with the particular supplies needs of Cornell students, faculty and staff so that we can be more specialized in some parts of our inventory, unlike retailers who are also serving back-to-school needs of elementary and high school students,” Whiteleather said.
Furthermore, while the Cornell Campus Store may not offer as many sales as Staples, Target or Walmart, it does provide convenience. For instance, Celeste Lee ’09, went to the bookstore during her break from work.
Lee said she had prepared for the new school year by purchasing most of her school supplies before arriving in Ithaca, but overlooked certain items.
The bookstore’s campus location, however, allowed Lee to buy all of her remaining items except a specific type of assignment notebook she had wanted.
“Variety is more important than price but convenience is more important than variety,” Lee said.