Getting Jacked When Selling Textbooks Back

It’s campus book buy-back time which means one thing: tons of students getting screwed over across the nation.

But it’s okay, it was their parents money to begin with, right?

One reseller you may want to avoid is, who, according to Briana’s letter, practically defrauded her.

We’ve heard, and experienced first hand, the ignominy of high text book prices met with perversely low buy-back rates. Are there any good, fair, sites or services out there for college students looking to finance their next crate of Ramen?

Briana’s letter, after the jump…

Briana writes:

    “Thought I’d share my story with you since a) I love your site and b) it’s that time of year again when students everywhere are seeking to make a buck for their textbooks.

    On November 3, 2005 I placed a buyback order with eCampus for some textbooks totaling $125.85. On November 5, 2005 I mailed out the box of textbooks using a printed label supplied by eCampus.

    On January 30, 2006 after not having received my payment, I checked the status of my account online and it still indicated the transaction was being processed. I emailed customer service and received a response from hhershey that indicated my books had been received and that, due to a backlog my check would take another 6-8 weeks to be delivered.

    On May 4, 2006 I still had not received either a check or further word on my account, and it was still listed as ‘processing’ online. I emailed customer service again, and received a response one minute later (according to the timestamps on the email sent to me) from hhershey telling me my order was never received.

    When I asked why I was told otherwise before, and why my account still showed ‘processing’ (as opposed to ‘cancelled’ as it would in the instance my order was not received) I was referred to a customer service rep, Brittany. She informed me that since I did not insure the package, there was nothing further they could do for me.

    I asked her why then had I been told my order was received previously, and why my order still listed as processing. I also questioned whether the one minute between receiving my message and responding was really adequate time to have verified the package was not received. My response was referred back to hhershey who replied to tell me there was nothing further they could do for me.

    Six months of waiting for my check, and they lost my order and refuse to work with me further or give me compensation. I decided to do a little research to see what I was dealing with here. According to the Better Business Bureau they have an unsatisfactory rating (208 complaints in the last year), and searches on both PlanetFeedback and Epinions return scads of negative customer complaints for similar situations.

    So we’ve learned two lessons in this little tale: 1) always make sure you get insurance for anything worth more than $20 when mailing, and 2) never use for your textbook needs. There’s no telling how many unsuspecting kids they’ve hosed with this scam, telling them they ‘lost’ their order, or that it will be 6-8 more weeks when they’re just skimming the free books for resale and hoping their victims will forget about pursuing compensation.

    Shoulda known better,
    Briana L.”


Edit Your Comment

  1. etinterrapax says:

    Egads. I’ve always resold books on Amazon for about 80% of retail. Granted, I’m in a field that’s very hospitable to this–English–but textbook resellers are more or less the used-car dealers of the academic world. They’re going to take what you give them and turn it around for a profit. My feeling about Amazon, both as a buyer and a seller, is that it’s enabled me to put good used books directly into the hands of other students, at a price that’s fair to both of us. If something only turns out to be worth a few pennies, I donate it elsewhere for a tax deduction.

  2. prodigal says:

    My university bookstore had this bad habit of shelving books no longer on the syllabus with all the new ones. Since everything was listed by course and section, you could just go there and pick up everything you needed.

    Except when one of the materials was a set of photocopies (ludicrously priced) which I opened by accident and then couldn’t return. Forty bucks’ worth of scrap paper. Plus, you don’t get a buy-back on them at all.

    My solution (I did a Lit degree) was to hit up as many used book stores as possible and pick up similar editions. One year, I actually made more money on buyback than I did paying for the texts themselves! Capitalism at its finest…

  3. officedrone4 says:

    Columbia had which wound up being amazing.

    I recommend looking into that if you’re at a school that uses it. Sometimes it can take a few tries to have a buyer complete a deal, but its well worth it to avoid being raped by your school’s bookstore or others.

  4. Ben Popken says:

    Ryan writes:

    “More and more students these days are setting up book swap sites. UConn just had one set up at There’s probably going to be some ones at other universitys, in the meantime, I’m headed on over to punch my ISBN’s into the system.”

  5. DeeJayQueue says:

    I’m surprised there isn’t a student-run “this for that” themed site, like or something similar, where students post the books they have and the books they need and the system arranges a match for them. The students themselves could work out trade conditions and make shipping arrangements. I know when I went to school we had a word of mouth network for this that worked really well, and I bought most of my books this way, used from a friend.

    The suck side to this is that schools these days seem to only use a book for a semester or 2 and then switch texts on everyone, making the old book worthless.

  6. Ben says:

    Another way to make money is to work at a college bookstore and buy back imaginary books from your friends and pocket the money.

    Works until you are arrested, at least.

  7. christy says:

    I am so glad we had textbook rental at my school. Just listening to people talk about this gives me aheadache.

  8. trixare4kids says:

    The USPS has two things:
    1) Delivery Confirmation which costs 50 cents.

    2) Return Receipt for Merchandise (but you can’t use it with Media Mail which I’m sure you used) but in general is a good thing.

    Return Receipt for Merchandise

    This service provides the sender with a mailing receipt and a return receipt. The return receipt supplies the recipient’s actual address (if different from the address used by the sender). A delivery record is maintained by the United States Postal Service. Return Receipt for Merchandise is available for merchandise sent using Package Services, and Standard Mail (pieces are subject to residual shape surcharge.)

    Return Receipt for Merchandise may be combined with Delivery Confirmation, Insured Mail (for charge up to $50), Parcel Airlift Service (PAL), or Special Handling.

    Fee (in addition to postage) = $3.15

  9. robk says:

    DeeJayQueue wrote: “The suck side to this is that schools these days seem to only use a book for a semester or 2 and then switch texts on everyone, making the old book worthless.”

    Good God, man — it’s a BOOK. No book is worthless. Even if you never need it for reference, you can always use it for kindling in the economy after the banks fail. :)


  10. AcidReign says:

    …..I kept textbooks I liked, and damn, I am glad! My college calculus book has saved my bacon when my kids needed help with min-max. The textbooks you pay triple digits for these days suck!

  11. I used to be an on-site customer service rep for one of eCampus’s vendors. Those people were mad, having me come out at 5am (after a 75 minute drive to get there) to do half an hour’s work then drive another 75 minutes back.

    Anyway, point of the story is this: From what I know personally on-site and from conversations I had when I was working at that job, eCampus tries really, really hard to run a tight ship. Not that I’m implying they would intentionally cheat you out of your books. But if you inferred that, I couldn’t stop you from doing so.

    The company was founded by Dave Thomas (of Wendy’s restaurant fame) and former Kentucky governor Wallace Wilkinson who, shortly after leaving office, had racked up millions in unpayable debt.

    Let’s say that eCampus is not a company whose stock I would buy.

  12. Grady says:

    Briana, you need to start talking to other students who’ve used ecampus. If you get a group of people who all had their packages “lost in the mail”, then you can get them investigated. Maybe even start a class action lawsuit like they did for CDs.

  13. OkiMike says:

    A note to all college professors: When choosing what books to include in your course list next semester, pick something that is purchasable from Amazon or a local bookseller. Don’t make your students go to the college bookstore. And don’t cave in to administrative pressure on such matters either.

    Jesus, have a spine.

  14. Josh Cohen says:

    DeeJayQueue wrote: “The suck side to this is that schools these days seem to only use a book for a semester or 2 and then switch texts on everyone, making the old book worthless.”

    The worst offenders, in my experience, are math classes. Over six semesters at my college, they used four different College Algebra textbooks. By the time I was in graduate school, my fraternity brothers were paying $125 for the things when new, and $95 used.

    I think some of the problems with changing textbooks so often stem from the same principles as drug reps: textbook reps come to schools and offer them money or free stuff if the schools will use the texts, so to make good on the $100,000 donation, they require all students in College Algebra use the new edition of the (for example) Houghton Mifflin College Algebra Text, usually titled something stupid like “Adventures in Variable Mathematics” or somesuch.

    • evilpete says:

      In many community colleges the teachers / professors self publish their own books.

      Additionally, larger publishers “update” book (reword chapter questions) making last year’s book out of print.

  15. John Stracke says:

    I rarely have to buy texts at the campus store; I can usually find them online for less—sometimes a *lot* less. Last fall I found a paperback of my operating systems text online for $40, when the store had the hardback for $140.

  16. anadune says:

    quote: “The worst offenders, in my experience, are math classes. Over six semesters at my college, they used four different College Algebra textbooks. By the time I was in graduate school, my fraternity brothers were paying $125 for the things when new, and $95 used.”

    Try being a math major! I have bought books that cost me almost $150 each and were not even an inch and a half thick! I’ve kept all of my books though, since I like to reference back to them multiple times.

    If you really don’t care about owning the books you need there is always Inter-Library Loan which is how I finished out college for all of my non-math related courses.

  17. evilpete says:

    You don’t always need to insurance confirmed delivery receipt should be sufficient.