Poor service should mean confronting oligopolies

Alyssa Jacobsen portfolio shoot, May 14, 2012
Alyssa Jacobsen

At the beginning of each semester, I find myself in the same slow-moving line. I stand among other grimacing students who, one after the other, hand over their credit cards to pay for their overpriced class bibles (or as is the unfortunate case for certain courses, expensive new paperweights that will decorate their desks for four months).

Inundated with reading from day one, I continually weigh the pros and cons of visiting the campus bookstore and curse the oligopoly of companies that supply these books. For students who already have so much on their minds early in the semester, this is just another source of stress. It is unfair for the bookstore to monopolize this business by charging whatever prices it chooses. Two hundred dollars for a book? This has to be a joke.

We either pay for the immediacy of having the smooth paper in our hands or choose to wait for more reasonably priced books that may or may not arrive as the correct editions – a gambling game I play with the risk of falling behind from the start. Not that the bookstore is much better. On the numerous occasions I have visited the bookstore, textbooks I needed were out of stock or the wrong book was listed for my course.

However, this company is not the only one to cause trouble during my back-to-school preparation. During my journey to Miami, I was confronted by similar frustrations with other major retailers in a single week. The airline business, for example, is another industry where a select number of companies set outrageously high prices because there’s little competition. But if you have to get somewhere, you can either walk or, again, shell out the cash. However, just as with textbooks, there is uncertainty. With frequent delays, paying for a flight does not confirm that you will ever leave the ground.

What happens if one of these oligarchs fails to produce, and you must deal with customer service? Like many students, you can take it to Facebook. Ranting posts, like “American is the worst airline anyone can use,” seem to be a popular method for college students blowing off steam.

But for those who actually want a change or solution, students must effectively solve their issues to figure out how to save time and money. If you have a bad experience with one of these companies, don’t be afraid to be proactive and request compensation. You deserve it.

Speak assertively and clearly, and do not let customer service representatives claim they can’t help. If the first person fails, ask for the next higher-up manager. It is the company’s responsibility to solve your issue. Remember, it is called “customer service” because they are supposed to help the customer – you. And if all else fails, sing about it on YouTube – your viral video could start a revolution.


Alyssa Jacobson is a junior majoring in advertising and political science.