Massachusetts Daily Collegian

One year after arrival of Amazon @ UMass, students share thoughts regarding customer service

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(Daily Collegian Archives)

(Daily Collegian Archives)

Last January, the University of Massachusetts announced that Amazon would take over sales from the Textbook Annex. Students were promised savings of 31 percent on textbooks, or about $380 per year, based on estimates by College Board.

UMass is the first university on the east coast to have Amazon on campus, and the third school nationally after the University of California Davis in 2013 and Purdue University in 2014.

“I stopped using the (Amazon @ UMass) on campus almost immediately when I realized the lines were just way too long, and it felt like I wasted more time waiting to pick up my book,” said Sabrina Negron, a sophomore journalism major.  “It was more convenient to use the Prime membership to have my items shipped directly to my Residential Service Desk rather than campus center.”

According to Ed Blaguszewski, executive director of strategic communications and special assistant to the vice chancellor, a selection committee representing campus constituents including the Faculty Senate, the Student Government Association and UMass Administration and Finance agreed to the agreement between Amazon and the University to provide textbooks and other course materials.

“The primary objective for moving to a virtual textbook model was to reduce costs of textbooks to students and offer students the best customer service,” Blaguszewski said.

Students have explained they save anywhere from $10 to $100. UMass agreed to have Amazon on campus for five years with part of the agreement stipulating that UMass gets a 2.5 percent commission on most sales through Amazon @ UMass.

One complaint students have about Amazon @ UMass is the free shipping does not extend to used books.

“These new copies are usually much more money than the used version,” said Rebecca Wiesman, a junior communication and journalism major.” No one wants to spend $50 on a textbook that they use for one semester and will never use it again.”

Students also complained about a lack of shipping destination options. Amanda Keohane, a senior majoring in English, communication and journalism, said living off campus made getting packages difficult.

“I wish that we could have them delivered to other places besides UMass with the overnight (shipping option)” Keohane said. “Because last semester I was living off campus and getting to the campus center when the Amazon store was open was annoying.”

Some students have not received the promised benefits, like free shipping on used textbooks.

“Amazon is not my only option for this. It has a lot of competition now, especially with Chegg, Barnes & Noble and peer-to-peer book selling,” Negron said. “So, while I know Amazon is saving me money, I do not think it was the only way to do so.”

Negron said she wishes that Amazon would be clearer when it comes to the terms of Amazon Prime.

“I was under the impression that the Prime membership was going to be free. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I was charged over the summer nearly $60 or so for a Prime membership,” Negron said. “I cancelled it right away. I wish I had received a clearer message about that.”

Rachel Perry-Gore can be reached at [email protected]

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