The Reality Behind Other Rental Providers' Promises
Don't judge a book by its cover
Third-party programs sell themselves as the perfect solution. But, De Anza College Bookstore saw first hand how some providers aren't all that they seem to be. Director Kelly Swanson shares why she chose to return to MBS Rental and the benefits her store has experienced since.
De Anza College Bookstore has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to rental. In 2007, before the option was even an industry buzzword, the store began an in-store program that offered serialized rentals to their students. By the first year, they had covered the cost of their rental titles and, in their second year, they were making a profit. But there was admittedly a lot of effort involved in earning that revenue. So when third-party providers approached their store with the prospect of offering expanded title availability with less work on their end, it sounded like a great idea.
Two years later, however, they're back to running a strictly in-store program. Why?
"Our students," director Kelly Swanson put simply. "The process was extremely confusing for them and the prices just weren't as competitive."
Swanson started in July of this year, and quickly reevaluated the store's rental offerings. Although the previous director had worked with two different third-party providers to supplement the rental titles that the store owned, Swanson wasn't sold on continuing with their programs. She understood that a fundamental element of building a successful program was a solid partner.
"I considered working with the same companies, but when I looked at the rebates we were getting with them, I realized that it would be smarter to run our program through our wholesale partners to maximize our profit," she explained. "I've worked with MBS for years, so I figured why not simplify rental and go with them; it's worked out great for our store."
In the past, students had to go to two different kiosks to rent their books, depending on which company had supplied the title, and then wait in an additional line to purchase any other titles or merchandise from the store. Because there were no receipts to accompany rentals from these vendors, returns were even more confusing.
"Students usually walked away frustrated," explained Ken Dimare, general merchandise manager. "It was very convoluted."
In my opinion, MBS is our partner, and we should be working together to offer the best service we can to students.— Kelly Swanson
"When I started, the number one complaint on our Yelp page was that rental was too complicated," Swanson added. "That's not the way of retail. It needs to be streamlined and easy for them; I knew it was something we had to correct."
The rental option
This quarter, the store offered non-serialized rental through the MBS Rental module which allowed students to rent and buy books in one line. As a result, the process was much more intuitive.
"First and foremost, it simplified rental for our students. They knew exactly who they rented the book from and where to return it. It went very smoothly," she described. "When students asked if they should go to a separate line to rent their books, it was nice to say, ‘no, we're handling everything in one line now!' They were excited and loved the fact that it was so much quicker."
Beyond the inconvenience of a kiosk, Swanson had apprehensions about third-party providers' interest in De Anza College Bookstore's customers; an issue she knew wouldn't arise with MBS' program.
"We had concerns about the fact that they had access to our customers' information. If students chose to order their books on their website, then it looked like they were purchasing from our store, but we were only receiving around 8% of that sale, when you really look at the numbers," Swanson explained. "They made sure that the rental fees on their website were always lower than the ones they set for us on same title. They made up that difference by adding a service fee to every in-store rental transaction."
For that reason, the store's prices weren't as competitive as they could have been. And, in today's marketplace, Swanson knew that wasn't the best decision.
"Their rental prices were typically higher than what we could offer our students if we used a wholesale rebate," she emphasized. "Students are always looking for the best deal, so that was an issue."
Last, but certainly not least, these other rental programs often imposed quantity limits that affected the store's rental business.
"With one provider in particular, you'd be renting a title and hit a certain quantity, which could be as low as 10, and they'd kill it," Dimare said. "Then, you'd have to go out, find those shelf tags and pull them; it was a huge hassle."
"MBS offers unlimited quantities, so that never happens, which is fabulous," Swanson added.
According to Swanson, the benefits of working with MBS far outweigh those that other vendors can offer.
"Overall, I'd say it's been great; very convenient," she described. "In my opinion, MBS is our partner, and we should be working together to offer the best service we can to students."
About De Anza College:
- FTE: 22,000
- 60 degree programs
- Implemented MBS Rental after discontinuing previous rental service due to difficulty of use
- Used Rent at POS, eliminating the need for multiple checkout lines
About MBS Rental:
- Gives stores the ability to view both the rental and purchase price from the register
- Ability to manage multiple vendors' quotes and books all in the same place
- Create student accounts at POS
- Print rental terms and conditions directly on your store receipts