Two years ago, the Duck Store at University of Oregon received an unwelcome surprise; they realized a competitor had rented table space directly across the street from their store in an attempt to buy students’ books.
Despite the fact that the rogue buyers were waving signs and yelling slogans with messages such as ‘Don’t get ripped off by the bookstore,’ the Duck Store decided to formulate their strategy around the old adage ‘seeing is believing.’
“We knew that their claims didn’t hold any water, but we wanted to find a way to prove that to our customers,” Lundy said. “So, we decided to make our own signs with a more subtle message asking students to come over and compare buyback prices with us before selling their books.”
Lundy and his staff set up a table equipped with a laptop in front of the store where students could learn exactly how much the store was paying for each of their textbooks without ever waiting in the actual buyback line.
“Our store is here to help students so we’re not going to tell them that they have to sell to us, but we really wanted to promote the idea of being an informed consumer,” he added. “Once they compared, students realized that, by and large, they would get the best price by selling with us and headed inside to our buyback.”
The store also featured laminated signs with the buyback prices of 18-20 key retail titles on the same table, to draw additional attention to their competitive prices.
“The display took some managing because we would have to change the price or take down the sign once we reached the retail limit, but it was very effective,” he said.
Although the store only ran the tables during the peak time period of finals week, they found them to be a very successful approach.
“Not only did the price comparison tables help improve our buyback numbers, but they also built awareness that it’s not a good idea to accept anybody’s hype,” Lundy explained. “Students realized that we do have good prices and because we were open and transparent about sharing them, we were able to develop a sense of trust.”
That trust translated into a routine for many students who began stopping at the Duck Store first during each buyback to compare prices. In fact, the store’s dedicated efforts eventually helped eliminate the issue that caused the price comparison tables to come into existence in the first place!
“After moving locations several times, the buyback predators didn’t even come back this term!” he said. “But, we’re not going to rest on our laurels; there will always be someone else to compete with, so we’ve kept the price comparison tables going regardless of who is buying on campus.“
To others attempting to overcome buyback predators, Lundy extends some advice:
“We're all battling against the assumption that the bookstore is trying to rip you off, so try to offer the best pricing and the most options you can," he said. "Then, be transparent about it: get that message out to students in a clear and simple way. Most of all, though, be true to your word and back
it up with your actions; if you do all of that, students will definitely start to take notice!