Bookstore orders rivals to leave campus

The GW Bookstore faces increased competition as booksellers inside and outside the University challenge its hold on GW students. But vendors vying for the University’s textbook market have encountered fierce resistance from the campus bookstore.

Eric Kuhn, co-founder of VarsityBooks, an online textbook vendor targeting the GW market, said GW Bookstore employees asked VarsityBooks representatives to leave the table in front of Tower Records where they were promoting the online service this weekend.

“It seems like (the GW Bookstore) is acting like they do not want students to know about us,” Kuhn said.

But GW Bookstore Assistant Director Barbara Hoy said no Bookstore employee approached the table.

The GW Bookstore, managed by Follett College Stores, has a contract with the University that gives it exclusive rights to sell textbooks on the GW campus, said Nancy Haaga, director of Auxiliary and Institutional Services.

“If (other textbook vendors) try to sell books here, on behalf of Follett, we have to ask them to leave,” Haaga said. “(The GW Bookstore) definitely complained about VarsityBooks because they assumed that it was on GW property.”

“They have a right to do what they do, but we don’t think they should be able to sell on campus,” Hoy said.

Ken Eisner, VarsityBooks’ marketing director, said VarsityBooks was not selling any books, it was handing out promotional pens, T-shirts, key chains and other items. He also said the representatives were not on GW property.

VarsityBooks was located “on the sidewalk which is owned by the District of Columbia,” according to a memo from Leslie Korn, investment real estate director for GW.

“The GW Bookstore advised me that they had observed a problem,” Korn said.

A representative of LaSalle Partners, the company that manages the 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. building, asked VarsityBooks to leave because the service’s employees had taped posters to the building without permission, Korn said.

“If it was just about posters we would have taken them down, but the GW Bookstore did target us,” Eisner said.

VarsityBooks had an agreement with Tower Records to reserve a table outside the store, Eisner said.

Eisner said he talked with Tommi Baker, manager of Tower Records, about setting up the booth.

“Tower Records had nothing to do with what was going on,” according to a memo from Korn.

“Many employees knew about it . they provided the table,” Eisner said. “Certainly there was an agreement.”

Baker was unavailable for comment.

University Police also approached the VarsityBooks table, relaying a message from the campus bookstore to leave the area, Kuhn said.

A memo from Vice President for Student and Academic and Support Services Robert Chernak to Haaga and Korn thanked them for the “prompt follow-up to the University Police Department report.”

Korn said as far as the University is concerned, the matter is closed.

The contract between Follett and the University also affects the Student Association’s Book Exchange.

The Book Exchange allows students to sell used textbooks to their peers for prices they determine.

“The Book Exchange is the best means to profit on an individual and a University basis,” said Daphne Stavropoulos, director of last spring’s SA Book Exchange.

But the SA cannot hand out any promotional or advertising material until it is approved by Auxiliary and Institutional Services to avoid any breach in contract with Follett, Haaga said.

“(The Book Exchange) cannot say they are selling books because the GW Bookstore is the exclusive seller of books on campus,” Haaga said.

Auxiliary services, however, provides the SA with the book list compiled by the GW Bookstore for $750, Haaga said. This money is then placed in the Follett College Store-GW SA Textbook Scholarship fund.

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