Like blind hogs rooting for acorns, America’s universities and their associated vendors constantly seek ways to snuffle out cash from hapless college students. Here’s a fine example of what I’m talking about.
Amazon charged Amelia San Filippo, a sophomore at the University of Delaware, a $3,800 fee for failing to return a rented textbook on time. Apparently, San Filippo missed the fine print in her rental agreement. If she didn’t return the book by June 4 she would be charged to purchase the book.
What is the title of this valuable tome? Cultural Anthropology: A Toolkit for a Global Age, which can be bought online for $150!
Amelia returned the book and her father got the charge reversed after a nine-hour phone call to Amazon’s customer service. Amazon issued a statement to a local television news program saying:
“This was an isolated error that we quickly resolved directly with the customer and have issued a refund. We’ve apologized to the customer and are taking additional actions to ensure this situation does not happen again.”
In my mind, this message is corporatespeak for “Oops! We got caught.”
This kind of nonsense happens all the time in our brave new world where universities and their corporate outsourcers treat college students like cash cows.
I myself had a similar encounter with Louisiana State University a few years ago. My wife and I arrived to do volunteer work at the Catholic student center located on the LSU campus. We came in separate cars and parked in a lot marked “Church Parking.” There was a gate to the parking lot, but the gate was open.
At the end of our volunteer activity, we found parking tickets on our cars informing us that we were each being charged $330 for unauthorized parking: $660 in total. Must be some mistake.
I walked to the LSU Visitor Center, where a parking employee immediately knocked off two $300 fees. But she would not clear two fees for $30. To no avail, I explained that we were on church business and that we parked in a lot designated for church parking. If I wanted to challenge the tickets, I was told, I could file an administrative appeal.
For about a year, LSU sent my wife and I separate monthly bills of $30. Then we got letters saying the matter was being turned over to the District Attorney for collection. At that point, I wrote checks totally $60.
My wife is an LSU graduate and we once made a small donation to the LSU Foundation. I occasionally get a cheery message asking me to donate money to the university.
I don’t respond to these messages, but if I did I would say: No thank you!