Belltower will buy any book
During finals week, students will be found deeply attached to their books while studying, but the employees of Belltower Books would much rather be packing them in a truck and having them taken far away. Belltower Books is a used book buying company started in 2004 by two Cornell University students. Their method of acquisition involves hiring students on college campuses to buy books from their peers. The business is highly seasonal, and the season is finals week.
"It's literally the highlight of my semester," said John McInally, 6th semester athletic training major. McInally, along with Sarab Kukreja, 6th-semester international business major, Frank Laratta, 8th-semester health services major and about 10 other students comprise the UConn branch Belltower Books. Belltower has had a five-to-six year presence on campus, and the current branch was brought together by Kukreja who joined three years ago.
"(To work for Belltower) it takes a social person who can communicate, take rejection, and who is dedicated to making money," Kukreja said.
Belltower employees can be found outside finals of many larger classes, equipped with cash and scanner and start advertising their services. The scanner can take any books ISBN (International Standard Book Number), immediately identify it and price it according to Belltower's pricing standards. Whether it is a textbook, or a personal copy of "The Great Gatsby," Belltower can offer you a price, but textbooks typically fetch higher prices.
"We buy back any textbook from anybody, cash in hand," Kukreja said. "When we're really hustling, we literally stand outside finals and offer prices."
Belltower and the UConn Co-op sometimes offer different prices, and commonly one service will offer a better price for a used textbook than another. Belltower will even give bad quality and early edition books a price, with math and science textbooks typically pricing poorer to textbooks on the humanities. "With the scanners, Belltower will at least offer you a quarter, and we will personally round it up to a dollar." McInally said.
Belltower, which stresses its employees to practice a personal touch, will even arrange to meet and negotiate with a student at their dorm.
Last year, the UConn branch was the highest seller in the northeast with over $6000 of buybacks, and employees were awarded a Kindle Fire.
However, working for Belltower leads to long hours and late nights. During finals week, employees can expect a 3 to 8 a.m. workday. There is no hourly pay, rather, employees start at 10 percent commission on sales and must work their way up. Manual labor is also required.
Around 1,000 books are moved, stacked high and organized at the dorm of Kukreja and McInally. Then from there they will move the books to a storage unit. Belltower then sends an 18-wheeler to take the books away.
"By the end of finals, getting around the room is like skipping rocks." McInally said.
Belltower's presence on campus as an independent contractor is legal and has been a welcome presence since its inception. The UConn branch expects to expand in the coming years through their page on Facebook. Laratta said, "It's like nothing else to work for Belltower."
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