Some business owners may feel they are treated unfairly but do not have an opportunity to do anything about it.
Campus Book Store (CBS) employees were given the chance to tell their side of the story last week before a U.S. Senate committee.
CBS, 2300 Lincoln Way, has been owned and operated privately by Floyd and Sandra Ballein since 1973 and is in direct competition with the University Book Store, located on the ground floor of the Memorial Union. UBS is owned and operated by Iowa State.
Sen. Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) asked CBS representatives to appear last Thursday at the Senate Committee on Small Business hearing titled "Can Small Businesses Compete with Campus Book Stores?" to provide testimony for Senate Bill 2490, said Graham Gillette, spokesperson for CBS.
Faircloth asked CBS to come to the hearing held Thursday morning in Washington, D.C., to tell about the store's competition with the university-owned UBS, Gillette said.
"They saw that as a model of a story they wanted to hear from," he said.
Gillette represented the store at the hearing.
"The bill aims at protecting private bookstores in the competitive market of textbooks and supplies," Gillette said. "A lot of universities are driving small businesses out of the marketplace."
He said his testimony focused on the difficulty private bookstores have competing with university-owned bookstores because of advantages a university bookstore has that other bookstores do not.
"[The testimony] went very well," Gillette said. "This is the first step."
He said the senate committee may hold another hearing at a later date to hear from universities and the U.S. Department of Education.
"We asked for some changes," Gillette said.
The primary change the representatives wanted from the bill is to protect the competitive environment between university-owned and privately-owned bookstores.
Gillette used university course packs as an example of the unfair advantage UBS holds over the CBS. The university prints course packs for professors and turns them over to the UBS to sell.
Gillette said he feels the CBS should be able to sell course packs as well.
"What we think we're asking for is very simple — equal footing in the marketplace," Gillette said. "If there is a competitive environment in this marketplace, prices should be kept to a minimum."
He said when one store monopolizes the textbook and supply industry at a university, the losers will be the students.
"Because of real estate, the university will have a better location, but we just want to compete," Gillette said. "This is not, in our minds, a very complicated issue."
Lynette Seymour, general manager of UBS, said she was surprised CBS was involved with the senate committee testimony.
"We try very hard to keep at an even playing field," Seymour said.
Seymour said she was not aware that CBS did not carry course packs and also said UBS makes the information in course packs available, so CBS could sell them.
"As far as course packs, if they want to sell them, that information is available to them," she said. "I'm assuming that's because they've made the decision not to carry them."
Seymour said she feels UBS has not had any unfair advantages against CBS, but she could see where universities with such a situation would be a problem.
"There may be other states that have some problems with that," she said. "We're trying to be as fair about it as we can."
Gillette said it can be difficult to compete in the college bookstore business, and he was happy to testify for the senate committee on the subject.
"That's the story we were asked to tell, and that's the story we told," he said. "I think it was worthwhile."