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Confusion ensues over College bookstore credit card charge label

In the first few weeks of the school year, some Saint Mary’s students who purchased books at the Shaheen Bookstore noticed charges on their bank card statements from “ACU Bookstore.”

The issue stemmed from the college transitioning from Follette, its former bookstore partner, to Barnes and Noble College (BNC), Dana Strait, Saint Mary’s vice president for strategy and finance, said in an email.

“BNC launched its new website on August 1 for the Saint Mary’s community,” Strait wrote. “Several students and their families who used the website prior to move-in for electronic course material rentals and purchases noticed charges on their bank card statements under the name of a different bookstore (ACU Bookstore).”

ACU, she added, refers to Abilene Christian University, which sources all of BNC’s digital course materials.

“20 to 30 students reported similar, confusing charges,” Strait wrote, and BNC was able to quickly remedy the issue after looking into it.

Not knowing any of this information, however, students were initially confused.

“I got a text from my bank, Chase, and they said that someone tried to spend $200 from like ACU or something,” senior Kate Murray said.

Junior Luann Hernandez-Montano said her books were paid off by a scholarship, but she had to put her card information anyway.

“It did say to plug in the credit card information or debit card information just to be able to rent out the books,” she said. 

Hernandez-Montano was intially a bit surprised to see a $1 charge from ACU Bookstore even though she hadn’t actually spent money through her card.

“Then I kind of just didn’t really pay attention to it, and so I saw it was only $1, so I was kind of confused about it at first.”

This, Strait wrote, is standard procedure for when a student rents materials from bookstores. 

“When students rent electronic course materials, bookstores place small holds, in this case in an amount of $1,” Strait wrote. “The Saint Mary’s bookstore has always done this, even with our previous partners, as do the bookstores of our neighboring campuses.”

Confusion swirls over Facebook

Worry over the labeling issue, however, snowballed Aug. 24 as students took to the “SMC Buying/ Selling Textbooks and Materials” private Facebook group.

Senior Grace Paciga opened up a thread in the group because of worrisome activity she noticed in her account. 

“Hi so just a heads up – I just got a fraud alert on my card for $880 and we are pretty sure its from the bookstore,” Paciga wrote to the Facebook group. “So if you used your debit/credit card at the bookstore recently I would be sure to check your charges!!! Or just don’t use your card there.”

Paciga said she immediately sent the alert to her parents, who both have worked at banks “for over 25 years.” 

Her card’s charges, she said, showed a $1 charge from ACU Bookstore in Texas followed by a $0 charge from “Brix Wine and Spirits” in Loveland, Colorado. 

“We think it was they were testing out the card at another place to see if it would go through,” she said. “And then after that came the Walmart.com (charge) for $880.02 in Bentonville, Arkansas. So, three different states, which was actually pretty crazy,” Paciga said.

After speaking with her parents, she wrote her post to the Facebook group in order to see if other students were experiencing similar issues. 

“I didn’t know if it was happening to anyone else because I hadn’t used my card anywhere besides that bookstore purchase for like the week before,” Paciga said.

When she wrote to the group, her post received 18 comments from other students reporting confusing activity in their accounts. 

Many students reading the page, including Hernandez-Montano, canceled their bank cards out of fear that they would also have their information stolen.

“I saw other girls posting about it, and there’s other girls that are saying, ‘Oh, they took like 800,’” Hernandez-Montano said. “So I was just being precautious, and I actually went to cancel my card at the bank.”

Many students have reported the confusing “ACU Bookstore” name on their bank card statements to both Saint Mary’s and The Observer, but Paciga is the only person who reported activity that included her card being used elsewhere. Paciga’s unauthorized charges did not appear under the “ACU Bookstore” label.

College director of public relations Lisa Knox said that the bookstore credit card confusion involved only an incorrect label and not an incorrect amount charged.

“The charges were correct, it was only the name that was wrong,” Knox said.

Hernandez-Montano said she would have liked more information from the school about what was happening with the issue because most of what she heard came from the Facebook group.

 “I think the school could have done, like, a little bit better in trying to inform everybody about it,” Hernandez-Montano said.

Paciga was less frustrated with the college. “I feel like they handled it as best as they could,” she said. “I think it was just a difficult situation.”

Strait wrote that BNC worked to resolve the naming issue as soon as they knew there was one.

“Unfortunately, the bookstore was not made aware of the ACU label until weeks after the website opened for course material purchases,” Strait wrote. “An explanation was immediately posted by Student Affairs staff on social media.”

Contact Liam Price at lprice3@nd.edu

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Bookstore renovation hopes to provide an improved customer experience

On July 1, 2021, the University of Notre Dame announced that the bookstore’s management was going to be changed from Follett to Barnes & Noble College (BNC), a transition that has been in progress over the past 14 months.

“The renovation was completed in August 2022, and the newly remodeled Hammes Bookstore is open and serving guests,” BNC Regional Manager Derek Holbert wrote in an email.

The University decided to undertake this project with the goal of improving the experiences of students, faculty and visitors at the bookstore.

“We sought an elevated experience for faculty and students regarding course materials, and BNC answered this need,” vice president for University enterprises and events, Anne Griffith, wrote in an email.

Notre Dame’s partnership with BNC has paved the way for further networking, giving the University an opportunity to collaborate with Fanatics, Champions, Under Armour and many more.

“Through its strategic alliance with sports merchandise leaders Fanatics and Lids, BNC will help deliver an elevated retail experience for students, faculty and the Notre Dame community,” Holbert wrote. “Customers can discover expanded brands from Champion and Under Armour, to Johnnie-O, Peter Millar, Vineyard Vines, Dooney and Burke and female-founded jewelry line, Kyle Kavan.”

The bookstore’s collaboration with Under Armour. | Courtesy of Jenna Abu-Lughod.

Griffith added that students, faculty and visitors all seem to be thrilled and impressed with the changes to the bookstore.

“We’ve heard great feedback on new features and renovations, such as the bright and upscale décor, Hat Zone, Custom Zone, The Gilded Bean and fast-moving check out,” Griffith wrote.

First-year student Martha Cleary, who has lived in South Bend for four years, offered insight into the positive differences she has noticed since the renovation.

“One thing I noticed is the carpet used to be a much darker color than it is now,” Cleary said. “I feel like they really opened up the space and made it much more welcoming.”

Cleary also noted the change in the distribution of apparel on the two floors of the bookstore.

“There didn’t used to be any women’s items on the first floor, which meant women had to go upstairs to shop. The new layout, which has both men’s and women’s clothing on the first floor, is far more inclusive and convenient,” she said.

Another change Holbert expects to be beneficial to Notre Dame students and faculty is the addition of social spaces.

“The social spaces placed throughout the bookstore provide intimate spaces for community gatherings,” Holbert wrote.

A social space located on the second floor of the Hammes Bookstore. Credit: Jenna Abu-Lughod | The Observer

Holbert said another prominent student-specific renovation is the introduction of new course materials and resources that are accessible to all.

“BNC offers students access to course materials across multiple formats to meet any student’s needs or budget, which we believe will benefit our students greatly,” he wrote. “This includes more than one million digital titles, a flexible rental program with the most expansive title list in the industry and access to the nation’s largest used textbook exchange.”

Similarly, BNC’s “Adoption and Insights Portal” is a new resource intended to specifically benefit faculty. It will allow faculty to “easily research and choose affordable course materials,” Holbert wrote.

More new features intended to improve fan and visitor experiences include convenient delivery options, the Custom Zone — which allows fans to customize one-of-a-kind hats, easy self and mobile checkout technology, and digital and analog wayfinding signs.

The Hat Zone and Custom Zone allow customers to make one-of-a-kind hats. Credit: Jenna Abu-Lughod | The Observer

“With new self and mobile check-out technology, customers can check out via their phones on the sales floor, making it easier than ever to bring home the best of Notre Dame books, gifts and apparel,” Holbert wrote. “New delivery options allow customers to purchase in-store and have their items shipped home, picked up after a game or delivered to their hotel. This offers Fighting Irish fans the convenience of purchasing products without needing to carry them around during games.”

Griffith and Holbert both emphasized that the management transition not only involved major changes to Notre Dame’s five bookstore retail properties but also to its online order fulfillment center.

“With BNC’s strategic omnichannel merchandising partnership with Fanatics and Lids, Notre Dame will have the most innovative merchandise and apparel programs available in the college market, as well as cutting-edge online and mobile accessibility,” Holbert wrote.

New self-checkout technology located in the Hammes Bookstore. Credit: Jenna Abu-Lughod | The Observer

However, according to Holbert, one of the most beautiful changes is in the actual design of the bookstore.

“Inspired by Notre Dame’s historic campus architecture, specific design elements were added to pay tribute to the look and feel of other campus landmarks including gold metal finishes that mimic the design of the University’s Basilica,” he wrote.

Contact Jenna Abu-Lughod at jabulugh@nd.edu.

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‘Objects in the Rearview Mirror’: The story behind the first women at the University

When Deborah Dell, known to her loved ones as Debi, arrived at the University of Notre Dame in 1972 with the first cohort of women, she entered with a sharp mind and a lot of determination. 

Now, almost exactly 50 years later, Dell is publishing a book, “Objects in the Rearview Mirror: A Social History of Coeducation under the Dome.” The story took shape over the span of 20 years and with the help of more than 150 contributors who were impacted by the decision to implement coeducation. 

The first years – inspiration and roadblocks

Sitting at the desk of her Morris Inn hotel room, Dell looked at a blank page. 

“Was I the right person to be doing this?” she wondered. 

Dell lived in Breen-Phillips Hall, Walsh Hall and Lyons Hall during her time on campus. She admitted that her circle of friends was small and stuck to themselves most of the time. 

“Books like this should be written by somebody who was important,” she explained her hesitation. 

She was in the midst of a lull in motivation. Dell said she came back to Notre Dame to get inspired. 

“I’m in the hotel room, and I’ve just been to the library to get some stuff out of the archives and I’m struggling,” she said. “It’s like I hear Father Hesburgh, saying ‘Debi, put your faith in the Holy Spirit and His mother, and stop thinking so hard and just trust.’”

Dell said she started brainstorming and researching for this book in 2000 and wrote a couple drafts with a few of her friends contributing in 2001, 2006 and 2011. Her trip to the Morris Inn was during the second draft in 2006. 

“[This book] was a long time coming. That’s an understatement,” she quipped. “I think the only book that took longer was the Bible.”

Debi and Darlene — missed connections and missing pieces

Darlene Connelly, class of 1977, was Dell’s right-hand woman during the second half of the project. She was also Dell’s neighbor on the first floor of Breen-Phillips Hall in 1977 — unbeknownst to either of them until a classmate introduced them a few years ago. 

“Darlene — we lived in the same hall, and I didn’t know her!” Dell said. “It was just the perfect timing and the perfect marriage as far as her approach to things and my approach. We just complemented each other so well.”

Connelly said she was introduced to Dell because she was also thinking of writing a book about her experiences. Connelly’s inspiration came in the form of a mentor, Fr. Tom Tallarida. 

Connelly explained that she had a long friendship with Tallarida throughout her time as an undergraduate and that she maintained contact with him as an adult. 

“We stayed in touch over the years. One year, I think it was 1992, he sent me a letter. He pleaded with me to write the real story about coeducation in those early years at Notre Dame,” she said. 

Connelly said she forgot about that plea until one Christmas when she decided to pay Tallarida a visit. A few days before her plans, Connelly said she got a letter from Tallarida’s niece that he had passed away. 

“I carried Catholic guilt,” she said. “I never got to it. I never got around to it, and I am so sorry, so sorry that I don’t know what the story was that he wanted to tell.”

Dell said Connelly not only brought her expertise to the project, but also the contributions of the women of the class of 1977. 

As Dell hosted mixers for her classmates in South Bend before home football games, word about the project got out, and men started chiming in. The men of the classes of 1976 and 1977 were soon added to the list of the writing process contributors.

Around that time, Dell said she started gathering information about the second generation of women at the University — what had changed and what had not. This was done with the help of Emily Weisbacker. 

Dell also mentioned she believed it was important to include what was going on at Notre Dame’s peer institutions and in the nation at the same time. 

“It was very important to me to also make sure that it wasn’t just the Notre Dame story. We looked at Yale and Princeton, and we looked at what was happening in the culture of the United States during the 70s,” she said. 

Dell said she finally felt ready to write the book once she had collected the experiences of the women and men of the first five years of coeducation, the second generation of women at the University and the historical context for the story.

“So now we had the women who went through it, the men who went through it and then the second generation that was benefiting. [They] were able to tell me about the things that hadn’t changed in 30 or 40 years,” she explained. “[The book] really became so much bigger than the original concept because of the delay that took place.”

Those who went without mention — early women’s athletics 

When the girls first arrived on campus, nothing was set up for them, Dell explained. Other than two hastily renovated dorms, the first few classes of women at Notre Dame had to fashion everything themselves. This included clubs, policy groups, information sharing networks and sports. 

Ron Skrabacz, class of 1976, oversaw the research and writing of the chapters on early women’s athletics. 

Skrabacz, who was only participated in interhall sports during his time on campus, was recruited to write the section because of his work as a sports writer. He wrote for the Daily Herald — a newspaper covering the Chicago suburbs — as a sports columnist for 20 years. 

Skrabacz got involved with the project when he was at Dell’s South Bend house on one Friday night before a football game. 

“Debi is a very brilliant woman, but you can put in a thimble what she knew about sports,” he joked. “She knew it was critical that sports be covered.”

Skrabacz explained that he wrote about the general atmosphere of sports during his time at the University and specifically what the women went through to start their varsity sports. 

Luckily, Skrabacz said his work would not have been possible without the research of Anne Dilenschneider and Jane Lammers. 

The two women were at a 30-year reunion of coeducation when they were shown a video about women’s athletics. Skrabacz explained that Dilenschneider and Lammers were upset that the video did not show the early years or how the women made the programs that today yield national championships.

Lammers and Dilenschneider then started researching. They made posters and sought out connections. The women complied “a boatload” of material, which they turned over to Skrabacz.

“All I did was the easy part. I took all their information, summarized it and turned it into a story,” he said. 

Other than their inclusion in the book, over 250 women who participated in the early building stages of each varsity sport will be memorialized with honorary monograms during a home football game the weekend of Oct. 21 to 23. 

Looking back and looking forward

“Objects” came out Sept. 1 and is now available for order at Barnes & Noble. There are two versions: a paperback and a special edition hardcover.

“We’re limiting the hardcover edition to 365 copies to commemorate and honor the 365 first female undergraduates,” Dell said. “The first 365 hardcover books will have a special cover that commemorates that number.”

The Hammes Bookstore is hosting two book signing events for the new release Friday, Sept. 9 from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, Oct. 14 from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. 

A labor of love of over 20 years, Dell said she hopes the book is a tribute to the strength of the Notre Dame family through good times and bad. 

“It was a time when men and women came together and there were struggles, but we found each other. We had the ability to get through some pretty weird tough times, and that’s the value of the Notre Dame family,” she said. “[The book is] a balanced picture: the good, the bad and the ugly.”

Bella Laufenberg

Contact Bella at ilaufenb@nd.edu