This quarter, my collective syllabi required me to purchase a total of six books — which, like every fixed-income, last-quarter senior, I hesitated to purchase. After four years’ worth of buying books, I thought I’d finally figured out how to spend as little as possible while still gaining access to necessary materials. In order to compromise, I bought the few books that looked promising, useful or essential, and opted to use my quarter-long checkout skills to borrow the remaining materials from Davidson Library. I thought I was quite clever in saving myself the cost of a couple books… until this past Sunday morning, anyway.

Happily claiming the top spot of my unread e-mail list was a “UCSB Libraries Recall Notice,” which read: “The following item(s) [insert boring textbook name here] has been RECALLED. Please note the new RECALL due date. Original Due Date: 06/06/2008. NEW RECALL DUE DATE: 04/21/2008. Please return the item by the RECALL DUE DATE to avoid fines ($1.00 per day).”

What a rip-off, right? What good is quarter-long checkout if the library can recall books? I would rather the library have anticipated needing the books before I checked them out so I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity to purchase the books at the bookstore. Of course, the bookstore didn’t order enough of the books, so after turning my recalled materials in, I’ll have to hunt down a reasonably priced copy on Amazon or Never mind the fact I have absolutely no intention of doing so — I think I’ll just contribute to mass paper waste by photocopying all the necessary chapters.

I can’t help but feel played by most of the business/administrative establishments in I.V. and on campus. The UCen, considering it’s run by our peers working a close-to-minimum-wage job for beer money, often produces less-than-consistent service. I frequent Nicoletti’s three to four mornings a week, always ordering the same thing — a double, non-fat caramel latte — but it never tastes the same. Some of the staff is really very good at making drinks, but the automated milk-steaming/foaming machines leave a little to be desired. Most times, the staff doesn’t even charge me the same price. I’m likely to buy a $4 latte without getting that extra espresso shot. Sometimes the syrup is left out. Most times, I don’t get what makes a latte a latte: foam. A few times, when I’ve double-checked my order after picking it up, I’ve gotten only nasty, annoyed looks. OK, so maybe I’m a bit “Nic”-picky, but when I get a latte with odd-smelling, obviously oversteamed, burnt milk, my morning is a little worse for it. So why keep going? Nic’s frequent flyer card makes the inconsistent drinks almost worth it.

The only place more painful to visit than Nic’s on moody-staff day is Alternative Copy Shop, the only material-selling copy shop that irks me more than the campus bookstore. Not only are Alternative’s readers more expensive than those purchased from the A.S. Window or Grafikart, but its employees are some of the most unhelpful crew when it comes to printing out big projects — 60-page, all color business plans included. Alternative charges $2 to use one of its computers — even if it’s just to load your project off a flash drive so you can click “print” — and $2 for every 15 minutes after that.

Excuse me, Alternative, but how exactly am I supposed to use your services if I can’t access my projects? You actually expect me to PAY you for doing so? What’s worse is that oftentimes, staff members set me up on a computer, neglecting to mention the computer fee, though apparently there’s a laminated piece of computer paper declaring the computer cost. The FedEx Kinko’s on campus not only expedites orders — for a modest fee — but also allows customers to e-mail materials to be printed directly to the store for FREE: The e-mail address to use is It’s definitely the lower-priced, higher-quality copy shop in any situation.

Whether you’re spending almost $7,000 (tuition), $4 (coffee) or $62 (a print job), it’s only fair to get your money’s worth. Though I’ve lost the book battle with Davidson Library, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that in order to get what I pay for, I must keep an obsessive eye on every menu, fee, technicality and qualifying asterisk.