DormSmart Living Blog: Is it really your college campus bookstore you're shopping or ... how do you know?

June 27, 2014

Is it really your college campus bookstore you're shopping or ... how do you know?



Since DormSmart was formed in 2009, I’ve witnessed a plethora of specialty stores and big box retailers jumping into the dorm room supplies marketplace or beefing up their ad campaigns. I have also observed many schools trending toward third party providers to manage their bookstores; and, that's ok because universities and colleges are in the business of educating students, not retailing. Unfortunately, all these changes in the market can make it confusing for college bound students to know where they are shopping for campus living supplies and if the products they are purchasing are indeed housing compliant as sometimes implied on retailer websites. Especially, when there are some retailers who present themselves in a manner that makes it difficult for students to discern whether or not they are shopping at their college campus bookstore, a third party managed bookstore, or another retail site altogether. So this is my advice for students when shopping for college campus living supplies:

Independently check and respect your school housing policies...


At the end of the day, it won't really matter where you shop for college as long as you independently check and respect you school's campus housing policies; just make sure it is a reputable retailer. After all, it is your signature on the housing contract so it is best to read the policies yourself then shop accordingly. This will ensure that no money is wasted purchasing and hauling products to campus that are considered contraband, a violation of  housing policy. When you start fact checking, you will be amazed at the number of items retailers actually carry in their back to college shopping aisles that are non-compliant or just impractical for on campus housing, even some campus bookstores carry inappropriate items. I recently visited a range of retailers and while I am happy to see them listing their bedding dimensions now, I am still finding products being promoted specifically for dorm room living that are just impractical or non compliant.

For kicks and giggles, I’m throwing together a short list of the top 10 questionable products I encountered when shopping back to college aisles this year:

#1 Knife Sets 

Many campuses have policies about the size or type of knives students may have in on campus housing. Some schools even prohibit knives, let alone a full set.

#2 Large Pots and Pan Sets 

While they may not be prohibited, they are somewhat impractical for the typical dorm room with limited storage and no stove. Many residence hall kitchens do have pots and pans available.

#3 Toasters 

Most schools prohibit toasters in campus dorm rooms.

#4 Toaster Ovens 

Most schools prohibit toaster ovens in campus dorm rooms.

#5 Electric Skillets 

Most schools prohibit electric skillets in campus dorm rooms.

#6 Non UL Listed (or ETL Listed) Appliances 

Honestly, non tested appliances should not be used in any home, much less student housing.

#7 Extension Cords 

Tempting, but NO! Most schools do not allow the use of extension cords and certainly do not allow daisy chaining of extension cords in campus housing. Students should use the appropriate size surge protector with built in overload protection, check with campus housing.

#8 Oversized Appliances 

In 2009, I coined the term dorm size meaning students should always use appropriately sized housing approved appliances in their dorm rooms.

#9 Mountable Wall Decor 

If you don’t mind giving up your housing deposit or possibly incurring additional costs… but seriously, schools do not want holes in their walls. Also, many schools limit the amount of wall space that can be covered with decor like a tapestry for fire safety reasons. Funny story, a few years ago, I happened across a retailer selling tapestries to students as a multi-use product “…use it on your wall or cover up with it…” – now that made me giggle!

#10 Glass or Ceramic Furnishings

When I select items for dorm smart living, I always try to think of a hotel room during spring break. I just hate the idea of seeing a student purchase a beautiful piece of furniture or lamp only to have it break during a get together or between dorm room moves.

That’s my short list and opinion. As always, check your school housing policies before shopping and live dorm smart!

More Helpful Resources for Students Preparing for Campus Living:

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