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The Harvard Cooperative Society's annual rebate will plummet to 5.5 percent this year, the lowest figure in at least 14 years, several members of the Coop's board of directors confirmed yesterday.
Coop directors attributed the reduced rebate to several factors, including a decline in overall sales, a more competitive market in Harvard Square, and a general recession in the state.
"It was just a tough year. That's the major reason," said Coop director Paul E. Dans, a senior at MIT.
The Coop, which houses the nation's largest textbook department, is governed in part by a 23-member Board of Trustees. Eleven of the directors are Harvard and MIT students, and are elected by students at both schools.
The rebate, which represents a sizeable portion of the Coop's annual profits, has fallen steadily for the last several years. In 1989, students received a rebate equal to 7 percent of their total purchases. In 1988 the rate was 7.8 percent, and in 1987, the rebate rate was 9.5 percent.
But Coop director Peter Pil, an MIT student, said the rebate could have ended up even lower this year. Considering that the retail industry has suffered significant losses in the struggling Massachusetts economy, the Coop was able to make a "pretty good profit," said Pil.
In addition, the rebate was also lower because the Coop plans to reinvest a portion of its profits to revamp its aging infrastructure, Dans said.
"There's tremendous change ahead for the Coop because it's being forced economically to change," said Dans. In particular, the Coop has plans to redesign its Harvard Square store, he added.
Coop officials yesterday declined to comment on the rebate, and would not speculate about the factors behind the decline.
Alex Arnold, assistant to Coop President James A. Argeros, said the Coop had no comment, and that an official statement would be released soon.
Thomas Wagner, the Coop's comptroller, also declined to comment, but said that rebate checks would be ready October 10.
Students interviewed last night expressed anger and disappointment about the reduced rebate.
Sarah B. Wigglesworth '91 and Madelaine T. Tully '91 said that the Coop's goods are often overpriced and called its offer of a rebate deceptive.
"Five percent is really nothing when you come down to it," said Wigglesworth. She said the Coop should state its rebate rate in advance in order to be fair to its members.
"It's supposed to be a student cooperative society...and it's getting into things we really don't need," said Richard P. Cusick '92.
And Frank Klausz III '92 said: "They're goingto find that if they keep lowering the rebate likethat, students will stop shopping."
"I think it's pretty funny," said Jason G.Vincz '93. "It sort of describes the Coop as aninstitution of sloth and central planning--kind oflike what the Soviet Union used to be like.
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