School Stationery Conspiracy

1 Nov

waltons-logoThe time for thinking about ordering all your school stationery for next year has come around again, which means that your school is probably supplying you with the Waltons catalogue, and telling you what to order from it.

This has been happening since I was at primary school, so that’s a little while now.

Last back-to-school season, my wife suggested that she could probably get some of those items cheaper elsewhere, to which I responded, ‘Surely not. Surely Waltons is giving us good prices, because they receive such massive benefit from being given all the school’s business.’ I figured that the volume they must be pushing would almost certainly make it worth their while to stay as preferred supplier. Also, given that the schools virtually forbid you from buying stationery any other way, I couldn’t believe that they would be ripping us off.

They’re ripping us off.

‘But,’ I hear you protest, ‘You’re bound to pay a little more for the convenience of having your stationery delivered!’

Well, let’s discuss convenience. Waltons requires you to read a catalogue, fill out an order form, take the order form to school, wait however long, and then return to the school to find your box. At our school they don’t really go out of their way to make convenient collection times either.

What about the alternative? We all go to the supermarket at least once a month. At the supermarket, they have aisles where they collect all the stationery in one place. You add the stationery to the trolley with your other shopping things. You put the stationery with the stuff you were already carrying to in the car in which you were already going to drive home anyway.

Special delivery via Waltons sounds convenient, but in practice it’s meant an additional trip to school for us, and working with their catalogue takes about as much time as moving through the stationery aisle.

And secondly, you don’t pay a little more for this ‘convenience’. Look at the comparison of Waltons’ prices with what we paid at a Leading Retailer TM (note also that this is a comparison of equivalent brands, not the cheapest products on the shelf, and the totals have been adjusted to reflect the recommended quantities, not the single unit price):

waltons

This sample represents the stuff we had on our list, not the most damning evidence we could gather against Waltons. Clearly there are some items for which Waltons is cheaper–consider getting your permanent markers there–yet Waltons averages out at 36% more expensive.

By all means do your own comparisons and get better data than my admittedly sketchy sample. But I’d recommend hitting the supermarket rather than the Waltons catalogue (or if you’re really watching pennies, just buying the things for which Waltons is cheaper), and asking your school some awkward questions about why they put pressure on us to spend 36% more that we should on stationery.

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One Response to “School Stationery Conspiracy”

  1. Debbie H February 21, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    Oh my goodness, this is exactly my gripe year after year. I saved hundreds (close to R500) this year because I bought a lot of the items elsewhere. For example, whiteboard markers at Waltons were about R80 for 4, I got a pack of 4 at Osmans for R20!! Also their bond paper – between R7 and R10 cheaper per ream almost everywhere. Major rip-off. I’m so glad somebody else agrees and it’s not just me going crazy!!

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