Monday, August 19, 2019

The Yubbler Business Model (and Why PS 333 May Toss Perfectly Good Materials)

There's a recent piece in the NY Post about the incredible waste in some NYC schools, including PS 333. While the photo at left is supposedly from PS 166, I'm gonna suppose the Post does not make daily visits to the building dumpster. Who knows how much waste there is?

I'm told the principal of 333 is obsessive about throwing things out, and will toss student projects rather than have them linger, however temporarily, in hallway cubbies. If students are left weeping because all their hard work has literally been tossed into the trash, well, too bad for them.

PS 333 has a preferred vendor called, which claims to give 50% of the profits back to the school. It's hard to say how much profits are. I know Costco gives consumers wholesale plus 14%, and I've seen things sell at CVS for almost double what they cost in Costco. What possible motivation would a company giving half profits to someone else have to be consumer-friendly?

Nonetheless, a particularly ethically-challenged principal might see this as a golden opportunity. Literally, it's money, and what's better than that? You could use it for whatever you like. Does the DOE even care how you spend found money? Who knows?

Since this is the preferred vendor for PS 333, it must be an approved vendor. (Correction--It is NOT an approved vendor on Shop DOE and PS 333 uses it anyway.) That being the case, it's clearly a corrupting influence. How do they allow principals to manipulate parents like this? Who knows how much Yubbler jacks up prices in order to make enough to share half the profits? Has the DOE looked into that? Do they even care? Who knows if the so-called base prices are above and beyond the price they actually pay? Who knows whether or not they exaggerate the wholesale price so as to minimize these so-called profits?

More importantly, who knows how much extra cash hard-working parents piss away by shopping on this site? My first choice for school supplies was always Costco, which has consistently low prices, is at least partially unionized, and treats its employees well. When I couldn't find what my kid needed, I'd start looking elsewhere. If I had to worry about sending money to principal Claire Lowenstein things would be different. It's abhorrent that parents have to even think in passing about making an impression on the school principal while shopping for supplies.

I've spoken to multiple parents of PS 333 students. Every single one was terrified that Lowenstein would find out who they were, and would retaliate against their children. When a principal like that says shop here, and actually has the capacity to check on whether or not you've done so, that's a terrible burden. There ought not to be any "preferred vendor" for working parents. If they want to shop at the 99-cent store, that's none of the principal's business. It's none of the principal's business who buys Crayola crayons, who buys generic ones, who shops at Yubbler, and who pays their likely inflated prices.

Yubbler allows schools like PS 333 to create their own pages. In fact, here's their page. It's easy-peasy. Parents of second graders buy 76 bucks worth of school supplies, exactly what the school asks for. Plus, Principal Claire Lowenstein gets a kickback. What could be more ideal than that if you're Principal Claire Lowenstein?
A business like that of Yubbler could explain why perfectly good supplies are tossed. Why keep them around when you can simply have parents buy them again, and send profits to your school budget at the same time? It's a WIN-WIN.

I don't know if Yubbler is the root of all evil, but it's certainly the root of some. This is a dirty little business model. If teachers are not allowed to take gifts of significant value from students, principals ought not to be allowed to take significant bribes from businesses. In a locale as expensive as NYC, parents trying to make ends meet ought not to have to worry about the budget, let alone the personal inclinations of someone like Principal Claire Lowenstein. 

It's very hard for me to see how this business model isn't tantamount to bribery. If you have any notion why it isn't, please share in the comments.
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