Letters to the Editor

Class ring racket

November 12, 2011


To the editor:

I would like to examine closely a practice that has been going on for many, many years and has remained overlooked and unchallenged. This is the practice of allowing representatives of a private company to pull students out of class and pitch to them an object that many cannot afford and that nobody needs.

The class ring, a token held dearly by a few, is in reality a financial burden for many parents. Still, schools corral these young teenagers into an auditorium and give Jostens (the “class ring company”) exactly what it wants: a captive and highly impressionable audience. I find it outrageous that this is done in the middle of the school day.

In today’s economy with many parents out of work and in a world in which the U.S. lags behind in education, I ask this: Exactly how appropriate is it for Jostens to pitch to our kids, all of whom are minors? Exactly how appropriate is it to pull them out of class? What message does this send, that buying things is more important than learning? Exactly how appropriate is it for these professional salespeople to prey on their vulnerabilities, knowing full well how driven by emotion and how needing of acceptance adolescents can be? These teens don’t have the experience to deal with people like this. Yet, this is a practice that schools actually support. It is nothing short of exploitative.


skinny 6 years, 6 months ago

When I was in High School thirty five years ago everyone bought a class ring. They were only around $100.00 back then. I still wear mine to this day. You don't have to buy your kid a class ring if you don't want to or you cannot afford one. It's no big deal. You also have the option of going to Wal-Mart and getting one too if you like. But you are right. This is a practice that has been going on I bet for 70 or 80 years. You know, sort of like the class pictures, why change it now??

cher1 6 years, 6 months ago

I definitely agree with this letter. All three of my kids lost their class rings. We definitely could not afford them. We were barely able to pay our bills. I think the students should be given a brochure to take home and if the parents are able to swing it then ok. Where are these rings going to be in 20 years? I agree,it is a racket.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 6 months ago

I truly don't mean to be rude, but doesn't buying those rings back when you couldn't afford them say far more about you than it does about the schools and Josten?

Morris159 6 years, 6 months ago

Jostens is giving services to the school without charge. They fund these services like stationary, recognition programs, straight money by selling graduation products on campus. I would encourage you to see what they are getting from Jostens before calling it a racket.

Amy Albright 6 years, 6 months ago

I couldn't believe they did this either. It should stop at a brochure, and kids should receive info on alternatives to Jostens rings in the same way.

pace 6 years, 6 months ago

You are right, it should stop at a brochure. The hype schools are giving to this and some of the other fund raising efforts should be a muted effort.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

I was very rebellious when I was a teenager. My father and mother took me to the jeweler's one day to buy me a class ring, which they were going to pay for. I repeatedly insisted that I did not want one. I'm afraid there was quite a scene in the jeweler's when my father insisted, "You're going to get a class ring!"

"I don't want one!" I insisted.

We were there for a while bickering about it, and the jeweler was very patient. Then he finally pointed out to my father that it wasn't necessary to buy one today, it could just as easily be purchased in the future. Then, my father finally relented.

I was relieved that I didn't have to order that stupid ring that represented a school I hated, and wasted years I couldn't wait to forget.

I never did get a class ring, and I have never missed it a bit. But maybe I should have let my father buy me one, because I would have really enjoyed "losing" it.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

It is a racket that which exploits peer group pressure.

If class rings were had never made available nobody would care. Young students would not be demanding them or asking for them.

This concept of dragging students into a "hard sell session" must be eliminated. If this process was not quite profitable it would not take place. These rings are not a necessity in life.

If people want class rings and other useless stuff they could go online or request a catalog. Will a class ring guarantee graduation,a job or a position among the "most popular"? Of course not.

Is it over priced jewelry? Absolutely!

Hats off to the letter writer for hopefully bringing about an end to hard sell sessions in our public schools. My best guess is if Josten's did not show next year damn few would realize it. Many parents would be quietly or loudly applauding .... if it even crossed their minds.

Morris159 6 years, 6 months ago

Jostens is giving services to the school without charge. They fund these services like stationary, recognition programs, straight money by selling graduation products on campus. I would encourage you to see what they are getting from Jostens before calling it a racket.

If you guys get rid of that you will just see fees go up for ALL students... not just the people who purchase rings.

Diz60 6 years, 6 months ago

Nothing is free. Someone is paying for the "free" stuff and its the kids and families. Eliminate the free stuff, bid this out every year or two with specs including the "free struff" if the school is organized that way, and EVERYONE wins. You can easily see which schools bids rings and graduation products out. The starting prices for the identical ring ranges from $100-$200. The savings will be MUCH more than what is given away as "free"

purplesage 6 years, 6 months ago

The public schools allow sales, under different guises, throughtout a student's csareer. It can be cheap trade books, marginal quality pictures, or a number of other things that parents feel compelled to buy because it is for our school or because their little one wants what "everyone" else is getting. Add to that the number of opportunities to sell chocolate, nuts, cookie dough, pizza kits, and who knows what else and there are a lot of people making a lot of money off kids in school. And then, there are providers of band instruments - granted the same exclusive opportunity to market.

I disagree that it isn't a big deal, that a student not get the class ring that many of the classmates are getting. It is like shoes and jeans - part of the social acceptance code of high school that is so harsh on those who have not. Or have you forgotten what that was like?

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 6 months ago

When my daughter was young, she desperately wanted a pair of designer jeans because "everyone wears them", and I simply couldn't afford them. So I told her that I would buy her K-Mart jeans (that's how long ago it was :-) but if she wanted the designer jeans, she'd have to buy them herself...but that I would put the $$ a pair of K-mart jeans costs towards her designer jeans. She got a job as a paper carrier within the week. She was 12. She earned her designer jeans. Because they truly were important to her.

She's worked hard ever since and is very successful as well as being a wonderful person. And her kids? They've all gotten jobs when they were old enough. They're all hard-working, responsible teens and young adults. Happy, confident, and not feeling as though they are entitled.

That darned pair of designer jeans was worth far more than we paid for them :-)

jaywalker 6 years, 6 months ago

I had mine for exactly one hour, gave it to my girlfriend to wear around her neck on a necklace, went to college, never saw it again. Money well spent.

tomatogrower 6 years, 6 months ago

Yeah, I gave mine to my ex husband and never saw it again. But it was real gold back in the day, so the metal might have helped with my retirement. Too bad he is dead. I would take him to small claims court. :>)

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

"Money well spent"? You left out what you got for your expenditure.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 6 months ago

I didn't want a class ring, but my parents thought I should have one, and so I got one.

It turned out to be a great investment-- it functioned as a bottle opener for several years. That may be what caused the setting to fall out, and I eventually quit wearing it.

Kendall Simmons 6 years, 6 months ago

I had quite a different reaction to this letter than many of you:

"Gee, Mom. You could use this as a learning experience for your kid. An opportunity to pass on your wisdom. You see, Josten's class rings are made in the USA. And our buying things made in the USA are how we can help the economy get back on its feet.

"And, if you can't afford to buy one for your kid? Well, if you haven't already taught them about this, your kid is now certainly old enough to learn that we can't buy everything we want, that buying on credit can be extremely harmful, why we need to avoid impulse buys, and all kinds of other useful tidbits about being a wise consumer.

"Indeed, all you parents could tell your kids that, if they want a class ring, they'll have to buy it themselves. That way they can decide if they really want it and are willing to work hard to get it. Or if it was just a momentary "I want!" thing. Perhaps they'll work hard and buy it...valuing it even more. Or perhaps they'll decide, once the sales pitch has worn off, that it's not worth the effort"

"What a great learning opportunity for your kid! And Josten and your local high school made it possible!!"

beatrice 6 years, 6 months ago

In today's market, they should sell a class ringtone.

verity 6 years, 6 months ago

Do young people still go steady with class rings? Do young people still go steady? Obviously I'm out of the teen-age loop.

Oh, and once again, Bea has nailed it.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes, young people still go steady, and sometimes for a whole week.

verity 6 years, 6 months ago

Oh, my, the times they have been a'changin'. In my day it was often for a year, maybe two. And the girls put big wads of tape or dental floss around the back and covered it with a lot of fingernail polish so the guy's ring didn't fall off their finger. It was way cool.

guess_again 6 years, 6 months ago

p.s. You do not have to buy a school yearbook either.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

That's true, but they are a treasure later.

And later, it's difficult to locate a copy. If you're looking for one from years ago, there are two sources: Ebay, and for some high schools you can buy a reprint from Classmates.com.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 6 months ago

Going by the argument given, shouldn't ALL assemblies and ceremonies be eliminated? I don't remember learning anything at a pep assembly or Homecoming parade. Might as well outlaw letter jackets while you're at it.

Of all of the problems that a middle school/high school kid has to go through as they mature, peer pressure to buy class rings isn't very high on the list.

gccs14r 6 years, 6 months ago

I went to a high school in OK for a year that was a perennial state football champion in its classification. During football season, there was a weekly hourlong assembly of all the students in the building, grades 8-12, where we chanted, sang songs, and had to listen to an endless parade of illiterate players mumble senseless platitudes about victory into a microphone. At the time I though it was stupid. That hour per week would have been better spent in the classroom.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 6 months ago

I think they started holding assemblies like that down at Camp X-Ray.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

If my memory serves me well students were not hauled into an auditorium and given a hard sell introduction. Students were advised of when and where the reps would be located in a hallway then waited in line.

rtwngr 6 years, 6 months ago

There are lots of places to sell gold and silver jewelry. Nobody will pay you what you think it is worth. They will pay you what it is worth to them as scrap. In which case every buyer is reputable.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 6 months ago

Isn't there only 'one company' that is allowed to take senior pictures? Is that true or not?

Deja Coffin 6 years, 6 months ago

I think it might depend on the school. When I was in high school all our school pictures were done by LifeTouch and then you got your senior pictures done on your own. I went to a guy in Lawrence (don't remember his name) and he did a great job! Where my kids go to school now they have a different company that comes in and does their pictures.

Morris159 6 years, 6 months ago

They won the contract with the school. The reason they are the only one on campus is because they are giving services right back to the school. Usually programs that they fund or even just giving them money. Jostens is probably providing these free of charge in order to have the business at the school. There is only one company because printing announcements is quite expensive because of all the foil... and also the cap and gowns need to look the same.

brewmaster 6 years, 6 months ago

Perhaps, there is a "follow the money" behind the scenes motivation for the school. Does the school, school administration and/or teachers receive any kind of "finders fee", gifts, discounts or kickbacks from Jostens?

skinny 6 years, 6 months ago

I bet you wouldn't let the kids whose parents by them BMW's drive their cars to school either, would you?

rtwngr 6 years, 6 months ago

Social Justice? I hope this was sarcasm at its best.

FlintlockRifle 6 years, 6 months ago

Mine likewise was made of gold, my wife had her cousin over to help do some work around our place while he was between jobs to help him out, yep he helped himself to my class ring also, rest in piece you rat

average 6 years, 6 months ago

Plain didn't want one. Brochures didn't even make it home.

Going over my folks' credit card bills after they died, they were in high-interest debt throughout my childhood. On one level, I appreciate that they were trying to hide that from me. On the other side, there was so much dumb spending (by/for me and by/for them), and so many lessons I could have learned earlier, that I'd really wish we'd sat down and talked about the fact that we were poor.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

1) That reminds me of a very charming short story that was in an English Literature class textbook from my college days that I "discovered" when I actually read my textbook years after I had taken the class. It was written by a famous author, John Steinbeck maybe? I sure do wish I could find it now, I've looked for years but can't seem to. It's old enough (prior to 1930, I think) that it should be in the public domain by now.

It was set in the terrible depression in the 1890s. Everyone seems to think that the Great Depression in the 1930s was the worst? Well, they don't know much history, the one in the 1890s was just as bad in many ways. There was absolutely no social safety net at all, and you could make a convincing argument that was why it ended within about three or four years, instead of lasting well over a decade like the one that began with the stock market crash October 29, 1929, and the ensuing financial panic.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

2) It was written from the point of view of a little boy talking about his everyday life. They had potato soup that his mother made just about every day because it was so good. Days came, days went, and the little boy had no clue that his family was different in any way. He went to school, just like everybody else.

And every day, his father left the apartment to "go look for a job." But there was never any news of finding one.

Then, one day something happened. Everyone in his class was to bring an envelope with some money in it to "help the poor". Of course, he was anxious to help the poor, and told his mother about it, and asked her for an envelope with some money in it so he could do so.

She seemed worried for some reason, but agreed to help.

Before all the student's envelopes were collected, he felt the coins inside. There was something strange, there was only a few pennies in the envelope his mother had given him.

Then he heard talk at school about Christmas, and there would be presents. That was strange, because his parents had never mentioned it at all.

That night, he told his parents that it would be Christmas soon, and they didn't seem to know what to say.

His father cleared his throat, and announced that he would go out and see, he didn't know. Then he left, and his mother didn't seem to know anything about Christmas either. They would have to wait to see what his father could find out.

Then, everything started to seem very strange.

That night, as he lay in bed, the little boy finally realized something. We are poor!

And the story ended with him thinking that didn't matter because he had his mother and father, that was what he needed, potato soup was good, and he didn't need any presents.

The story was so charming to me because it illustrated so well that what is really important in life is certainly not the material things. I sure do wish I could find the title or the author of that story, because I would sure love to read it again a few times. It's only a couple of pages long.

And I sure do know a lot of people that could learn a lot from that story. That is, if they weren't too hard headed to realize what it was really saying.

independent_rebel 6 years, 6 months ago

My father kept asking me about when I was getting mine, and I kept telling him I had no interest. He got angry and thought I was just being lazy. He assumed that all of my friends would be getting a class ring. "All the other boys will have theirs!" No a single one of my friends got one that I was aware of. Actually, class rings went out of fashion 50 years ago, in my opinion. Waste of time, waste of money, and who is impressed by anyone who wears a tacky high school class ring?

CocoaCrystal 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree with Melanie - Jostens puts a lot of pressure on the kids to buy a class ring. Besides presentations at school, there have been direct mail brochures, and multiple phone calls. When they call, I've said that my grandson wasn't interested (he knows it's too much money), but they keep calling. How many "no, thank yous" does it take? Anyway, I promised him a class ring if he graduates from university and if he still wanted one.

Xwards 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree. In retrospect, it's not worth it and is a real racket.

The Jostens salesman that came to my high school clearly hated his job. Despite that, I wanted a ring so badly I got one anyway. Now I don't even know where it is. The jocks made the best uses of their rings (and they always bought the big, heavy, clunky ones) by turning them to the palm of their hand and slapping people upside the head.

purplesage 6 years, 6 months ago

Schools do get a cut of many of the products to which they grant exclusive rights to sell. I can't say about pictures other than the composites that hang in the hallways are usually provided by the outfit that makes a fortune taking the pictures. The big exclusive is the soft drink contract. You know those signs outside of nearly every school? The big lighted one with space for messages? And the scoreboards on the football fields and in the gym? Often, they are a "benefit" of allowing a single vendor to sell their product at concessions and in vending machines.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

Yes public school concessions is a large racket. Too much dough for crummy stuff. Dump it all and go back to brown bag lunch from home..... yumo stuff. Peanut butter and grape jelly and/or honey.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

Give the letter writer credit for bring this issue to public view.

Phone calls and additional brochures = holy crap what is the world coming to. In the future send the brochures back to Josten's with zero comment or info.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 6 months ago

Most people can't find their ring in a few years. This industry is not selling anything people really need, but as long as there is no pressure, go for it. When I was a small-town high school principal I used to get in trouble for suggesting to the seniors they didn't need to buy all the 'stuff' the company pushed on them, and that a dozen or maybe two dozen graduation invitations would probably suffice. "Unless you are just trolling for money, do you really think there are more than 24 people who really care you are going to graduate?" I'm cheap, so probably not a good example, but many families cannot afford the full load, let alone the ring. I never bought one in high school or college.

KansasPerson 6 years, 6 months ago

The rings are bad enough; the graduation stuff is even worse. Sometimes the rep makes more money off your order of graduation "necessities" than he does off your ring.

Morris159 (anonymous) replies… "There is only one company because printing announcements is quite expensive because of all the foil..."

What nonsense. Making the graduation announcements more expensive than they need to be has nothing to do with why there is a bidding/wooing process for the "one company" to market their wares at a high school.

I accept (grudgingly) that all the graduation caps-and-gowns have to match, and you really have to buy or rent one if you're going to go through the ceremony, but it IS a racket that they make students buy these things every year. Geez, find someone who graduated the year before and ask if you can borrow theirs. You are going to wear it for maybe one hour. But even if you do buy the cap & gown, for heaven's sake don't let the slick salesman try to tell you that you NEED the "graduation package" that is full of other stuff.. I assure you that you DO NOT NEED the souvenir hat-tassel, the "senior jewelry" (this is different from the class ring!), the "senior memory book" (again, different from the yearbook!) or any of that. Announcements? You can have them made pretty cheap; a lot of kids with computer know-how can buy the paper stock from Office Depot and make their own. "Oh, but they aren't the Official Announcements; they won't match!" BIG DEAL!!! Do you think your relatives are going to run a comparison test? Do you think they know, or even care, what your school's "official" announcement looks like this year? Do you think that your friends/relatives are going to make a decision of whether or not to send you a note of congratulations based on whether your announcement has foil or a Chesty Lion or whatever on it?

The least expensive "graduation package" available this year for LHS is over $150. The largest is nearly $300! And this is for stuff that is either going to be thrown away, lost under a bed, or forgotten in a jewelry box within a year. Because believe me, you are NOT going to want to wear these things after graduation, especially if you're going on to college, because no one in college is going to care about your senior gear. Sorry morris159, but I'd be ashamed to be making money off this at a time when parents are struggling economically. And don't repeat that same tired line about Jostens giving back to the schools. Unless you're actually giving a senior money to help him or her on to college -- if it's just something that's going back into the high school -- then it sounds to me like it's just perpetuating more business for YOU.

blindrabbit 6 years, 6 months ago

After reading this I stumbled across my high school class ring from 50 years ago; stuffed at the back of my sock drawer. It looks the same as the day I got it; have not worn it since. Agree, could not afford it then, just stupid peer pressure to purchase it. I wonder if they is any melt down value, gold was about $35 per ounce back then, silver was about give away; gold now $1800, silver $35.

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