Jostens Just Isn’t Worth It

Sarah Hayes, Staff Writer

Every year toward the end of October and the start of November, all students get to see the fancy little Jostens stand come to Frederick and see flyers posted throughout the hallways. Class rings. Graduation announcements. Caps and gown. For lots of students, this brings lots of excitement.

But for those who read the price tag, this all brings dread.

I know this firsthand, as I’m a graduating senior and recently went through the annual Jostens shopping spree. When we were told to grab our packets to order our caps and gowns, I was excited because it meant that it was finally my turn to follow in my family tradition of getting a class ring and getting my cap and gown. In my family, everyone gets a piece of jewelry when they graduate, and it’s typically a class ring that’s fully customized to show our school status and it normally has our birthstone and an activity we did/something we liked during the four years. And everyone in my family, to my knowledge so far, has gotten this memorabilia from Jostens, so I felt confident in what I would get from them.

But now around $800 and two weeks later, I’m not having a good experience with Jostens.

In all fairness, not everyone needs to spend nearly a thousand dollars on their grad items–all students have to purchase is a cap and gown, which only costs $43. But again, my family and others like mine don’t go for the minimum, as class rings and the like are a tradition for us. I wanted to be a bit fancy this year and got the Warrior Package, which has announcements, T-shirts, a keychain, an extra tassel, a free cap and gown, a customized tankard, and a 2021 spirit gear pack, which includes a backpack, sunglasses, a pop socket, and a sticker. Sounds like a bargain? Well, it might be and it might not be. See, this package was about $300 for all items including that spirit pack, which had no list of what was in it on the form, and I haven’t received an invoice yet to know the full price.

I also got a class ring. I got a deluxe metal ring (Forged Iron) instead of Josten’s cheapest ring metal White Lustrium, but after a bit of research I’m glad I got the more expensive metal because Lustrium is a compounded metal made from nickel and chromium. This ring isn’t huge or ostentatious, but still cost more than I expected after all the shipping, handling, and taxes–$409 without the keepsake box, about $433 with one. This is a huge price tag when my mother paid $200 for a similar ring only 2 years ago for my older brother, and $60 for her ring around 1996.

Yet my ring could have been more expensive–much more.  Jostens sells a variety of jewelry types that can be customized to show off your status, what you studied, or where you’re planning on going in life. They sell charm bracelets, dog tags, lockets, and a bunch of different types of rings–all of which are quite pretty, but their high prices are shocking. For example, their class dog tags come in a couple of different styles, but all of them cost well over 300 dollars. On Amazon, you can find something similar in materials and look for about $15.

The Jostens dog tag collection at prices that will make you howl (Screenshot, jostens.com)

For the class band, it’s a similar story. On Amazon, the cheapest comparable ring that I could find was about $100, which is a reasonable price for jewelry a student will more than likely outgrow as they age. That makes Josten’s prices a 200% increase for a base-level ring.

But let’s go beyond base level. Josten’s most expensive band that isn’t varsity (from the sheer ice collection) starts at $1000 to get gold which, if you live in Colorado, that’s close to a down payment on a car or a month’s rent. If you’re a lucky teen and have a job where you get paid $12 an hour and work five days a week after school for at least five hours per day, this one ring would cost nearly an entire month’s pay. And this is without the addition of a graduation robe, a tassel, announcements, or even any stones or setting on the ring.

Luckily, a student doesn’t have to fork over all their money at once thanks to Josten’s J-Pay plan. J-Pay divides the total up into three payments with no interest. While that sounds great, the payments are automatically deducted (so hopefully your work stays consistent during this pandemic) and there are steep fees if you miss a payment due to insufficient funds in your account.

I enrolled in J-Pay, and I think they charged me for an installment because I had a charge to my bank account from Jostens, but I don’t know for sure because I only recieved an invoice for my ring. I’ve emailed them a couple times in the past, but with little to no responses, the only thing that I have been told was that they were splitting the payments between my warrior package and my class ring because they couldn’t combine the J-Pay for both the orders if there were going to be the same order. I’m hoping the random charge was for the Warrior Package. They have a customer service line, which is great… until you call it. The wait time is very long and not only could the salesperson not answer my simple questions (When will I be charged again? How much do I still owe?) but was rude on top of that. Apparently, I’m not alone: on the business review site SiteJabber, 61 of their 65 Jostens reviews are negative. Most of these reviews cite poor customer service, overcharging of their goods, and shoddy products that do not last.

I’m not sure about that last claim–I have yet to receive my ring, but the items I’ve gotten so far have been okay. I mean, just okay, and that brings me to my final point: everything in the Jostens site comes with a big (and I mean BIG) price tag. Take the $30 black wooden keepsake box I got. It’s nice, sure. But I’ve seen similar boxes at Michael’s for under $10. The official school announcements are only $38.25 for a box of 25 (the smallest box), but Office Depot and Staples could produce similar quality announcements at half the price. A pair of senior socks are nice, but at $17, I could just get three pairs of Class of 2021 socks elsewhere.

A ring from the Sheer Ice collection: Center stone is Golden Sapphire, smaller side gems are Hyacinth, with a 10k White Gold band for over $1K. (Screenshot, jostens.com)

These prices are so high that it may make you wonder if there are better options. Luckily, Jostens is not the only option for buying class jewelry. You can go to jewelry stores like Zales or even go on Amazon to create customized jewelry at cheaper prices. You could even go to your local craft store for other goods–Michaels has specialty papers for announcements that would have a lot more sentimental value because you made it yourself.

However, Jostens may be the only option for the cap and gown, as it’s the only place that the school works with for those. Caps and gown purchasing is a requirement if you want to participate in the graduation ceremony. According to the Jostens website, just the cap and gown for Frederick High students is $43, but you wouldn’t know that from the first look at their site. When a user looks up Frederick High and clicks on graduation products, the page shows four packages from $382.50 to $180.00. In order to find the minimum of just a cap and gown, it takes clicking through two more pages, with Jostens hiding the affordable products in order to maximize their profit.

The bare minimum: the $43 cap and gown only unit, in case you can’t find it on the site. (Screenshot, jostens.com)

So fellow and future seniors: we have to go through Jostens to get our caps and gowns. Fine. But I hope you all dig a little deeper and do a bit of research on fun ways to get cheaper class jewelry or announcements. You will avoid outrageous pricing, will hopefully avoid a customer service headache, and may even find something that means even more to you than the run-of-the-mill products that come with a “package deal” that is anything but. You only get one graduation: ditch the Jostens junk for something more personal.