Puddle Jumpers

Enjoying life, off the hamster wheel

Staples Business Depot and Customer Service

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Our friends, Mark and Deb, who own the Granville Island Tea Co., run a brisque business in the Granville Island Market. For the first three years, they worked around the clock, 7 days a week until they had built up the business sufficiently to hire staff. In those early years, when Mark and Deb worked alone, Neil and I would “volunteer” and come down and help them from time to time, or jump in if we were there when it got busy and help serve other customers. Neil reworked the phrase “customer service” to mean that the customers serve customers, which Mark and Deb got a good laugh at. This was the way it was back then, with many of us regulars, Pat, us, Brian, Karen, Syd and others, helping where and when we could by serving customers or stamping bags, sticking filters, helping restock, building shelves, cleaning, etc. Mark and Deb were always very generous and gracious in return and thus formed a kind of “family” at ye olde G.I. Tea Co.

What customer service also meant to G.I. Tea was that the customer paid for the service provided, no more, no less. Here’s a scenario: customer walks up to counter, orders tea, tea is made, customer is handed tea, customer pays for tea, end of transaction. Now you’re probably asking, “What has this got to do with Staples?”

What this has to do with Staples is this: The other day I needed to do some photocopying. I have a Staples photocopying card I bought a year ago, maybe more. This photocopying card is like a debit card, you get the card, “fill it up” with money, take it to the copy machine, insert the card, and as you copy the copy fee is deducted from your card until you don’t have enough money on the card to continue copying, at which point you “re-fill” it and keep copying.

Here’s the thing: by “filling up” this card BEFORE you make the copies, you’re actually paying in advance for a service you may or may not use. And, in my case, within a year, the technology had changed and they had new cards, so they were unable to read my card in any of their machines, including the one at the customer service desk. I may have as much as $5.00 on my card, in which case, Staples has been accruing interest on that $5.00 for a year or more. Even if it is as low as 5¢ it’s still money in their pockets. If you multiply this by the millions of copy cards that are distributed across North America, the extra money they’re making for this “service” is substantial. Also, the cost of each copy always leaves a small amount left over on the card because each copy is not in an even currency. Presently, each self-serve, black and white 8.5″ x 11″ copy is 6¢. If I fill up my Staples Copy Card with $5.00, I can make 83 copies, but there will be 2¢ remaining. There’s not much I can do with 2¢. And what if I forget or lose the card, and buy a new one? That 2¢ sits in Staples’ coffers.

2¢ doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what if there are 1,000,000 people in N. America with 2¢ sitting on their Staples’ Copy Cards? Now Staples has made $20,000.00, on which they can make interest. That would make a nice little X-mas bonus for some top exec at Staples, wouldn’t it? $20,000.00 for providing NO SERVICE!

This makes my blood boil. UBC has instituted the same technology in their libraries. However, I think you might be able to return the card at a UBC library and get your money refunded, but I’m not sure. Also, students are notoriously lax, and likely will lose the card, or forget it in the machine or simply shrug off these extra few cents as a minor loss. In the end, UBC gains on the backs of its students, once again for service NOT PROVIDED!

I’m not sure what to do about this. I feel it’s an injustice to “us little guys”. Large corporations like Staples or established institutions like UBC create systems that appear to be ‘customer service’ driven, a convenience provided for the customer; whereas, the convenience for the customer is secondary to the gain of the organization. It’s supposed to be a win-win situation not “0: Customer, 1: Business”. Office Depot on Lougheed still makes you pay for service you’ve received. You photocopy as much as you like, take a final report to the cash and pay for what you’ve copied. I like this system and will continue to go there as long as they do the ethical and right thing: Provide good Customer Service.

Things have changed at the G.I. Tea Co. Mark and Deb aren’t there as often as they used to be. They’ve hired a super staff who are really nice who give really good customer service, but from time to time you might find one of us “old timer” customers providing you with our version of customer service: Customers serving customers. Maybe Staples could take a cue from that.

Frustratedly jumping and making big splashes in a little puddle,

Ingrid

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8 comments on “Staples Business Depot and Customer Service

  1. stephanie
    February 21, 2007

    hey, i think i have more than one of those ubc copy cards. i should see if i could get the $ back. i know that the vpl has a similar system. and the minimum you can put on it is $5. i think i needed it to copy all of 3 or 4 pages. buggers!

  2. ingridandneil
    February 22, 2007

    Oh yea! I had a VPL copy card too – don’t know what happened to it. I remember having to pay $1 (non-refundable) for the card. There were no coin operated machines. At least if I got $5 in dimes or quarters, I could use the money elsewhere, which is certainly more convenient than having the money tied up in a plastic card, which I might forget about or lose. Grrr…

  3. Dork
    June 19, 2008

    I’m not saying that I agree with staples at all, because I didn’t agree with that. That actually blew my mind when I heard about it. However now we (yes I work at Staples) have it so the copy card works as a gift card aswell. I’m not quite sure how many Staples stores have put this into action.I’m assuming enough customers finally complained about it.

  4. ingridandneil
    June 19, 2008

    Thanks for the info! While it would be better if you paid straight out for the service, no more, no less, I suppose it’s a step in the right direction that you can use this money toward purchases in the store. In any event, it’s not the best approach. That would be to allow customers to pay for the copies they made. I go to Office Depot for do-it-yourself copying, or to our local Minute Man Press if I have more time. They do a good job, are reasonable and very nice people. And I keep my money in my community, also a bonus.

    Thanks for your input.

    Ingrid

  5. Bella
    September 30, 2008

    I’m fairly sure UBC isn’t getting “insanely rich” from a few copy machine dollars- and that the money goes towards maintaining the library etc. and not into some “corporate overlord’s” pocket. I think it’s an unfair comparison.

  6. ingridandneil
    October 3, 2008

    Thanks for your thoughts. I don’t see a reference to UBC getting “insanely rich” nor a suggestion that it is a “corporate overlord”. Instead what I’m attempting to point out is what I deem to be an unfair practice by the institution. But thank you for weighing in, none-the-less.

  7. SHEILA
    May 24, 2009

    NOT HAPPY WITH STAPLES ATAL.BOUGHT A CARTRIDGE THAT WAS ONLY 20% FULL OF INK, TOOK IT BACK FOR A REFUND, WOULD NOT GIVE ME A REFUND, ONLY CREDIT ON SOMETHING ELSE I WOULD BUY. NOW I WAS SOON SET TO BUY A NEW COMPUTER,BUT IF THEY ACTED THAT WAY WITH A CARTRIDGE IMAGINE WHAT WOULD HAPPEN WITH A LARGER ITEM. STAPLES YOU HAVE JUST LOST ANOTHER CUSTOMER, DO NOT LIKE THE WAY YOU DO BUSINESS.

  8. anonymous
    July 16, 2009

    I work at a Staples Copy Center and people routinely (literally) forget $20 worth on copy cards in the machine or laying on the counter. Assuming that out of 1800 stores nationwide, every day a customer leaves just one dollar on one card, annually the company will bank $657,000 for doing nothing except instituting a completely user unfriendly system. I’m sure they are making much more than that, though.

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This entry was posted on February 21, 2007 by in Main.

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