Saturday, October 26, 2013

That Was Easy - A Rant

Generally, my discussions are about seafood or at least a tangent to seafood. Today, however, is going to be a little different. Today, I am going to present the position that the "Easy Button" is a bold faced dirty lie.

First, a little background:
www.staples.com
  • Staples is an office supply store. 
  • Their motto is "that was easy" which is expanded by the gimmick of the "easy button." 
  • They are pretty much the only full service office supply store in the Midcoast Maine region. 
  • I own and operate two small businesses that frequently require printing services (business cards, fliers, brochures), office equipment (computers, furniture, peripherals, software), and consumables (paper, envelopes, pens)
Now for my first hand anecdotal evidence supporting the statement "The is nothing easy about Staples":

Anecdote 1

Background:

My birthday was in September and my mom (Gurnet Trading Co.) hooked me up with a super cool gift to help improve my ability to support our web store. All my new little doodles and drawings for the website have been made possible by my new Surface Pro (notice I didn't link to Staples). It also allows me to process orders off site and on the fly.

It's a pretty sweet little device that has more computing power than my current lap top and fits in my purse. It runs full strength Windows 8.1, not the dumbed down tablet operating system; which means I can run standard programs, not just apps.

Back on track (we can talk more about my Surface later). For those of you who don't know my mom; she (1) loves any event that allows her to give gifts, (2) works like mad even though she is always saying "I hardly ever work anymore," (3) on account of her working like mad she doesn't make it beyond Brunswick very often, and (4) on account of her living at her store, she tends to be "behind schedule" on more personal matters.

Knowing all this about my mom, I was not at all surprised when I received my birthday gift two days late and learned it had been purchased at pretty much the only store in town (Staples). She had purchased the tablet at Staples along with a number of peripherals (including the Touch Cover and the Wedge Mouse). I opted to return both peripherals and upgrade to the Type Cover.

This is the process I went through to get my Type Cover.

Not So Easy Button:

1. Drive across town to return product.
2. Go to computer department and find that they keep their Type Covers "out back."
3. Grab a Type Cover retrieval slip from the Surface display.
4. Go to check out and hand cashier the slip and find out they are out of stock.
5. Decline offer to go place a special order on their online kiosk. Why would I spend the time now when I can do the same thing in the comfort of my own home later? (Turns out this will be the demon that bites me in the ass later).
6. Return items and receive a store gift card.
7. Go home.
8. Surf the Staples site at my leisure and pick my items.
10. Begin to check out but can't find any place to enter my gift card information.
11. Spend the better part of an hour researching and learning that Staples, owner of the Easy Button and seller of IT products, cannot redeem their gift cards online.
12. Empty online shopping cart.
13. Drive back across town.
14. Find customer service rep so they can place order at the kiosk.
15. Check-out with regular cashier (you can't checkout at the kiosk for the same reason you can't use a gift card online).
16. Wait for assistance from a manager and the kiosk service rep because there were "technical difficulties" with the slip that printed off at the kiosk.
17. Go home and wait for UPS.

Granted, I could have skipped steps 6-13 had I just used the damn kiosk in the first place, but I didn't know that I didn't really have a choice in the matter. I will not make that mistake again.

Anecdote 2

Background:

Being the thriftster that I am, I had been using a combination of Microsoft Access and Excel to track customers, invoices, and expenses. They were programs I already owned and had experience operating. While I am an Excel rockstar, I am more of an Access open-mic-nighter and found myself a little bogged down in administrivia. I bit the bullet and decided to go for purpose built small business accounting software.

Purchasing the software online was easy enough, but after it had been installed I found that it could not sync with my banking institutions, rendering a one of the key features useless.

This is the process I went through to return my software.

Not So Easy Button

1. I checked my invoice for a return policy. I click on a link titled "Return Policy" and am routed to a "Shipping and Delivery" page.

2. I wander around the website for a while looking for a Return Policy page. Eventually, I find the Returns (located under FAQ), the statement "If you're not 100% satisfied with your Staples® purchase, you can return it for any reason," and a return form.

3. I fill out the return form.

4. I wait two days and receive no response regarding the status of my return.

5. I sign on to the Staples service chat to speak with a service rep. At this time I am notified that software cannot be returned. She sends me a link to part of the return statement I had not previously seen. I ask several times if there is anything that can be done. I was willing to take a store credit or an exchange for a different product if a full refund wasn't possible. I was informed that there was NOTHING that could be done.

6. Wanting to have all my ducks in a row, I then called Staples to speak in person with a customer service rep. I told her that the software was useless to me and that I could not afford such an expensive program if it was not going to meet my needs. Again I was told that there was NOTHING that could be done.

7. Feeling frustrated and definitely not "100% satisfied with my Staples purchase," I contacted my credit card company and who immediately issued a stop payment and returned my money.

8. Three days later I received a response from the initial return request informing me Staples would not refund my money but the software manufacturer would.

Gaaaah! I spoke with two different customer service reps who told me I had no options, so I went nuclear and issued a stop payment. This is not the way I like to do business. I go out of my way to not be that girl.

Anecdote 3

Background:

Christmas is coming and we are gearing up for shipping lots of tasty seafood snacks. A majority of our shipments are purchased as gifts, so Christmas is critical. We have family members in two markets brimming with potential and we have been considering sending brochures to those family members to hand out in their communities.

I went online and drafted an instant brochure. Instant Printing is a service Staples offers that allows you to design a product online and pick it up at your local store later that day. My plan was to have it printed at my mother-in-law's local Staples.

Before I pulled the trigger, I had a few questions to ask.

Not So Easy Button

As it was after hours, I could not contact a customer service rep so I submitted my questions via their email option. I asked the following questions:
  1. Is there a way to download a proof to print off and review prior ordering?
  2. Is there a way to convert an instant brochure to a standard brochure?
  3. If I order standard brochures can I have the order split and delivered to two different locations?
I don't think these are difficult nor unreasonable questions.
  1. If I am going to spend $200+ I want to make sure it is right, and printing off a copy on my crappy color inkjet will at least give me a little bit of an idea.   
  2. While standard brochures take about a week to produce and ship, they are about half price and are printed on a higher quality paper.
  3. With standard brochures, you get a volume discount.
One day after I submitted my questions, I received an auto-reply informing me I would be contacted within 24 hours.

Three days after I received the auto-reply, I received another message informing me my request had been forwarded to the manager of my local Staples Copy Center.

That was three days ago and I have yet to hear anything else, not that it matters because I don't want to have anything printed at my local Staples anyway.

Anecdote 4

Today, I attempted to log into my Staples account to review business cards I had printed back in August. I received an error notification. I attempted to change my password but I kept getting the same error "user email not found."

This was immensely frustrating, because I get enough spam from the company to know they have my email address linked to my account. After about 30 minutes of beating my head against the wall I got to a point where it asked me the name of my high school as a security question.

At this point I knew I was in trouble. I would never select that as a security question. What would the answer be?

Mt. Ararat
mt ararat
MT ARARAT
mt. ararat
Mount Ararat
mount ararat
MTA
mta

Definitely not. There are too many options and I am to inconsistent to use the right one. So I tried each one of those options, just in case I had used that security question, and big surprise none of them worked and I got booted out of the system.

Eventually, I followed an old link and was routed to a Copy and Print log in. I got in on my first attempt.

Those bastards have separate log-ins for their Copy and Print center. Seriously?!

If Staples is such a pain, why do you use them?

That is an excellent question. I try to purchase as little from Staples as possible. Amazon is my preferred source for electronics and since I am a Prime member the lead time is only 2 business days. I also use UPrinting for some printing needs, but the lead time is 7-10 days and the shipping is exorbitant so price analysis is required. Office supplies are cheaper at Wal-Mart but their selection is terrible.

To further by-pass Staples, I just bought a Color Laser Printer and glossy paper so I can print my own brochures. Guess where I bought the printer and paper?

So what does it come down to? Sometimes you just need stuff now without paying through the nose and having a local brick and mortar store makes that possible.

I guess at the end of the day I have to say . . that was easy.