Staples Crappy Customer Service — Let’s Pay Money to Piss ’em Off !

You know, retail establishments — particularly those with any real online presence at all — are pretty damned effective at pissing people off for free… there’s seldom any reason for those idiots to actually PAY money to do so.

Staples, and their oft-touted, yet woefully inadequate warranty service should be no exception.

Yet here I am, writing about them. You’ve gotta know where this is headed…

I bought a second office chair (don’t ask, it’s really necessary) at Staples, paying $349.99 + $28.87 for sales tax, + another $44.99 for a warranty (+ another $3.71 in sales tax), for a total of $427.56.

For a $350 chair. With a “replacement” warranty which the Staples clerk called “the best in the business.” Guaranteed easy. Call, tell ’em it’s broken, they issue a cash card for a replacement chair. Easy peasy.

Yeah, right. How about “not so much…”

A month after taking the chair home, it breaks. Big. Really broken. I think, “Well, crap. I need the chair, but at least I have the world’s best warranty to get myself a new one.” I call the number on the registration, and get Staples Customer Service. I tell ’em the problem, getting kind of happy I bought that damned warranty.

Oops. Seems the cut-off for the “automatic cash card payment” is $250; my chair would have to be inspected first, for possible repair. I’m ticked, but what are you gonna do? She schedules a repair service (for my office chair) to come out and inspect. Earliest appointment is three days away. Who knew that the office chair fixing business was doing such gangbusters?? Not I, for certain. But I do now…

Out comes Esmerelda. Says the chair can, in fact, be fixed; she’ll order the part, should take about 7 days, then I’ll be rockin’ in my office chair again.

Not so fast, KB. 7 days pass, no Esmerelda, no part. My wife calls for me, speaks with her, she says, “Oh, yeah, actually it’s Staples that must order the part, let me call them now and I’ll call you right back.” That was 9:00am, and you guessed it, no return call. The next day, I call, and leave a message for Esmerelda. No return call. I do the same thing that afternoon, and again the following day. And the next. And the next. Nothing. The furniture-fixing business must be crazy around here.

I call Staples again. This time, the lass on the phone tells me, “Why did they send a technician to inspect it? I always just get a Supervisor to bypass that $250 requirement, and issue a cash card.” I bite my tongue, not wanting to screw up a potential fix to my problem by venting on the single helpful Staples customer service rep so far… we agree on the details, she said “card’s in the mail.”

No, really. About 4 days later, well ahead of the 10 days she promised, I get my card.

For $301.00. No, I’m not kidding. I didn’t actually know it was for $301 until I went to Staples for the sole purpose of getting a replacement chair. They ran the card, and explained the problem. What??? Now, strangely enough, I’m getting a wee bit ticked.

I call Staples customer service (that name is a stretch goal if ever there was one) and explain. She isn’t sure what to do, or how. Finally, she tells me (around 10:00am) that a Supervisor will call me today.

Of course, that was a lie. At 6:00pm, I called back. The young man on the phone, punching a series of buttons rivaling an airline gate agent when you change a flight, says, “yep, we sent out a new card today for $48.99.” I lamented about the lack of a return call, to which he replied, “sorry about that.”

So, to recap: I paid almost $430 for a $350 chair, am promised a super warranty that, in reality, takes 13 phone calls, two in-store visits, and over a month to resolve a clearly covered defect.

This is not customer service at its best. Some lessons should be available here, for instance:

1. Empower your people. Twice I was referred to a Supervisor. Both times, to merely verify an accepted practice, not to make any abnormal or unusual decisions. Institutional micromanagement is the greatest single example of poor/absent leadership that exists.

2. Have integrity. Do what you say you’re going to do. Anything else makes you a liar, and untrustworthy. Is that what you want?

3. The end-game, particularly when you are in the wrong, should be to make the customer happy. Not only did they miss an opportunity to gross-up my card a few bucks as a gesture, I never did get to speak with one of those promised supervisors, and the additional card they are sending me is down to the penny the exact amount of their financial mistake. No offer for my wasted time, gas, effort, or frustration.

Office Depot, you won back my business. By default.

Poorly done, Staples. Poorly done. Your “EASY” button is broke all to heck…

But that’s just me…


Kevin Berchelmann

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