Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Customer Experience At Staples & Most Places Sucks

“Do you have a rewards card?” asked the young lady at the Staples cash register.

I searched for a card and then gave up.  I blurted out a telephone number.  At least she didn’t make me type it into the keypad or give a passcode that I would not have remembered.

“I have a coupon,” I told her. I showed her on my phone two coupons.  She scanned them.  Luckily they weren’t outdated and there were no stipulations against their dual usage -- otherwise I’d have to lobby to figure out how to get them to count both towards this purchase.

I also didn’t have any returns but my son brought in three used cartridges.  They give you a credit of $2 each for them.

“Did you take off $6 for the returned cartridges?”  I asked.   She explained that she didn’t, but that I’d be emailed a coupon or some points to my rewards card in a few weeks.  That’ll probably be the one thing my spam filter holds onto or that I accidentally delete while going through my multi-daily phone gymnastics of deleting clusters of offers and marketing emails.

“Can you price-check this?” my son chirped up.

He already downloaded some price-checking app to my phone where you can scan a barcode and find it cheaper somewhere else online.  But like most cool things, it wasn’t perfect and showed things that didn’t qualify.  If we find an item cheaper elsewhere, from one of their designated competitors, we save the difference plus another 10% of that difference.

We thought we found something for less than half of Staples’ listed price but it turned out it was a refurbished version of the item.  We eventually bought a slightly different item and found that online for ten dollars less.

She needed to call her manager over to verify this.

I kid you not, this is how I spent 30 minutes to buy an ink cartridge.  It’s not the exception but the norm.  The transaction time on a purchase these days takes a lot longer than it used to.  It’s torture.

When I went to pay, I inserted my card because swiping is no longer accepted. The stupid chip thing adds two minutes to every transaction.  In this case, something didn’t take and the purchase failed to register.  Poof, another two minutes out of my life so the store can prevent credit card fraud.  The truth is, it prevents nothing.

There’s no chip to insert when I do an online purchase is there? If I stole a credit card, whether I swipe it or insert a card, it still works, right?  When I call to order something with a credit card, I can’t give them a chip, now can I?  If people steal my identity and order up credit cards with chips in them, does it matter?  No.

Maybe stores should worry about stupid and lazy employees teaming up with savvy but frustrated customers.

A few days prior to my marathon ink purchase I went to buy two items for my kids at Staples.  We price-checked one item and saved half the price.  On another item, we made up a price and they didn’t question it or demand proof.  What retailed for $18.99 came up via our lie for $1.76.  Yes, the clerk didn’t question how we got over 90% off.  He just wanted to go home.  And I felt owed for all of the crap they put me through just to process a transaction.

I explained to my kids that what I did wasn’t right and is not to be duplicated.  I wanted to point out that this is what happens when employees aren’t trained right or lose pride in their work.  But it’s also what happens when consumers tire of the rewards-coupons-price check-chip dance that makes shopping a dull and tortured experience.

At the end of every transaction, the experience of shopping continues beyond that purchase.

Sometimes stores invite you to come back with new coupons printed on your receipt.  Others encourage you to go online to fill out a survey about your experience, lured by a free something or future discount.

I don’t know what to make up of the shopping life.  I can’t be bothered to research coupons or rushed to buy by a certain date.  If I use technology to track things down, it’s not perfect and it’s time-consuming.  If I try to skip going to a store, I miss out on seeing and touching and trying things out. If I order online, I have to track what packages are coming, make sure I don’t get the wrong or damaged item, and then be bothered making returns and following up with credits to statements on credit cards that I could stop using.

Just writing about this drains me.  I know it’s a first-world problem and I should just shut up.  But this is my life.  I’m not rich enough to just pay others to deal with this bullshit and not poor enough that I don’t get to buy things, and as a result not have to deal with this.

The phrase, shop till you drop, to me, takes on a whole new meaning now.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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