Thursday, December 16, 2010

Staples Office Supplies - I Will Not Shop There Again

My wife wanted a new computer printer for Christmas. We purchased it on December 1st or 2nd at the Staples store were we usually do business. She insisted on using it early since she wanted to print out some things she was making for Christmas presents.

It sat in its box until I hooked it up this Saturday, December 11th. The set up was eventless, until I fed paper in it and pressed the print test function. Nothing happened. On the second attempt an error message came up on the computer.

The direction booklet was not very informative. The only help instructions were to unplug the printer and restart it, check the cables and remove the program and re-install the program. I did all of these.

Nothing made it work. The booklet did not have a help desk number. No doubt this was intentional since companies want to solve problems through internet solutions, which cost them much less.

I was able to find the Hewlett Packard help phone number on the internet and called. A phone representative named Hercules answered and spoke with me for almost an hour. Much of the time was spent being placed on hold while Hercules waited for instructions. After returning and waiting, he finally decided the caddy that held the ink cartridges was not working. The solution was for him to send me a new caddy and new ink cartridges.

I received the package on December 15tth; I cleaned all the appropriate contacts and installed the new caddy and ink cartridges. It still did not work. The same error message number was on the printer screen.

I called HP again. The solution was that my wife’s printer was broken. (Heck I knew that all along). They will mail me a new printer and I must return the old one. But I will not get the printer until around December 23rd.

My wife was not at all happy and asked why we cannot just return the printer to Staples. I said, “Well let’s get in the car and go asked them.” So off to Staples we went.

We asked to speak with the manager. She had just gotten off the phone and stated that her ear was still ringing from the tongue lashing and screaming from her caller. I can relate, so I resolved to remain level-headed and reasonable. My wife and I explained the situation to her. Now this is where things went downhill.

We were asked if we purchased a $30 warranty. We did not. We are trusting Staples to sell quality merchandise which is in good working order. The manager looked exasperated and wiped her hand down her face.

She then explained that Staples only rents space to dealers like HP, Lexmark, Dell and other manufacturers. They are paid around $50 a month in rental fees. When Staples sells a product, it is acting as an intermediary for the company, so the product is under the manufacturers warranty only.

Of course that would change should we buy a Staples warranty.

She went on to explain that Staples only receives a small portion on each sale. “Maybe, say $50 on a $150 purchase. Once you purchase a product and it is defective, we need to return it within 14 days. If it is over 14 days, Staples will not be responsible."

I explained it may be over 14 days and explained what HP was going to do, but that we had some information that needed to be printed as soon as possible. What could Staples do for us?

The manager again wiped her face and gave us that look and said, “Well, if you bring it in tomorrow, I guess I could replace it with a machine of equal or lesser value, but you would have to purchase a warranty on the new product. However Staples would take a 65% loss."

I had already looked at the printers. There was a similar machine, but it was not the same model. I asked about that and she stated it would be a business day if it had to be special ordered.

She then ignored us and went about her business of closing out her cash register without saying, “I’m sorry for your problem or Thank you for choosing Staples.”

After speaking with the manager I had some thoughts.

First of all, as someone who worked for years in retail, I am aware that many companies have to pay for shelf space for their products in major retailers. So Staples is getting extra cash.

If Staples is making $50 on a $150 sale, that is 33% profit. That ain’t bad at all.

If I return my broken product, they will lose 65%. Well they wouldn’t if they did not sell defective merchandise. That is not my problem. Don’t tell me how this affects you. Tell me what you can do to help me.

We intended to buy some ink for our old printer. But my wife and I were just glad to get out of that store. We have bought several printers, countless ink cartridges, printer paper, clear page holders and other supplies from Staples through the years.

Although the manager clenched her teeth and offered to help, she acted like she was doing us a big favor.  She also emphasized her store would face punitive loss of 65% off the stores profit margin if I brought the printer back. And if I returned the defective printer, I would be forced to purchase a $30 Staples warranty for the replacement printer.(Doesn't the warranty fee sort of offset the loss?)

Staples, you have lost my business. There are too many other retail outlets that sell the same merchandise that will not treat me like I am the problem.

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