Staples: "It Would Be A Disaster To Compensate Customers Based On The Amount Of Problems We Cause"

Staples took over a month to deliver an order for business cards that they promised to fill in under seven days. The office megastore somehow misplaced reader Brett’s payment confirmation and never sent his order along to their supplier. When Brett asked Staples to fix their mistake and deliver the cards, he was told to pay for a second order and trust that Staples would eventually issue a refund. When he explained that he deserved compensation, not another charge, a manager told him “it would be a disaster to compensate customers based on the amount of problems we cause.”

Brett writes:

I just had a nightmare experience over the last month and today with a Staples store, and I wanted to tell you about it so you understand what was occurring in your company, rather than just complain to people I know, which is not very constructive.

My boss ordered business cards from the Staples at 4620 N Clark St, Chicago, IL. They had to send away because the cards were not white. We paid up front, and were promised it would be 5-7 business days. After at least 7 days had passed, we called, and were told there was a problem and the cards would come soon. I was gone for a while, and came back to work a month later (last week.) The cards still had not come. We were out of business cards, which hurts our business, so my boss told me to get this straightened out.

I called at the beginning of this week to find out what was wrong. I was told that there was a disconnect between Staples and their supplier, that the supplier hadn’t received the confirmation that it was paid, etc. An employee named Samir had taken/misplaced the payment confirmation. They promised to call the supplier, straighten it out, and call right back. At the end of the workday, I hadn’t received a call back, so I called again. A different person told me that “she hadn’t had time to call yet,” and promised me this would get taken care of immediately and I’d receive a call within the next day. I was confused, because I’d think that a month-late order would take some sort of priority, but I was patient. Fast forward to today, nobody had called yet. I called this afternoon, and was told that nobody had taken care of anything, and that they don’t know why. They told me to come in and they would just restart the whole process and remake the order. I didn’t understand why they needed me, but I just wanted the problem solved, so I brought another business card to the store.

I spent at least an hour and half at the store waiting for these employees to take care of this problem. Most of the time I was there, I did not need to be, but the employees spent a lot of time helping other customers, consulting with each other, calling this “Samir,” and mostly ignoring me. I was very concerned because I could see firsthand how these employees had messed up my order, and didn’t even try to fix it. I think they should have tried a little harder when I called the 5 or 6 times throughout the previous month, especially considering they had our money already. They should have escalated if the problem was difficult, rather than completely ignore it and continually tell me it’s being taken care of. In the store, first, I was told that I would have to pay again so the new order would go through. I didn’t have any money to pay for that, so they said they couldn’t reorder. They also said they couldn’t refund the original order, because I didn’t have the receipt or credit card from the original order. I told them that couldn’t be legal, to demand more money from me and not provide the goods, even though I’ve already paid. They claimed they would eventually refund me this second, double payment, but based on my previous experience there, I could not trust their competence to do this. I also could not even be sure this order would go through, since for no apparent reason the previous order never did, and nobody felt like trying to fix it.

Finally, they brought over the district manager, Gene, who happened to be visiting the store. I was told they would place the new order without charging me, and expedite it, and eventually refund the first order whenever this order arrives (hopefully before 2009). I would still have to find that receipt, or else force my boss to come in and bring his credit card. This is unfortunate, because by now my boss thinks I am incompetent since I couldn’t handle the little issue of a late order. I can understand how he thinks that, considering it took me hours of work on his dime to get this straightened out, when it should have been handled by Staples immediately and professionally. It will be a huge strain on my job to tell him he has to go over to Staples since I could not take care of the problem, but I guess this is life.

I explained this to Gene, and asked if he could throw in some extra cards or coupons for the trouble, so I can play the hero with my boss and possibly show him that I wasn’t just wasting hours and hours trying to force Staples to fix the problem. Gene told me that they could only refund the order, since it was company policy. I asked if that meant no matter how much trouble and grief they cause (such as being months late, forcing me to return many times, and being unhelpful) they always just refund the same amount, and he said they had to. He said that if “they had to start compensating customers based on the amount of problems caused, it would be a disaster for them.” I wrote that one down, since it blew my mind.

I’ve had similar treatment (but never this bad) before from outsourced phone customer service in other countries, but never from a local store! We buy a lot of things at Staples, and just last week bought the chair I’m sitting on there. I was flabbergasted by the fact that they kept telling me they’d call the distributor and call me back, only to never call, over and over. I’m also shocked that I had to go into the store and stand there just to get them to call the number, which is exactly what they finally did when I came by. I’m glad that the order is (hopefully?) going to be completed and refunded, but after all those experiences, I’m sure there will be more hitches next week; I won’t be surprised if the order does not go through again, and since it’s “the same order,” they won’t feel the need to rectify the situation since I’m already getting the refund (hopefully).

I cannot imagine this kind of disorganization, and lack of service represents your company, so I wanted to bring it to your attention. I am considering not making any more purchases at Staples, since my boss and I cannot afford these kind of unnecessary problems; it’s not great for a place that prides itself on making things easier, and that store most definitely lacked an ‘easy button.’

(Photo: Tengaport)