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Yakov Fain

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A Staples store with the Soviet Union type service

The Staples story


Next week we are running a training class in Belgium, and I went to a nearby Staples store here in New Jersey to order printing of multiple copies of handouts for the students. This was supposed to be a quick and routine task.

A 20-year old girl took my flash drive and opened the PowerPoint to be printed. She was hesitant to take this order and asked a more experience worker to help. This lady looked at the slides with our company logo on them and here’s our dialog:

- Do you have a business card to proof you work for this company and are not trying to make illegal copies?
- I don’t have it on me, but two months ago I placed exactly the same printing order right here.
- Well, apparently I made a mistake back then. You must show me the business card.
- It’s raining outside. Can I pay for the order now and bring you the business card when I return to pick it up?
- No you can’t. I need to see your business card first.
- Please go to our company Web site and you’ll see my name there
- We don’t have Internet access here
- I have Internet access in my iPhone and can show it to you?
- We need a printed proof that you work for this company

To be honest with you, I was just bluffing about the iPhone. Our company’s Web site is done in Flash and iPhone won’t support it for another six months or so.

I went outside. It seems I can think faster in the rain. Eureka! I got a business credit card in my wallet, which has my name and the name of our company that matches the logo in the PowerPoint. Back to the store.

- Can you please use my credit card as a proof that I work for this company? Just make a copy of it, and tomorrow I’ll bring you the business card.
- We are not allowed to make copies of credit cards.
- OK, don’t make a copy. I’ll be paying with it anyway and you’ll have a copy of the pay slip.
- We are not allowed to do this. I need your business card.

I went back to the car, drove back home and returned to Staples with my business card. This time the young girl was alone. Without saying a word, I put the business card and the flash drive on the counter. She pick up the phone and made the store announcement, “Vicky, please come to the printing department.” Apparently, that supervisor’s name was Vicky.

-Why do you need Vicky now? She might not like the design of my business card or something?
- I didn’t say this.

Luckily, Vicky was busy somewhere and she called back and allowed the girl to proceed with my order. The girl made a copy of my driver’s license and a business card and the rest was just a simple routine.

I went home thinking to myself that the last time I had this kind of service was many many years ago when I lived in the Soviet Union. Technically, these Staples workers did everything by the book, but they’ve just lost the customer by not willing to bend a bit. This is not an American way of doing business. Not at all.

Update. Next day, I went to pick up my order. There was a different shift in the Copy/Print department - nice and friendly people.  While returning my printed manuals they've suggested how I could save money and applied the discount right away. It seemed that the Soviet Staples Union has collapsed overnight (once again). I was back in the USA! That's the way to go! I'll continue going to Staples. But I'll be smarter now and will try to avoid that Soviet crew.

More Stories By Yakov Fain

Yakov Fain is a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and the product company SuranceBay. He wrote a thousand blogs (http://yakovfain.com) and several books about software development. Yakov authored and co-authored such books as "Angular 2 Development with TypeScript", "Java 24-Hour Trainer", and "Enterprise Web Development". His Twitter tag is @yfain