Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Today I have to call the office of the President of Staples. It is not an unsolicited call, I will be returning a call from his assistant to me. I had a less than satisfactory experience at a Staples store and went to the website and got the name of the President, the VP of Media Relations (who, it turns out, no longer works there) and several other muckity-mucks, guessed at the email protocol and sent lengthy emails to all of them detailing what happened.

This is my story.

I received a Franklin Planner Compact Size refill as a Christmas gift. I actually use the Pocket size, so I went to the Staples store at 51st and Lex. This store is not in Manhattan, as I was soon to discover, it is actually located in Hooterville. You'll see what I mean ...

After checking the shelves and not finding the size that I needed, I waited in line, only to be told that someone would order it for me, but to accomplish this I would have to leave the line and follow that someone to the back of the store. Some kid who should have been in school placed the order for what I thought was a 2004 Pocket size Franklin Planner refill. He told me to go to any cashier, present the order confirmation that he gave me along with the planner I had received as a gift and they would make the exchange. After standing in line again, I finally got to a cashier who looked at my order and return and said simply, "I'm not authorized to do that. Wait for her over there," and pointed to another cashier who had in front of her this slovenly woman who had many partially filled plastic bags at her feet and who was repeatedly demanding "$10 off" of whatever it was she was buying or returning. I could almost feel the steam shooting out of my ears when I heard the "authorized" cashier announce to the slob with all the bags that she would have to start her transaction all over from the beginning.

So I am standing there waiting for this authorized cashier, but it is not looking good and when the manager finally appears with her magic key to void out the slob's transaction so the authorized cashier can start it all over again from the beginning, this time being certain to give her the $10 off, I try to catch her eye. She will not look in my direction and I am beginning to sense a deliberate effort to avoid me as I am standing pretty much in front of her. Now I start waving the calendar and order confirmation around yelling, " Can anyone else help me with this besides this authorized cashier?" Suprisingly, I was ignored until one very special employee called me over to his register.

Can I just say that by now I am feeling like Oliver Douglas in Green Acres? "Olivah," as he was called by his daffy Hungarian wife, Lisa, would sputter and bluster with a steadily reddening face, insisting on logic while everyone around him continued to blather on making no sense. Ok, so I now I head over to Eb's register.

As I am standing there handing him my order slip and calendar, he first asks the cashier next to him if she wanted to handle the exchange. Trying to speed things along, I spoke right up and said, "She can't, she's not authorized!" They both give me looks, but by this point, I'm expecting Arnold the pig to walk by in a red Staples shirt. So I reminded him that the other employee told me that the delivery charge would be waived, as they did not have in stock the item I needed. This caused great confusion with all the employees behind the registers, who, when asked, one by one, I might add, by my special helper about the delivery charge waiving policy, all repeated, "it's not over 50 dollars, it's not over 50 dollars," (referring no doubt to the policy of offering free delivery for orders over $50. Hey! That is why it had to be waived!) I could feel my face getting hot and red, Olivah-style. He then took my ID and disappeared for about 5 minutes, I have no idea why. Then he came back, asked me what my zip code was, and disappeared again for about 5 minutes, still carrying my ID. (Yes, my zip code was on my ID.)

During the time he was somewhere else, the authorized cashier came by (she was through with the Doris Ziffel) and picked a pen up off the floor and, checking to see if it worked, scribbled on the front of the calendar I was returning as it lay on the counter.

So now Eb comes back and tells me that somehow I owe $1.10 on the transaction. I wasn't about to discuss the reason with him, and from his body language I discerned that he didn't really care to explain. I handed him a five dollar bill and he looked at me with some annoyance and asked, "Don't you have ten cents?" I began to sputter, and yes, I blustered with a steadily rising voice: "I can assure you, sir, that if I had had ten cents I would like nothing better than to hand it over to you, because every second I spend in this store is taking 7 years off my life!" With that, I left Hooterville. "New York is where I'd rather stay! I get allergic smelling hay..."

The story, unfortunately, did not end there. The next day I received a package from the Staples warehouse, located, apparently, in Pixley, containing a refill in the correct size but the wrong year: it is a 2003 calendar. This was what prompted my missives to the poobahs at Staples.

I don't know the name of Ron Sargeant 's"representative" is, but if it is someone with the name "Haney," I'm hanging up the phone and climbing down from the telephone pole.


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