Posts Tagged ‘Staples’

Service of Shortages Redux

Monday, May 29th, 2023

I covered the topic of shortages and dramatic backorders thoroughly during the pandemic and thought that much of this, along with the worst of Covid, was behind us, but no.

My Canon printer is less than a year old. I went to Staples to buy a single black ink cartridge because I have two for color that came with the double packs. There were no singles in the store and the associate showed me on her computer screen that there were none in the warehouse either so I couldn’t order one for delivery.

I hear you asking, “why didn’t she order one online from home?”

The reason is that I’m allergic to paying for shipping which the cost of one cartridge would entail. You don’t pay for shipping if the store doesn’t have what you want, and the store is at a bus stop I often use—easy peasy. I now have three color cartridges because I bought yet another double pack for fear of running out of the black at 11 pm.

A friend in the autobody business continues to be hamstrung searching for parts to complete jobs. It can take weeks to locate what he needs, and he knows all the rocks under which such parts would be buried. Talk about a spanner in the works.

And high car prices reflect involuntary low inventory at dealer showrooms.

Worse, we continue to read about shortages of lifesaving medicines such as for cancer. Sometimes the scarcity happens because a drug to control one condition is discovered to be useful for another so there’s an unanticipated run on it.

We continue to experience a shortage of waitstaff in these parts. I enjoyed two magnificent lunches recently where it was clear that either the waitstaff was overwhelmed and shorthanded or untrained.

Who knows whether this situation is a Covid hangover or an excuse to keep inventories and labor costs low. Have you had trouble finding what you need? Do you think we’ll be living with this situation for the near future?

Service of Equipment Failure: Staples & Coupons to the Rescue

Thursday, May 18th, 2023

I am a luddite and depend on a mouse. Touchpads don’t work for me. They make me want to scream.

I was on deadline with a project and my wireless mouse died. I panicked, dashed into street clothes and off to Staples on Third Avenue and 43rd Street to buy another mouse, my lifeless one in hand. Money was no object because I had coupons worth $16. But which one should I buy?

Danny, the tech associate, opened my mouse—I hadn’t been able to. He said, “I bet you need a new battery.” He first went in the back and then rummaged through a few containers near the cashier stations and came up with a AAA. “There, you see? Batteries,” he said, as the blue light on the underside of the device came to life.

Off I flew to CVS where just that morning I received a 40% off coupon good for 24 hours. I have AA batteries at home but no AAA.

Success! Relief. Joy. And an example of memorable, engaged customer service.

There must be something in the air: Warm weather? The promise of summer vacation? My lucky day–one where the stars aligned in my favor, and everything went right. Plus: I’d been scrambling for a blog topic for today: another bonus!

Do you have an example of a sales associate saving a device rather than selling you one you don’t need? Or of a day that starts with a hiccup followed by a string of fantastic developments?

Service of Packaging VI

Monday, March 14th, 2022

Though I often think of it when irritated opening most products I haven’t written about packaging since 2013, the first post on the subject in 2009. It’s no surprise that toothpaste tubes have found a place in a few. Thirteen years ago I wrote: “So that toothpaste can no longer be accused of breaking up marriages, i.e. “You never put the top back on the toothpaste tube!”–some manufacturers attach the top to the tube. In my experience, those tops usually don’t stay closed, making me want to divorce the manufacturer.”

Four years later  I complained about the heavier than standard tubes with silver finish that cost more but suffered from the same fault: they soon didn’t close, the paste dried up requiring a thin wood shish kebab stick to reach and extract usable product.

This time toothpaste tubes are in the news for being recyclable. Kate Betrand Connolly wrote in “Demonstrating its continued commitment to increasing packaging sustainability, Colgate-Palmolive Co. is launching its new Smile for Good toothpaste brand in the recyclable high-density polyethylene (HDPE) tube the company introduced last year.” She continued: “The tube reboots toothpaste packaging design by replacing non-recyclable laminate materials with a squeezable material made entirely from HDPE—which is, of course, readily recyclable.”

Elizabeth Segran wrote in “Colgate’s designers have spent more than five years redesigning the brand’s toothpaste tubes so they can be recycled in curbside bins…….But the big question is whether consumers will be able to change their behavior and recycle their old tubes after decades of throwing them in the trash.”

The toothpaste tube’s journey gives me an excuse to gripe about some recent battles with packaging.

  • I adore all things L’Occitane but had to use brute strength to dislodge the entire top of this cream to get at it. Otherwise, no amount of shaking and squeezing, even after leaving it upside down overnight, encouraged the cream to leave its container through the too-narrow hole topping the container.
  • Same with the shampoo bottle. To get all of it out, the only way is to remove the top.
  • That I didn’t need stitches after opening the packaging protecting a mouse–using scissors and a variety of knives including utility–is a miracle. Maybe Colgate Palmolive can encourage electronics manufacturers to figure out a less dangerous and more environmentally conscientious way of shipping its goods.

More and more wine bottles have deep-sixed corks or cork substitutes for twist off tops. These are a cinch to open. Why can’t seltzer bottles be made easier to open too?

Will you have trouble remembering to put your retrofit Colgate toothpaste tube in the recycling bin? Have you done battle with packaging lately? Have some manufacturers greatly improved how to access their products?

Service of Above and Beyond

Thursday, March 10th, 2022

Image by marekr from Pixabay

Though service sometimes seems to have its dry spells, lately I’ve experienced a riches of the best, even if I had to nudge one instance along.

Old Fashioned Service

As you could tell from my last post I’m not thrilled with the lifting of pandemic mandates with so many unanswered questions and inconsistencies. For example, if the pandemic is over and face coverings useless why are they required anywhere? Which businesses and organizations plan to continue to check vaccine status?

To find out I left a message at the Metropolitan Museum of Art members department last week to learn if the organization was still asking for proof of vaccines. I never expected to hear from anyone. I’ve left messages on voicemail at other places before, such as on my councilman Keith Powers’ [followed, in his case, by an e-mail], and never heard back. Hence the surprise when a cheerful woman called Tuesday to tell me the vaccine restriction at the Met is gone. Oh well.

White Glove Service 1

I just came from Staples looking to replace the mouse for my laptop. I know, I know–I should use the touchpad like 99.9% of the world but I don’t. The young man I lucked into tested the mouse I brought–extremely polite asking if it was OK before heading to the back. He thought it was fine yet I still wanted to buy a backup and I said that it would be worth $20 to me. “Oh, you don’t have to pay that much!” he said handing me one for $13.99. He wished me good luck, hoping there wasn’t something wrong with the laptop portal [me too] and we had a brief discussion about the beauty of old gadgets that work perfectly well. He was in his 20s, hip enough with his long hair, and yet an old soul in this regard who gets five gold stars for service.

White Glove Service 2

Where I live, once a year handymen check the 510 apartments to change AC filters, confirm that smoke detectors work and so forth. All tenants know is that the inspections will take place between certain hours over a matter of weeks. That didn’t suit me. I wanted to know the day they’d come to my apartment, at the least.

I make use of every surface including the AC/heating element covers where plants sit so I planned to move them–but when? The staff slide open the covers to switch out the filters. And for countless other reasons, with advance notice, I could be sure to be home.

So I found out who was on the inspection team and tracked one of them down, asking him for a heads up the day before they’d land on my floor. I handed him a note with my phone and apartment numbers. They warned me and more, giving me a choice of times and they arrived on the dot! I was prepared, they were in and out in short order and everyone–especially me–was happy.

Have you enjoyed service that was above and beyond lately?

Service of it Makes No Sense

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

There’s a lot that makes no sense to me. Look around–common sense is exceptional.

Why would a well known brand make an upgrade that complicates rather than streamlines its service? Friends telling me I have trouble with the so-called improvement–upgrade being the epitome of a misnomer in my experience–because I’m over 19 or six doesn’t fly. I used the platform in question without a glitch for 13 years. A proponent of KISS, I resent having to take many more steps, many hard to find and clicks rather than one click away, to achieve the outcome achieved prior to the upgrade. Kudos to Apple: I had no trouble using a new iPhone or iPad.

I go to Staples for print cartridges that most often they don’t have in the store so the cashier orders the one I need. It comes in a large box. [Photo right]. There must be smaller boxes for such a tiny item.

On the subject of waste, the amount of plastic and tin I toss in just a few days is frightening. [Photo left for two days worth.]

I was staring at an envelope marked “Personal and Confidential” going up in the elevator and thought, “Those words would be the reason I’d zero in on this puppy if I was in the business of stealing mail.” [Photo below.]

I laughed as I passed the “Keep Door Locked” sign on the open door a few blocks from my apartment. [Photo top.]

Have you noticed things that make no sense these days?

Service of a Drop in the Bucket: Another Move to Heal the Environment Just to Make Us Feel Better

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

At the end of the month New Yorkers won’t be getting “single use” plastic bags from grocery and other stores.

I put quotes around “single use” because I use these bags for many other things. If I have leftovers I first wrap them in aluminum foil and cover the package in one of these bags, instead of a new one, so the food doesn’t leak in freezer or fridge. I also use them to hold wet garbage that I toss down a shoot in the garbage room.

I wrote the topnotch, smart apartment building manager to ask if he was going to alert the tenants about garbage protocol so they don’t use paper bags [which New Yorkers will now get from stores at 5 cents each unless they have their own bags] to send wet garbage down the shoot. These would drip on hallway carpets and mess up the shoot as contents break out of the weakened wet paper on the trip down as many as 38 flights.  I could tell he thought I was nuts and told me to buy plastic bags. I’ve lived here a year and haven’t bought a single one for garbage.

Articles about this environment-saving move report that there won’t be any more plastic bags but don’t mention that some put them to use and what to use instead. I heard a promo on NPR about a crisis for dog walkers who use the bags to pick up after their pooches. When I had a dog, that’s what I used.

Here are my objections:

  • I bought garbage bags when I lived in a house. They are of a far heavier plastic than the single use variety so where’s the savings to the environment?
  • Many NYC apartments have microscopic kitchens. They don’t have room for standard size trashcans. The small bags that fit the small cans are hard to come by—I haven’t found a box.
  • I ordered a cartridge for my printer from Staples because they didn’t have my brand in the store. It arrived in a large box with inflated plastic bags to keep it from rattling around. Speaking of waste! See the photos above and below. There are far more impactful changes to be made in my opinion.
  • A stack of single use plastic bags are easy for a deli or bodega to store. Paper takes up far more space.
  • Car owners keep a pile of bags in the trunk. Few Manhattan dwellers shop for groceries with a car. Returning home from work someone with a briefcase doesn’t usually have a bag in which to store a quart of milk so they’ll buy a paper bag which will translate into more voluminous garbage and ensuing energy to dispose of it.
  • We take home rotisserie chicken in large plastic containers with plastic domes. Like the big deal restaurants made of substituting paper for plastic straws, this move is another drop in the bucket with more PR than actual impact on the environment.

What do you think? Do you toss single-use plastic bags or put them to use?

Service of Empty Promises: Staples, J. Press &

Thursday, March 1st, 2018

Staples advertises that if you place an online order by 5 pm you’ll get the product[s] next day. That didn’t happen this week when we ordered a printer. Irritating: If you can’t do it, don’t say you can. I feel that they stole the order from the competition.

But that works only once: Expectations dashed and we’re off to Amazon or Best Buy next time. You’re not refunded the wasted time in tracing the package and coordinating/jiggering an IT service appointment if required.

Another business that bloats its online promotions is J. Press. It keeps sending emails about its amazing sales boasting, for example, “Sale up to 40% off select styles.” Don’t even bother looking at these. The actual discount on anything you want that is on sale may not even cover the shipping charge.

And then there’s an online website,, from which I once bought a dress. It offers good looking things at fair prices. I saw a sweater I liked, missed buying it when my yen for it was strong at the beginning of winter and it was offered at a good sale. Next time I looked, the price was back to the original. Because the site remarkets, the sweater or other Stylewe fashions follow me all over the Internet from Facebook to weather forecast pages. Out of curiosity, I’ve opened the links when headlined by a “hot sale,” “flash sale” or similar language. Often, they shave off a few dollars but never as much as that first time, even though the sale language explodes. Just today I saw it on sale at the first, deepest discount price but I’ve lost interest. I’m thinking spring.

Do you fall for promises of prompt delivery or sales offers that are consistently misleading to the point that you don’t look at those from the deceiving source anymore? What are some companies that consistently keep their delivery promises or don’t fiddle with customers when it comes to sales?

Service of Substitutes

Monday, December 28th, 2015

I’ve had good luck with many, though not all, substitutes. Here are a few examples that go both ways.


I have used At-a-Glance monthly calendars for as long as I can remember. The one I prefer ranges in price online from $15 to $25 but with $6+ postage/handling, it’s hardly worth the bother. When I saw a very similar calendar [photo, right] at Barnes & Noble I bought it. The only indication of a brand was “Gallery Leather Maine” stamped discretely on the back cover. Works for me.

Not so Sweet

On the other hand I dislike the aftertaste of all sugar substitutes.

How Graphic

There is little substitute for great graphic design. Years ago a talented man created my agency’s logo. Designer Nigel at Staples’ 3rd Avenue and 43rd Street store was able to simulate it for a business card. The price for Nigel’s time and talent and for Staples to print 500 of cards was a breathtaking $9.99. Amazing. Even more amazing, I was in to buy paper and he remembered my name.

Substitute of a Substitute

I was unable to find my favorite butter substitute—Brummel and Brown–for a while and didn’t have much luck with the others I tasted. It’s low in cholesterol, spreads well and tastes like butter.

Are there substitutes that work for you and some that don’t? Is there a trick to making a successful substitute?


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