July 27th — Many of you know that I take great pride in my ability to write a kick-butt customer service letter.  I have high customer service standards as my old roommate, Kathy, worked at Orange Julius in the High Point Mall for many years and mastered the fine arts of customer service.  You know about my letter to Jeffrey Immelt at GE just  prior to a significant stock down turn.  Coincidence? I think not.

So here is a recap of my Staples Customer Service Experience. Time Spent: 9 minutes.

WENDY:  Thank you for calling Staples.  This is Wendy, how can I be of service to you today?

TRANSLATION:  Wendy might not actually hail from the middle of America, but she sure sounds nice and guess, what? I can understand her.

ME:  Hey, Wendy, I’m sorry to bother you, but I need to order some inkjet cartridges for my Dell printer and I’m about to have a nervous breakdown trying.

WENDY:  Well, we don’t want that – I can help you.

TRANSLATION:  I can help you! REALLY!

WENDY:  What is the order code on the back of your catalog.  

ME: I don’t have a catalog. I’ve never had to order office supplies online or from a catalog…I’ve always popped in an office supply store or Walmart. I am new to this and you are my only hope, Obi Wan.

WENDY:  (Chuckle)

TRANSLATION:  Wendy is indeed American and understands pop culture references.

WENDY: No worries.  Do you have order number for the item you need?

ME:  Nope, don’t have one of those either.   All I know is that I have this NEW crappy Dell printer that requires uber expensive and hard to find inkjet cartridges and that I’ve called or visited SEVEN different retail outlets in Charlotte and NONE of them carry the cartridges.  I’ve spent the last TWO hours of my life, two hours that are GONE – poof – on the phone with people from India masquerading as people who speak and understand English.  There are hours that I will never get them back, Wendy.   And all they will tell me is that they can ship me cartridges in SEVEN TO TEN DAYS! Does that seem right to you?

And I hate to burden you with this, but I think I might cry.

WENDY:  Well, we don’t want THAT to happen!  Just tell me what kind of printer you have.

TRANSLATION:   I can make this happen despite your efforts to be of total and no help. And despite the fact that you might actually cry.

ME:  I have a Dell 90 Printer.                                                                    

WENDY:  Well, that’s easy enough. It looks like you’ll need the blah, blah, blah cartridges.  We can get those out to you today to arrive tomorrow. It sounds like you need them quickly, no?

TRANSLATION:  I hear and appreciate the desperation in your voice and I can help. It’s so easy, like shooting fish in a barrel.

ME:  Won’t I have to pay some incredible overnight shipping fee of say $5000?  You know, Dell was going to charge me some obscene overnight shipping fee but they didn’t have THEIR OWN CARTRIDGES IN STOCK!  And you know, you can’t buy Dell print cartridges at a store – now that would be too easy, wouldn’t it?

WENDY:  Well, we do have them in stock and no, we don’t charge an overnight shipping fee.  It’s part of doing business with Staples.

ME:  This is too good to be true.  Send them along, hon, post haste.  Wendy, I have died and gone to customer service heaven. 

TRANSLATION: I have died and gone to customer service heaven.

WENDY: (Giggle). I’m glad I could help.

Let’s juxtapose this with my Dell Hell experience which is too painful, too convoluted and too ridiculous to describe in detail here.  Time Spent: Four HOURS (including two hours driving around Charlotte). 

Suffice is to say that I spoke with EIGHT Customer Service Representatives, all based in India and all of whom spoke little English.  Each and every one worked to camouflage this fact by introducing themselves with a very American name. 

Here is one, and I kid you not.  Alexandar Graham. The Indian dude who told me under no uncertain terms could I get NOT get a Dell ink cartridge the next day no matter where I resided in this great big complex universe told me his name was Alexandar Graham.  After I snickered and muttered something along the lines of “Yeah, right, Mr. Bell,” he proceeded to yell at me, tell me all the reasons why Dell couldn’t help me, why my requests were overdemanding and then he hung up on me.

Indian Dude posing as one Alexandar Graham hung up the phone on me…rich, huh?

So I was ready to shoot off a letter to Michael Dell. As usual, they make it really, really hard to find a mailing address for the people in charge – I mean, who wants to be deluged by gazillions of complaint letters from crazies like me where there is a TOLL FREE customer service number (in INDIA!!!!) where you can LEAVE A MESSAGE that will never be returned!