I haven’t been posting much, free time to blog being consumed with the details and intricacies of relocating my studio and our home from the NYC tri-state region. But regards that, I wanted to include some news about that process the annual message I included in my family’s holiday greeting. So I was holding off on sending to press the card I had already designed back in October. When some setbacks actually loosened up, we were only days away from Christmas.
So instead of ordering four color printing online, I turned to my backup process, overnight color copies at my local Office Depot. I could send them the files, and pick up the finished work in one or two days at my local store. The project was not technically complicated, double sided color copies, on index weight stock with a single fold. Easy peasy and drama free, one might think. But when I made the online order, the options for ordinary color copies seemed really really buried, as was the option for local pickup, compared to previous projects. It was difficult in the way that the onscreen cable TV guides relentlessly try to steer you to pay-per-view content, instead of what you actually want. [ See UPDATE below ] But I did eventually find my way, credit card duly hit, and the files were away. Within a half hour, I did indeed get an email acknowledgment that my order was received and in the queue.
Since the job spanned the weekend, I decided to let Office Depot be for a extra day, but on a sunday, fell into the store while doing some holiday shopping. The One fellow in the copy and print department seemed to be quite harassed and I was a little disturbed to see that everyone on line before me seemed to have an issue of some sort. “Ah,” I thought to myself in self-satisfied arrogance, “my job should be fine, after all I’m a professional, and if there’s a problem, I speak fluent tech.” I was wrong.
They didn’t have my job.
They didn’t not have it done. They didn’t HAVE my job, as in never received it. Furthermore the “Tech” only comes in two or three days a week to handle the “high-end” jobs. Two sided color copies and a fold? Apparently their regular staff can’t handle anything beyond standard, perhaps mildly automated, black and white copying. Well, that’s new. And where the heck was my job? I was advised to come back tomorrow, perhaps the job would come through on Monday. What the hell?
Monday rolls around, still no sign of the project. Oh, and “The Tech” wasn’t coming in that day anyway, so it would be at least three more days before I could expect it done. Unacceptable. The whole point was to get reasonable overnight or two-day service. I cancelled the job and went through the process of getting the Credit Card credited back. I resolved I’d have to run the cards myself on my Canon Inkjet back home at the studio to have them in time to mail.
But out of grumpy dissatisfaction, I stalked out of there and purchased the supplies I needed, avery card stock and additional ink cartridges. I have bitched about printer ink here before. But I was not going to reward Office Depot for their fail, I picked up my supplies down the road at Staples. When I got home and got busy, I got a phone call.
“Hi! This is Office Depot calling, how would you like your print run shipped?”
Shipped? Pardon Me?
Apparently, even if you choose “local pickup” on the OD website, all print jobs more complex than… standard, perhaps mildly automated, black and white copying, the job gets sent to a central print facility somewhere in Pennsylvania and shipped to customers. This adds, of course, three to five days to ANY print run, unless you spring for overnight shipping, and for moving PAPER, that could be more costly than the printing itself.
I explained that I had canceled the job and was running it at home even as we were speaking and thanks but no thanks, and by the way, what the f**k, dude? And so I got on with it, took overnight with addressing and stamping the envelopes. They came out quite nice, because I am a professional after all, but I was a bit of a grumpy camper.
A bit of follow up revealed that Office Depot had removed virtually all of the “technical” staff from their branch stores, in my local store, they were cut back from five to two managers, and overall staff by nearly 50%. I was out to the post office the next day and when I got home my wife gave me a message from the store. The “Tech” had turned up and somehow found my job, but could not run it because the files printed as solid black blobs. The could NOT have been the guy I had worked with on previous projects.
Press Ready PDF files. I checked.
She also explained that the job had been cancelled. “Who cancelled the job?” he demanded, indignant. She informed him that WE did. Thanks but no thanks, and don’t worry about the files. Apparently, the PA facility passed the files along to the local store for “local pickup,” and they somehow got scrambled in the multiple transits. Mind you, I have been doing prepress since we had to do it in Quark Xpress 3 and it was a PAIN IN THE ASS, manual trapping, anyone? I’ve been doing prepress when we were touching up pinholes in film negatives on a lightbox, from before that kid was a frickkin’ SPERM.
Be that as it may, I don’t really have issues with that young man. That’s the level of expertise his corporate masters have decided to pay for, and I wonder what happened to his competent predecessor. Office Depot’s corporate decision to cut staff, consolidate print services, and remove expertise from their local stores makes the chain far less useful for professional customers. Office Depot used to be my go-to resource for fast, simple print projects. I used to be able to reliably send a simple rush job to my local store for next-day pickup. That is no longer the case.
Judging from the experiences of the other customers I met waiting for copy and print services, I was not the only one having issues with our jobs. But what that means is that for an entire category of services, Office Depot is Dead To Me. And since I’ll be taking my simple short run business to Staples, they will also be getting my over the counter office and art supply business as well. And of course, increasingly I can do better ordering my everyday supplies online. Even more so going forwards, as we will be moving the studio and our home away from an urban suburb. Yes, I was able to complete the project myself, and the cards came out very nice; but the whole point of hiring outside services is to free up your time do to other things, like work on paying projects.
That wasn’t just a glitch or a breakdown in an individual store, that was a corporate decision on the part of Office Depot’s Management and Directors. It is unfortunately typical of corporate behaviors in this economy where stock performance is separated from actually providing any good or service to customers. Office Depot is pursuing profit by shrinking their workforce, and as a result reducing both the amount and quality of their services. I have since heard they have merged with OfficeMax, a chain I have already rejected for uncompetitive prices and poor service. This breakdown in service may very well be a result of the consolidation efforts.
“Office Depot will close 112 stores and eliminate 2,200 jobs — 9 percent of its workforce — before the end of the year. The effected stores are spread across the U.S. and Canada.” – Xfinity Finance
“The architects of the deal make bonuses, share prices spike, and some sign companies make a brief killing when the buildings get re-branded. Meanwhile the retail price of printer cartridges will probably go up.
“Of course Wall Street investors pumped up the stock prices on the news. But this is less an expression of long-term approval than it is a demonstration of their eagerness to leverage some quick trading profit.” – James Tenser, Principal, VSN Strategies, comment at retailwire.com
By dropping capabilities that made them useful for their professional customers, Office Depot is alienating an entire market segment, and driving us to their competition.
What that means is that Office Depot has left my money on the table.
UPDATE: Since December, Office Depot has updated their online interface. “Copies & Flyers are clearly visible on the “Copy & Print” Section page, and a pop-up for “How would you like to receive this document?” appears when you select “Copies and Flyers” and gives the options of Delivery and In-Store Pickup.
No, I didn’t send them another project. Still annoyed, and I’ve no guarantee that the level of service back end isn’t still messed up.