Friday, March 08, 2013

My experience with Staples

I needed to replace my desk chair and Staples was having a good sale  I went into the store and tried out a chair that looked promising, and I didn't perceive any problems with it so I decided to buy it.

Because their delivery times coincide exactly with my normal work hours, I called their 800 number to ask if it was possible to schedule a delivery for a specific day (i.e. an upcoming day when I was schedule to work at home).  The very nice man who took my call told me that it was, and took my order right then and there.  I was very impressed that I could just call them up and ask for what I want and get it, and thought that their "Easy!" advertising was actually true.

The delivery happened as scheduled, and the delivery people were super nice. The chair came in a box, disassembled, and I found the assembly instructions were less helpful than they could have been.  They told which pieces to attach to each other and where to attach them, but they didn't always make it clear how. (More about the assembly and disassembly experience here, framed as a cognitive experience.)  I assembled it over a period of several days (I could have done it in an hour or two if I'd had to, but I would have gotten extremely frustrated), but the assembly was ultimately a success.

But once I got it assembled and sat in it for a couple of hours, I realized it was ergonomically unsuitable.  The arm rests were higher than my elbows on their lowest setting, and the bulge in the seat back that's meant to support the lumbar spine was taller than my lumbar curve, so it was forcing my back to curve forward not only in the lumbar spine where it naturally curves forward, but also in the bottom portion of the thoracic spine where it naturally starts curving back towards my back.  (I'm 5'7", with long legs and a short torso.) I didn't notice this in the store because I was just looking for whether lumbar support is present - it never occurred to me it might be too big.

So I called the 800 number again to ask about the possibility of returning the chair, and I was very happy to hear that not only was I allowed to return it, but they could pick it up from me and schedule the pick-up on the day of my choosing.  So I chose my next day off work (which was close to the end of the 30-day return period), and disassembled and repackaged the chair, again over a period of days.

On the day of the scheduled pick-up (a Friday), I pushed the box containing the chair over to the door of my apartment (it weighed about 50 pounds, so I couldn't lift it in the box - I could easily roll the chair on its wheels and lift and carry it short distances when it was assembled in chair form, but the box was too big and unwieldy), made sure my phone line was not in use all day so I'd be able to buzz the pick-up guy in, and settled down to wait.  But he never came.

I called the 800 number, and the very nice lady who answered verified that they did have a pickup scheduled, told me that this very rarely happens, and rescheduled the pickup for the following Tuesday.  (I was very, very fortunate that my boss let me work at home on the Tuesday on such short notice.)

On the Tuesday I worked at home, again keeping my phone line clear, again not leaving the apartment even for a second between the 9-5 window.  But the pick-up guy never came.

I called the 800 number again.  The very nice man who answered empathized with my situation, gave me a $20 credit for my trouble, reassured me that I would still be allowed to return it even though we were going beyond the 30-day return period because they had a record of the saga and it clearly wasn't my fault, and rescheduled my pick-up for the Friday of that week.  (Again, my boss went above and beyond by allowing me two short-notices work-at-home days in a week.)  I also reported the problem to Staples via Twitter, and got a voicemail from another very nice lady confirming that my pickup had been scheduled for the Friday and giving me a different 800 number to call if there should be any problem.

Then, just to complicate things, I got home from work on Thursday to find a voicemail from the pick-up guy, saying he was there to pick up my chair and would come back the next day.  This caused a brief panic that the pick-up had been scheduled wrong, but a very nice person at the 800 number confirmed that it was in fact schedule for the Friday.

On Friday, I worked at home, one again kept my phone line clear and stayed in the apartment, and the pick-up guy came as scheduled.  He was super nice and took the box away with no fuss even though it was packaged less perfectly than I'd received it.

So here's what I've learned:

- I do not recommend using Staples if you're going to be dependent on their delivery and/or pick-up service and being at home on a weekday is difficult for you. I get the impression that the delivery service is more intended to serve businesses, where there's someone in during business hours every day anyway and if they come the next day instead of the scheduled day it isn't a huge deal.  I should add that Staples would also have accepted my return if I brought it into a store, but that was logistically impossible for me because I don't have a car and couldn't lift the box.  If you normally have someone home during the day, this problem won't affect you. If you can handle the transportation for the product in question yourself, this problem won't affect you.  But if you're not normally home on weekdays and the combination of the nature of the product purchased and the transportation options available to you makes it impossible for you to get the product to or from a store, you might want to look into other stores to see if there are better options out there.

- I do not recommend this Staples Multifunction Task Chair if you're under maybe 5'9".  The armrests were too high on their lowest setting and the lumbar spine support was too tall/long for my 5'7" short-torsoed body.

- If you struggle with assembling Ikea furniture, you will probably find it difficult to assemble Staples chairs. The instructions are less detailed than Ikea instructions.  The pieces are also rather heavy.  I could handle it, my grandmother wouldn't be able to handle it. My parents could probably handle it, but someone with back problems could hurt themselves.  However, you might also look into whether the store provides an assembly service.  I seem to remember from my initial research a thing where you can pay an extra $10 or $20 and they'll assemble it for you, but I can't currently confirm its existence, and I'm not sure whether I found it on a US or Canada Staples site.

I should add that throughout this ordeal, every single customer service person I dealt with was awesome, and the delivery people were super nice as well.  It's just the customer service people in their call centre had no way of making the delivery truck actually come to me, so it caused me quite disproportionate inconvenience.  I really appreciated how I could call their 800 number and, with minimal to no hold time, talk to a human being, asked for what I wanted in words, and have them arrange for it to be done.  I didn't have to make a special request or game the system, I just asked and they what they do to make it happen.

Except that it didn't always end up actually happening.  And that unfortunate disconnect between the superb customer service in the call centre and whatever was going on with the truck is the only reason why this isn't a glowing review and is instead an epic saga.


laura k said...

Wow, quite a saga. And now you are still without a good chair?

Have you tried Ergocentric? I had a good experience with them, but I don't know about their delivery options.

The chairs are very expensive, but are made in Canada and have a 10-year warranty. They adjust five different ways.

impudent strumpet said...

I actually ended up finding a duplicate of the chair I use at work for sale on kijiji, so I got that. I wasn't even looking on kijiji, I was just googling for my work chair (because I don't feel confident in my ability to try on chairs but I've been using this one for years with no difficulties) and the kijiji listing turned up.

Normally I wouldn't even have considered it, but my parents have been using kijiji to get rid of stuff lately and they don't even shop over the internet, so I used that sterling example of impeccable logic to conclude that that made it safe.

laura k said...

Wow, that's great. (Very late comment. When will I learn to check the reply box.) (Never.)

I've had great luck with Craigslist. I was the same way, normally wouldn't have considered it... until I started getting rid of stuff there. I always post to or search both there and Kijiji.