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My time spent in HELL at OFFICE DEsPOT(tm)

OK, this might be a bit unusual, but I had a bad experience today at the local OFFICE DEsPOT(tm) from a CUSTOMER point of view. I remained calm, and kept saying to myself "I will not act like a typical customer. I will NOT act like a typical customer."

It was 'one of those days'...

I work for the state, so we do a lot of 'purchase orders'. Well, it has taken six weeks to get a PO for a set of three 5-port 10-base T hubs (computer parts) for our LAN. I waited until my coworker got back from TX before we went to OFFICE DEsPOT, not my favorite spot in the whole world because I am an IT professional and what they consider to be an 'IT professional' and what I consider to be one are two very different ends of the spectrum. I think if you can spell "LAN" you get to work in the TECHNOLOGY department of OFFICE DEsPOT(tm).

The time is 10:45am this morning. Walking in the front door, I wait for five minutes at the CS desk, PO in hand, everything on the PO is spelled out correctly, all I have to do is hand it to someone with half the brain of a hamster, they’ll go and get my stuff from stock, I’ll sign my name at the register, and we’ll be out of there.

I’m looking for three of the SAME item. All product codes, etc. are taken right from OFFICE DEsPOT’s corporate headquarters and online ‘business’ catalog. You would think that if the home office gives you product numbers for a purchase order out of the big thick catalog, that every such catalog in every store should match, right?

Well, never assume...

It is 10:55am before we get our turn at the CS desk (only one old woman working there, she would be better placed as a Walmart greeter than in an office supply CS desk type application…). She looks over the order, asks me three times what it means, who it is for, who we are, and what it is that the two sheets of paper are supposed to be about.


I show her the product codes, the PO numbers, ask her to have someone pull them for me and we’ll be done. She sees the word "computer network hub" and freaks! I mean she freaks like she's a bank teller and I've just handed her a stick up note.

"You need to take this to TECHNOLOGY!" she growls, a few bubbles of spit flying out at me but fortunately not having enough muzzle velocity to reach their intended target.

She pushes the PO back at me with such force that she bends the two page PO in half against my chest, length wise! I reach up, clutch the PO before her shaking hands can drop it and look at her like she's got distemper or mad cow disease. She’s staring at me like I’m Satan. I’m really starting to get spooked about this place, like something is in the water and they’ve all been to the fountain for a long drink. I sigh heavily and dramatically again and tell my coworker to "Come on."

My coworker and I head back through the registers to the little staked off area with the big sign that hangs from the ceiling: TECHNOLOGY. Home of the knowledgeable redshirts and the ignorant gray shirted managerial staff that migrate around this area of the store like so many Jersey cows grazing. The higher up you go in OFFICE DEsPOT, the less you know, or so I’ve come to find out. Anytime I’ve gone to ask a ‘manager’ in a ‘gray shirt’ something, they’ve always referred me to a ‘red shirt’ employee. What gives with that?

So, I find a gray shirt and once again show them the PO. This guy spends about two minutes reading every single word on the two-page PO, like they’ve never seen a PO before. From the state, no less. They flip through the PO twice, like they are trying to decipher a text written in a language older than Latin and just as dead, then they hand it back to me and refer me to a red shirt who is currently with another customer. Why I do business with these clowns is only because I like to see ignorance at its finest. Always avoid the gray shirt wearing morons. Head right for the red shirts, that’s your best bet at OFFICE DEsPOT™.

The time is 11:10am. I have been in the store for 25 minutes with a simple PO to get three of the same identical product and I have been handed off twice so far with no satisfaction. I’m staring at the ceiling now, sighing, asking "Why me?" to the Man Upstairs. My coworker offers his own version of comfort by saying "Hey, at least you don’t have to work here. Two weeks, you’d be running the store…"

And I’d fire every single gray shirt in the store, promote the red shirts to gray shirts (thereby increasing the collective intelligence quotient of my store by three magnitudes at least…). One of the first acts of my reign as Superior Being In Charge at OFFICE DEsPOT™ would be to give the grouchy old septuagenarian at the CS desk a good reference to WALMART, using my foot on her posterior to make sure that the reference (hand written on a sticky note) was good and secure on her a** on the way out. I was enjoying my little fantasy of wielding so much power in my hands at the local OFFICE DEsPOT. I had visions similar to those credit card commercials where the horde of barbarian warriors is heading for the card holders to rape and pillage. Visions of my own barbarian hordes swarming over the store, filing in with a mad rush through the shattered glass of the front sliding doors, gray shirts raised on swords, flaming name tags melting in the fires of battle, the manager board behind the CS desk torn from its mount, and the isles ankle deep in scattered toner powder and various print media… I almost missed the red shirt walk up behind me and ask me if he could help me, so delicious was the fantasy.

Blinking back to the bitterness of reality, I halfway reached out my PO to him, almost as if he would somehow use it to deadly intent on me or beat me with it while mocking me. He took it, flipped through it once, then looked up at me.

"You just need three hubs?" he asks.

Praise God! Someone with a brain! My soul soared!

"Yeah, just three. 10-Base-T. I didn’t see any on the shelf. Do you have anymore in the back?"

I cringed at that last statement. We all HATE customers who ask if we ‘have anymore in the back’, but I really needed one and beggars have to grovel sometimes. It was uncomfortable to ask such a obviously dumb question, like if there were not any on the shelf that maybe they were just too frigging lazy to have moved any out of storage or back supply to fill the shelf again.

I try to be a good customer, I really do.

The red shirt takes no offense, says he’ll check the back and walks quickly away. I glance at my watch. It is 11:25am. My stomach grumbles. I’m hungry and running low on patience. I’ve been in this store for 40 minutes before I’ve been sent to someone who can actually help me. That is 35 minutes way too long in my book, for something simple like a PO that has all of the important numbers there in big bold type on the paper. We busy ourselves looking at hyper inflated prices on everything from floppy drives (made by "MAGICSPIN"!) to memory sticks and those little round cameras that stick to the top of your monitors that nobody ever uses for anything but really bad amateur home porn.

The red shirt comes back with one of those inventory code guns. You know, the kind that looks like a phaser from Star Trek tried to hump a HP engineering calculator. Well, this guy looks at the PO, types it in on the price phaser, and says that his system tells him that he has two in stock, in the back, but he’ll have to backorder the third. I tell him that is fine, one is critical, I only ordered the other two as spares. He nods, takes his price phaser, writes down a couple of numbers on the PO in pencil, then tells me to do something that chills my blood to the consistency of glacier ice…

"Take your PO back up to Customer Service."

OHGODNOANYTHINGBUTTHAT! I think, screaming on the inside.

My soul is writhing in tormented anguish as I think I’m fixing to be at the mercy of the septuagenarian witch behind the desk again. The red shirt walks towards the back and my coworker and I slump up toward the CS desk like condemned men going to the gallows. I feel like I’m walking the "Green Mile", every step brings me closer to that gray haired old witch and she’s watching us as we walk towards her. I think the mutual fields of energy between our stares was a very real "OHNONOTYOUAGAIN!" The feeling was mutual. Thankfully, she left the counter to go run a register as we were about fifteen paces away. But our fate was sealed when a gray shirt manager entered in behind the CS desk to take over.

There was a woman and a man ahead of us, they also had a state PO. I heard him tell them "We handle all state PO’s from this desk, next time, bring your PO here first instead of to the technology department and we’ll get you in and out of here in no time."

WTF?! Did I just really hear him tell them that?! Did store policy completely change in the last fifteen minutes? Why wasn’t I handled in that manner? Oh, because I was dealing with the septuagenarian gray haired old customer service witch who probably had a "ASK ME ABOUT MY GRANDCHILDREN?" or a "HONK IF YOU LOVE JESUS" bumper sticker on her car. So, I’m again fuming on the inside. I look down at my watch. It is 11:35am. I have been in this damn store for almost an hour, pinballed from one employee to another, with no satisfaction on something that should have taken all of five minutes to complete. I say some things to myself that probably made Jesus cry and new visions of a mad horde of barbarians battling their way through the team of gray shirted managers comes to mind. Limbs being hacked off, heads flying only to be caught and placed on pikes outside the entrance to OFFICE DEsPOT™ for all future managers to learn a lesson from. I pass these violent thoughts and the recollection of various forms of slow, agonizing medieval torture methods by looking at all the happy dumb looking pictures of the gray shirted managers up on the wall on the "Hey, have you met our store managers? type board". I start to pass the time by making funny words out of the letters of their last names. It helps to alleviate the tension that is building up inside me.

"I will not act like a typical customer. I will NOT act like a typical customer." I repeat to myself, mouthing the words silently.

I’m still clutching the PO like it was my only ticket to freedom. My mind is starting to go numb, it does that in the presence of vast amounts of total ignorance and incompetence, especially when I know that my hard earned money is going to be reinforcing that same ignorance with the positive reward of a paycheck cut to these people who couldn’t manage a guided tour of a pop-up storybook.

I’m thinking, can it get any worse? Can it really get ANY worse? You know the answer to that already, don’t you?

The manager is looking through stacks of books for the man and woman’s state department code, and when he finally goes over to the computer, he’s a pecker! That’s right! This manager of OFFICE DEsPOT is a two finger pecker typer. A dang keyboard pecker and he’s slow as a constipated snail when he’s doing it. I think he can peck out about five words a minute, no lie, if he’s on a roll. You would think that the ability to type and use a computer keyboard would be a requirement for a managerial position at OFFICE DEsPOT, but I guess that would be assuming way too much.

Can it get ANY worse?

"I’ve got to go to the bathroom." my coworker says sheepishly and left.

It is 11:45am by my watch as the gray shirt looks at me and motions that I’m next. I turn around and look to make sure he is talking to me. I can’t believe it! An hour and five minutes to get three of the same product with a PO!  The manager looks at the PO, then asks what it is. I think my eyes rolled completely back in my head and around in their sockets. Vertigo. The ignorance and incompetence is overwhelming, galactic levels of it.  I entertain thoughts of adding the manager to the list of people in the store scheduled to be flayed alive and then castrated with one of those four tooth staple removers once my barbarian hordes arrived en masse to liberate me from Hell. I let my shoulders sink to their lowest possible human skeleton deflection and stared at the pasty yellow waxed floor, moving my toe of my sneaker back and forth, trying to figure out what I had done in a previous life to earn so much retribution in one short period of time in this life.

Was it thinking naughty thoughts of Tiffany Amber Thiessen when she was wearing those thigh-highs and garters and that black teddy in "Ladies Man"?   So… Can it get any worse? I’m wishing that the floor would just open up and I fall into a bottomless chasm, right down to Satan and Saddam Hussein.

"It’s a purchase order for the state…" I say calmly, fighting down the bad spirits that want to come out to play and drink the blood of the ignorant.

"Just like the one you just finished doing…" I want to say, but don’t.

"I will not be like a typical customer. I will NOT be like a typical customer." I mouth silently again.

"Oh! Well, we have priority service on government agencies! You won’t have to wait for this to be filled!" he says.

And I let a little of the bad spirits out to play then, just a little.

"I’ve been here for an hour and ten minutes." I say. "And no one seems to know what their job is or how to read one of those."

I’m sorry I said it, but for a brief moment in time, I did feel oh SOOOOO much better.

"I apologize for any inconvenience!" the manager begins to stammer, looking over the PO again, unsure of how to take that last statement.

I guess he’s never had someone tell him something like that before in such a calm voice. I politely point to the penciled in numbers on the front, explain that a red shirt has already checked, that they have two of the items in stock, I’ll wait on the third, please go get my product. He hands the PO to another female gray shirt and I can see the problem not ending. He points out the pencilled in number and she vanishes into the mysterious storehouse area that NO CUSTOMER EVER SEES.

I look at my digital wristwatch. Each time the seconds increments by one, I think that a month has passed outside in the real world. Suddenly I’m living in subjective time. 11:55am. I have been here now one hour and 20 minutes with zero satisfaction. I could have watched a good video in this time, or at least had a few more good fantasies of Tiffany Amber Theissen. Since God is punishing me, I guess it's okay to go ahead with my own little fantasies, I'm paying dearly for them so I might as well enjoy them, right?  This time I go for a really saucy one, like Tiffany Amber Theissen wearing nothing but a Santa hat and frolicking around in one of those plastic kiddie pools filled with Cool Whip(tm) ...

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The female gray shirt (who’s name and picture do NOT appear on the manager alert board behind the CS desk ... what, don’t they update these things regularly?) returns after ten minutes (remember, I’m timing these guys…) with two, get this, two NIC network interface cards and drops them on the counter. NICs?  I need HUBS!   Not NICs!  The gray shirt manager picks them up and starts to process them.   Saucy visions of Tiffany Amber Theissen, the Santa hat, and one of those little plastic wading pools full of 50 gallons of room temperature Cool-Whip™ all vanish in a puff of bitter tasting realization.

"Hold on there, Sparky." I say calmly.

The manager starts like I’ve just kicked him in the nads, I mean, this guy jumps like he’s just had a spasm and wet his pants.

"I need two, five-port, 10 base T hubs. Not two 10 base-T NICs." I finish, calmly.

I’m calm. My voice is even and casual. He’s startled, like a mistake couldn’t happen in his realm of physics or existence. He checks the PO, looks at the numbers on the PO, looks at the numbers on the NICs, takes his glasses off, and takes a NIC over to the computer. He does a variety of laser bar code scanning and more two-finger pecking. I’m now leaning on the front of the glass case where they have the pens displayed, you know, the $45 Harley Davidson ink pen and the $140 Montblanc pens. My arms are crossed and I’m resting my forehead on them with enough force that when I lift my head, I’m sure to have a representation of the Chinese national flag pressed on my forehead. I just stare at the pretty light from the fluorescent tubes in the case and wonder how much of a total sheep you would have to be to pay $40 for a chrome plated Harley Davidson pen.

"So you need two hubs?" he asks.

"Three hubs." I say.

He holds the carton upwards like he's going to get some kind of divine wisdom from scrutinizing the product at that angle.  I sigh. Repeating my mantra and vowing not to get angry. I fully understand what Superman must feel like when he’s around Kryptonite. This amount of ignorance and incompetence is draining both my intellect and adversely affecting my karma. In one short period of time, I’ve been reduced in mentality level from the very top of the food chain to somewhere just below lichen that grows on damp rocks in dark caves, so powerful is the mental vacuum of OFFICE DEsPOT™.

"I’m very sorry." the manager says. "These are NIC cards.   I’ll check this out right away."

He walks quickly from behind the counter and away from the CS desk.

"Yeah...  You do that, Sparky." I mutter, barely audible, still with my head down on the counter, looking at all the pretty pens.

They have lots of pens.  They have tiger striped ones, and black ones, and cheap ones and expensive ones, and pretty pink ones and … And the manager leaves, taking my PO and going back to the fantasy world realm of "TECHNOLOGY". I slowly rotate my head so that I can see over my left shoulder.  Honest to Jesus, I see him grab another gray shirted manager on the way and they both head to the shelf where they keep the interface equipment. After a few minutes, they call over to another gray shirt and all three of them point at and move boxes around on the shelf in front of them and make faces like they're suffering from some form of contagious and terminal group constipation.

I’m a good seventy-five feet away watching this bizarre pow-wow and asking for divine forgiveness for the thoughts that are pouring through my mind.  Thoughts which have switched from fantasies of Tiffany Amber Theissen to black and white war film quality footage of a line of gray shirts being forced to walk the plank into a waiting industrial capacity limb chipper that is screaming at maximum power. Buzzzzeeeeeewwww. Buzzzzzzzzeeeeww. I watch in amazement as it takes a sum total of four gray shirted managers to review my PO and get an opinion on whatever it is that they are talking about back there at the shelf in TECHNOLOGY where they keep the computer hubs and other equipment. The manager who originally walked back there writes something else, something new, down on my PO and then grabs some poor helpless red shirt who unfortunately is passing too near his chain of command sphere and sends him with the PO back into the depths of warehouse hell with my PO!

I'm thinking that next time I will just bring enough copies of my PO to give to every gray shirt in the store, and one to keep to give to the first red shirt that I see.   That way, while the gray shirts are trying to figure out the PO, the red shirt can sneak past the lines of ignorance and bring me some satisfaction in a orderly and timely manner.  And speaking of time...

The time is now 12:10pm. The gray shirt comes forward, does not apologize this time, and starts to help another customer who was standing behind me. He does not offer me an update on the situation, or anything like a token nod or a "I've got someone getting your order right now." type comment.  That Kryptonite feeling comes on stronger. I am about to implode from the cosmic levels of incompetence and ignorance that I am being bombarded with. I say goodbye to the level of intelligence that I briefly enjoyed as a piece of lichen and embrace my far distant Darwinistic ancestors, the one celled amoebas in thought at which point I find that I am on the same level as the gray shirts and almost privy to their innermost thoughts.

I am revived from my long mental slump backwards in evolution by the thump of a single box on the counter. It is a hub. ONE hub, but by God and all that is righteous, it is a 5 port, 10-base T HUB!  I glance at my watch, it is 12:18pm. One hour and thirty-eight minutes have elapsed since I and my coworker first entered OFFICE DEsPOT on what we considered would have been a simple errand. I feel like Superman after he’s just had a Kryptonite suppository.

The gray shirt takes the hub, looks at the number on the hub, the number on the PO, then says that this is what we are looking for but he only has one in stock.  I don't even get into the logic trap of saying the obvious retard statement of "But the guy in the red shirt said you had two in stock in the back..."

The manager has a case of hubs coming in Friday and I can pick up the other two then. NO PROBLEM, give me my hub and let me out of this mad house!  Please!?  My coworker reaches up from behind me, picks up the hub and says:

"I don’t think the numbers are the same. There’s probably a price difference isn't there …?  We might have to get a new PO and come back..."

I about lose it there. Et tu, Brutus? Betrayed by my own coworker’s lack of forethought, doomed to rot away in OFFICE DEsPOT. I stare daggers into my coworker. If he’s gimped up this transaction, I’ll grab his face and use my thumbs to gouge out his eyeballs.

"No, it’s the same price, just a different unit design." the gray shirt says, intrigued by the possibility of there being a price difference to his favor, but then saddened when apparently it isn't so.

"Oh." my coworker says, putting the box back down on the counter.

I sigh.  Ten more minutes of two finger pecking on the keyboard and after signing like six statements with my name, department that I work for, etc. in a display of redundancy defined, we are given our single hub and we walk out the front doors. As soon as we clear the front door, my coworker and I break into a heated run for my Blazer, each of us screaming "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo!" at the top of our lungs. Honest.   We do stuff like that in public.  We drive out of the parking lot almost on two wheels, trying to escape the negative mental vacuum that is the mental black hole of our local OFFICE DEsPOT.

The clock on the stereo radio in my Blazer reads 12:43pm. Two hours and two minutes in OFFICE DEsPOT to get three of the same product and we only came out with one and the dire knowledge that we would have to return in a few days to retrieve the other two hubs from the bowels of Hell.


I’m feeling much better now. Later that afternoon, we were outside and heard a loud thump off in the distance. My coworker said it was probably  thunder of the approaching storm, but I said it was OFFICE DEsPOT finally imploding under the mental vacuum it was exerting on the rest of the cosmos. He and I both laughed for a long time at that.

I’m going to see if I can just order my products online and have them delivered instead of having to go through the customer hell that I went through today. No one who worked there knew their job! That, folks, is sad! I’ve never worked in a place like that before and no place that I ever worked did a customer have to wait over two hours to get an order filled or be bounced around to so many other people or get treated like that.

And no, the store wasn't full of other customers either, so it wasn't 'busy'... these guys were just not good staff, and from a person who has been behind the counter before, I saw a LOT of room for improvement. Unlike the typical customer, I kept my opinions to myself regarding this realization.

"You have to be nice to the people who fix your shit." No matter how mean or unprofessional they might be to you.

Here’s one time when I actually could have seen it from the customer’s point of view.