I had a mixed experience at Staples Online Store.
May 18, 2003 (Updated Oct 13, 2004)
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I really expected more from Staples.com. They are a large chain with a lot of competition but they act more like an unprofessional start-up. I encountered errors at every step of my order.
SHOPPING AT STAPLES
Staples is a large chain of brick and mortar stores. They frequently advertise specials in our local newspaper. They also have a catalog and a web site.
Staples markets itself to small businesses and consumers. They sell a full range of office products to serve businesses including pens, pencils, papers, electronics such as calculators and office machines and office furniture. Consumers will like the wide selection of office products. A typical store will have half an aisle dedicated to pens.
I find that Staple's everyday prices are on the high side but items on sale are marked down tremendously. It pays to look at the circular. Other stores such as Wal*Mart and Target do not offer the range that Staples offers but if you are flexible on brand or style, you will generally get better prices at the discount stores.
WEB SITE OPERATION
The web site is not very pretty but it loads quickly and is reasonably well organized. There are very few pictures. There are no reviews from consumers (so you will have to come to Epinions to get more information on the products). Product descriptions are minimal which is probably okay for pencils but not helpful for electronics or the fax machine that I was looking for.
I selected the fax machine I wanted (having researched it elsewhere) and was happy to find out there was a coupon and a rebate. This required me to add many steps to my order process. So, here we go:
1. I had to click through the product description screen to learn about the coupon and rebate.
2. I had to write down a 5 digit coupon code.
3. I had to print out a rebate form using Adobe Acrobat for use after the fax machine arrived.
4. Then I had to add the product to my cart.
5. I had to open the cart and click on "coupon."
6. I had to enter my 5 digit coupon code to receive $50 off my order.
7. Then I had to hit a button for checkout. Since I don't already have an account at Staples.com, I was required to open one.
8. I had to enter my name, address and phone number for shipping. Then I hit a button to proceed to the next screen.
9. At this point, I got an error message. When I backed up, all of the information I had entered was gone. Even my shopping cart was empty. So, I had to restart at step one.
10. The second time going through the process, which took about 10 minutes, I made it past the information quicksand and got to the password screen where I had to enter my email and select a password.
11. The next screen required me to enter my credit card for payment.
12. The final screen was my receipt. After that I was done. The whole ordering process took about 15 minutes (In which time I could have driven to the store).
When I checked my e-mail, I had two e-mails welcoming me to Staples. I assume this is related to the error message. I also had an e-mail confirming my order however I was charged $7 more than I agreed to when checking out because they added tax to my order. Since the fax was still cheaper at Staples, I decided not to complain.
The web site indicated that the fax machine would be delivered in one business day. In one business day, I received an email indicating that the fax machine would come in 10 days and if this was acceptable, I should include it in my next delivery order. It sounded to me like my order was canceled, so I called customer service to see how to proceed.
Customer Service informed me my order was canceled but I could call them back in a few days to see if the fax machine was back in stock. Three days later, I got an unsolicited e-mail from customer service indicating that the fax machine was back in stock and would I like it. I emailed back that I wanted it and customer service confirmed the price of $157.
The fax machine arrived eight days after my email with customer service. This was 12 days after my original order and was therefore much later than the one business day they promise on the web site. They also charged me $159 instead of the $157 promised. This was $9 higher than the price calculated by the web site.
Staples does not charge for shipping on most orders over $50. I did not pay any shipping on my fax machine.
The fax machine arrived in the manufacturer's carton. There was no additional packing by Staples except for the packing label stuck to the side. It arrived in full working order. The fax machine was shipped UPS.
There was no label provided for returns. The only indication that the company accepts returns is a notation on the packing label that says, "Need to Return? Please call." That is it. It is not even clear whether I could return the fax to a brick and mortar store. This lack of information makes me suspect that returns might be difficult.
I am a member of upromise (www.upromise.com). If you register at Upromise and jump through a few other hoops at the Upromise site, such as registering your credit card, you can get a 3% rebate on your Staples purchases.
I noticed on-line that Staples offers a rebate program for small businesses. You need to sign up for the program in advance of your purchase.
customer service: 1-800-333-3330
The next time I try to buy electronics from Staples, I would drive to the store. The price miscalculation, lack of packing materials, delay in delivery and possible issues with returns did not inspire confidence.
On the other hand, the price for my fax machine was the lowest I saw of many merchants on the web and Staples did not charge for shipping.
DO YOU LIKE TO SHOP ON THE INTERNET? HERE ARE SOME MORE REVIEWS OF WEB STORES:
Clothing and Accessories: Talbots; The Gap; CWD Kids; Hanna Andersson; J. Jill; Tote Le Monde ; Blu Pyxie ; Miniboden; One Hanes Place; Nordstrom; Gymboree; Simple Shoes; Sierra Blue.
Clothing and Home Goods: Lands End; Bluefly; Soft Surroundings; Garnet Hill; Sundance; L.L. Bean.
Home and Garden: Smith & Noble; Restoration Hardware; Gardeners Supply Company; Unicahome; Homeclick; FaucetDirect; Gardens Alive; West Elm; Crate & Barrel; MyKnobs.
Books and Magazines: Amazon.com; ValueMags; Magazine Values; Dover Publications.
Office Supplies, Furniture and Services: Officemax; Topdeq; Efax.
Electronics: HP Shopping; Buy.com.
Travel: Amtrak; Hotwire; Orbitz; Hotels.com.
Discount: Overstock.com; Target.
Photo Developing: Shutterfly; Snapfish.
Baby Stuff: Babystyle; Babys Here Birth Announcements; Baby Universe; SoZo.
Miscellaneous: 1-800 contacts; Movie Tickets.com; Drugstore.com.
Rebate Sites: Upromise; Ebates.
What product did you purchase or try to purchase? fax machine