I often tell anyone who will listen that robots are becoming more human and humans are becoming more machine like.
When it comes to the latter, nowhere is this more true than in my recent dealings with cashiers, managers, and so-called “customer service” representatives at an office supply company that merger of Office Depot and OfficeMax.
“I apologize” or words to that effect is the robotic mantra I’ve received literally dozens of times when talking to company employees on the phone, and in person, about OfficeMax’s utterly asinine return policy. , and the company’s inability to do exactly that. asinine corporate return policy.
I’m writing this as my first step toward recovery from adversity that begins with the simple task of buying a router—a common task that many of us have done, or will do, in the future. And I admit, however, that I can’t help but be rude to most every OfficeMax employee I deal with. I’m at fault. I literally can’t help myself. I have my reasons. But I apologize.
I’m running an old Airport router from Apple, and I don’t want to be left out of the new Wi-Fi client vault that everyone, including Ars, is talking about. I suspect my Airport Extreme is failing, as the signal at my California East Bay residence is turning my normal connection of 500 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up into a crawl.
After reading many reviews, including one here at Ars, I chose the Velop Whole-Home Mesh Wi-Fi product from Linksys. The single unit is advertised anywhere for $199.99. But OfficeMax has it for $179.99.
The first sign I should avoid OfficeMax is the online checkout page. The advertised price of $179.99, when clicked to buy, changed to $199.99. As I was scratching my head about how fake this was, up popped the site’s chatbot. Either the robot or the human robot gives me their name and clicks, “It will be my pleasure to help you today.”
The chatbot replied that OfficeMax would honor the $179.99 price. All I have to do is shop online, provide the chatbot with the order number, and the $179.99 price will be charged. I hesitated but clicked on the purchase anyway because I was excited about getting a new router—and I could pick it up right away at a retail store about a mile from my house.
The $20 difference didn’t show up on my bill, even after I picked up my new router. So before I removed the product, I called the “customer service” phone line. I was manipulated by the company’s automated answering service that I suspect OfficeMax executives are too inexperienced or too embarrassed to admit to ever having used. I finally got a person on the line and loudly explained my situation over and over.
“I apologize” was the representative’s reply.
The company honored the $20 discount. I said a few more things I shouldn’t have said.
“I apologize,” replied the agent.
This is only the beginning of my OfficeMax nightmare.
Take me to your boss
I started to set up my router, and I downloaded the Linksys iPhone app from the Apple App store. I finally got it up and running after several attempts using the app. Despite this magical failure, the app was pretty beast. It gives me all the options, including one to cut the Internet to any connected device I want. I had great fun secretly disconnecting the Xbox while my two boys were playing—many times. “FATHER!”
But such shenanigans are not worth the $179 price. This router doesn’t work much better, and, in fact, it works worse than my Apple router. And every time I unplug it to test it against the Apple router, I have to go through the same initial setup process after powering it back on.
So know that OfficeMax is a 14-day return policyTwo days later, I packed the product and took it back to OfficeMax where I bought it.
I stood in line, gave the cashier my receipt, and set the Velop on the counter. After a few minutes of trying to give me a refund, the cashier called a manager. Because I bought the router online, they said, I can’t return the product to the store where I bought it. The manager told me that I needed to call their “customer service” number to arrange for a courier to pick up from my residence.
I haggled for a few minutes, in vain. I left with everyone in the cavernous warehouse of the store hearing about how dumb I thought they were.
I drove the mile home and made the call. After ping-ponging my way through automated private phone lines again, “I apologize” was the response I received from a customer service representative after I expressed my displeasure with the return policy.
That was on Friday, October 20. The representative said the courier would be available sometime between 8am and 5pm on Monday. After I said I wouldn’t be home all day, she said the courier would call to give an approximate time window.
Monday came and went with neither a receipt nor a call from OfficeMax. So, the next morning, I again suffered through the company’s automated phone line, and I told my story—again.
A courier, I was told, would pick it up between 2pm and 4pm today (Tuesday). My answer is not fit to print.
No one showed up.
After suffering through an automated phone line another time, I shared my story—yet again. Someone, they said, would come on Thursday between 8am and 5pm to pick up the router.
I said it might not be there. I was told that I should just brown-box it up and take the products to a Up shop. I replied that I had already taken it to the OfficeMax store where I bought it and it was rejected. So I said I would never drive to a UPS store. Come and get it was G-rated explanation of what I said.
Later that day, Wednesday, I received a call from OfficeMax saying that the package would be received not today but sometime between 8am and 5pm Thursday. The version of G they made of my answer is the same. They said they would call before they came to make sure I would be home.
On Thursday morning, a courier knocked on the door and picked up the router. I signed for it. I asked for a certificate, but the tech apparently wasn’t there to give me one.
About an hour later, I received a call from OfficeMax telling me that a courier would be coming later that afternoon between 2pm and 4pm to pick up the router.
I am a bad Ludite
As it turns out, this whole ordeal could have been avoided in the first place. I was so excited to jump into the federal networking game that I made the right IT mistake. What I didn’t do was run a speed test connected directly to my Internet provider’s modem. If I did, I would have realized right away that it wasn’t my Apple router that wasn’t working. Instead, it is either the Broadband Wave Modem provided or something else.
While I was waiting for OfficeMax to ship their router, I called Wave Broadband. The cable guy came out and gave me a new modem. My speeds are back to fantastic, and everything is fine. But just like before, suddenly my network is back to snail speed. Obviously, there is a major issue.
A different cable guy came back two days later, ran all kinds of tests, and concluded that he needed to do some work on the telephone pole outside my residence. The next day, the work was done.
My Apple router is humming again at monstrous, Star Trek-like speeds.
All that said, my business dealings with OfficeMax continued for another week after the courier shipped my return router. That’s how long it takes for my refund to show up on my PayPal account.
I still don’t shop at OfficeMax, even if everything is free.