Why I like online shopping, part 51,939... A few days ago, noting that we were short of printer paper, I stopped in at the Staples in Logan, Utah to pick up two or three reams. As I browsed the paper aisle, I noted what seemed like a very good deal: five reams of Staples-branded, 20 pound, 96% reflectivity (very bright) bond paper for about $15. Three bucks a ream is cheap. It seemed too good to be true, so I checked the signage very carefully to see if I was being fooled somehow. Nope. It was clearly marked as five reams for $15.
So I grabbed one of the (heavy!) packages and headed for the cash register, where I had to wait for almost five minutes while the young woman who was the cashier finished her lengthy discussion about a TV show with the customer ahead of me. Then when she rang up my sale, the charge was for $33. That's about what such paper sells for on Amazon, shipped to my door, or about $5 a ream at Walmart. It's certainly not the clearly labeled $15. WTF?
Well, my cashier explained (with a big, excited smile on her face) that I was about to have the privilege of getting an $18 rebate, with a super-easy way to submit it online! Wow! Now this was absurd on the face of it. Why would Staples send me a rebate for a product that they're selling under their own brand? The only possible reason I can think of is that they know many people won't bother sending in the rebate, so they get to misleadingly advertise a low price while actually (on average) getting more.
I was torn, but we needed the paper and I didn't want the hassle of stopping at another store, so I grumbled and paid for the paper. This morning I pawed through my receipts and found the “Rebate Redemption Form”. It's printed on a cash register receipt, and measures 25" long. The poorly-printed text on it is in 8 point type (I measured it!). It took me five minutes of mind-numbing reading before I found the URL to submit it online. When I went to that web site, the first thing it did was ask me for a 17 digit “easy redemption ID”. Easy, my ass! I searched that form for ten minutes and was about to give up when I noticed that right at the bottom, in six point type that was barely blacker than the white paper, printed inside a bar code, was a 17 digit number. Could that be it? It was! Though I only discovered that after typing it in incorrectly a few times before I got it right.
I thought that was the end of my torture, but I was wrong. There was more. There was a form to be filled in, a web form designed by someone stuck in 1994. Nearly every field had some rule about entry. For instance, the phone number had to be entered as just the ten digits of an American phone number including area code. No hyphens, spaces, or parens. But this rule was completely hidden – when the form wouldn't accept a phone number, there was no explanation of why. It just didn't work. I spent another ten or fifteen minutes filling out this stupid form. When I finally clicked “submit” and it worked, I was relieved. Now my torture must be over!
Next I got a confirmation screen that informed me that I was “soon” to be the recipient of an $18 Visa card. What, exactly, did they mean by “soon”? In some tiny pale blue type that I could just barely find, they told me to expect my card in 9 to 11 weeks. Isn't that exciting?
When I finally got done with this process, I made a vow to myself to never, ever darken the entrance of a Staples store again. I will pay a premium, if necessary, to avoid ever giving that company even one penny of my money.
Amazon is so much easier. I just ordered some more paper so we don't run out...