The 12 minute box of envelopes

A sad and interesting visit to the planet They Just Don’t Get It this morning to buy a box of envelopes. I used to buy all of our office supplies at Carters in Charlottetown. This was when they were located in a spledid historic building on Queen St., and had a store with all the good characteristics of an old time stationer. And then they moved. In what seemed like an odd move, Carters gave up their Queen St. location and moved to the old Zellers store on Kent St., into what amounts to a modern piece of innocuous architecture; accompanying this was a rapid descent into mediocrity. Since they moved, I’ve [rather sheepishly] been shopping at Staples, the new bigbox-stationer cum computer store in the suburbs. With our recent move downtown, I thought I should give Carters another try, and so when the need arose to purchase a box of envelopes, off I went.
I shouldn’t have bothered.
I quickly found my box of envelopes and walked up to the cash, where I spent 5 minutes in line waiting for the clerk to complete a complex series of tasks with another customer (to her credit, she may have been assisting NASA with Space Shuttle operations). Once it was my turn to pay, I spent another 3 or 4 minutes waiting for her to enter a complex series of commands into her computer that would, I presume, release title to the envelopes to me (I lost track after about 50 keystrokes). When this was completed, I received a giant 8 by 10 receipt and my envelopes.
Now I have never been a stationer myself, and perhaps I am unaware of the subtle data processing demands of the profession, but it seems like a more logical customer service path to strive might be something like: “I walk in, pick up a box of envelopes, pay, leave.” I that in a sane world this would take about 42 seconds. And if it did, Carters would have my stationery business forever.

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