When I first moved to Charlottetown 17 years ago, Carter and Company was still in business on Queen Street. Carter’s was your stationers’ stationer: creaky wooden floors, a vast range of products, excellent customer service.
You couldn’t ask for anything more in a stationery store.
And then came The Great Consolidation of the downtown stationery market in Charlottetown. Staples arrived on the outskirts. Carter’s closed their Queen Street store and opened on Kent Street. Eventually we were left with one stationery store downtown, Colpitts Office Products, seemingly a hybrid of Premium Office Products, Carter’s and Colpits that’s now part of a small Quebec chain.
It seemed like every move from the original Carter’s into today’s pale shadow involved a decrease in selection, friendliness and service. But, committed to downtown business as I am, as much as possible I’ve been shopping at Colpits just to help keep them alive. (After all, who wants to drive out to the edge of town to buy a pencil).
Today I needed to mail a big book to Germany, so I needed a big envelope.
I went over to the Confederation Court Mall to Colpitts and in the envelope section I found exactly what I needed: big manila envelopes sold individually.
I went up to the counter to pay and was told “oh, you can’t buy this, you have to buy ten… they should have had a rubber band around them.”
“I just want one envelope,” I replied.
“You have to buy ten,” said the clerk.
“So you can’t just sell me this one envelope here?”
Not needing 10 envelopes, nor wanting to spend $12.00 on 10 envelopes to get one, I left.
Five minutes later I had a single large envelope in hand, purchased at the Canada Post outlet at Shoppers Drug Mart. Where they sell big envelopes both individually and in larger quantities.
I’m never going back to Colpitts Office Products.
Because this experience, perhaps a result of “store policy” or a computer system incapable of selling items a la carte, and very obviously the result of a company that doesn’t allow its employees to be, well, friendly, was completely devoid of humanity.
Here I was, a guy with an envelope and the cash to buy it. An envelope sitting, individually and ready to purchase, on the counter between me and someone who should have been happy to sell it to me.
And her only response was “you have to buy 10.”
This is a violation not only of fundamental laws of customer service, but also of fundamental laws of human decency. A real person, in a company that gives their employees to latitude to be real human beings, would have said “give me a loonie and we’ll call it even.”
Instead their service quite clearly said “we don’t want to sell you what you’re looking for.”
So now they are never again going to sell me anything.