Presented here, a tale of employee incompetence, consumer fraud, invasion of privacy, and unethical corporate practices. The villains of the tale are Staples and Verizon Wireless, and I have the distinct impression that this will be only the first report in a series, exposing these greedy and unscrupulous corporate behemoths, who, like many others, slavishly adhere to the ever-proliferating police-state policies of the U.S. government.
A few weeks ago, I had occasion to purchase a cell phone. I have never owned a cell phone, as I am basically opposed to them for numerous reasons, the most compelling being related to invasions of privacy, specifically that the whereabouts of the user may easily be tracked. I use land lines only, and even then I always have an unlisted number --and for extra security, unlisted in a different name. Since I don't use a social security number, don't have a bank account, nor credit cards, I don't get any credit line with a phone company, except the basic monthly bill, and I use prepaid phone cards for all long distance calls.
(No, this does not stop the higher level government spooks and goons who are on my case, but at least it weeds out the lesser invaders of personal privacy.)
But back to the cell phone. After consulting a few people with expertise on these matters (of which I know virtually nothing), I was told I could purchase an inexpensive 'trac phone', which could be used with prepaid calling cards. This type of cell phone would not involve signing a contract, and could be used anonymously, thus protecting my privacy.
In fact, I would never have considered using any kind of cell phone (including for other reasons not relevant to this report), had I not anticipated being in a situation for a short time where I would not have phone service. I planned to use the phone and then dispose of it when I no longer needed the use of it.
So in search of the 'trac phone' I went to the closest Staples store in Biddeford, Maine. As soon as I entered the store, a clerk approached me and asked if he could be of assistance. I told him I was looking for a 'trac phone', and explained that I needed some detailed information which would assure me that my specific requirements would be met before making my purchase.
I clearly explained my requirements:
1) I could use the phone with complete anonymity, without signing any sort of contract.
2) I would be able to activate the phone without being required to provide any personal information.
3) I could purchase prepaid cards, as needed, with a certain number of "minutes" of calling time.
Very simple, or so I thought at the time. But ultimately, my attempt to make a "simple" purchase of a cell phone turned into a grueling ordeal, through a combination of stupidity, aggression, arrogance and deceit by clerks and management from the Staples and Verizon Wireless stores.
I asked the clerk at Staples to advise me which phones the store offered which would be suitable for my needs. He suggested two different models, both of which he assured me would meet my specific requirements.
What I ended up buying was not the 'trac phone' per se (which I later found out is a brand name, a fact of which the clerk failed to inform me) but a model by Verizon, which the clerk told me was the same basic item as the 'trac phone'.
I was assured by the clerk that this phone could be used anonymously; that it would be easy to activate, without giving any personal information; and that I could purchase a prepaid card from Verizon, specifically designed to be used with the phone.
Never having used any kind of cell phone, and due to what I made very clear was my own complete lack of knowledge in the use of this technology, I made certain to ask every possible relevant question, as well as to repeat my requirements, just to be sure he understood precisely what they were.
Again, the clerk assured me that my clearly stated requirements would be met --but that if for ANY REASON (note these words) I was not satisfied, I could return the items (Verizon wireless phone and prepaid calling card) with no problem.
As I later found out, I had been given false information, and on various levels, by the Staples clerk. And worse, I lost a sum of money when Staples later refused to refund the purchase price of one of the items, namely the calling card.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. My additional dealings with Staples were made necessary by my dealings with Verizon Wireless, the manufacturer of the cell phone.
After purchasing the Verizon phone at Staples, I tried to activate it using the instruction manual which came with the phone. But the instructions were anything but "easy" -- rather, they were unclear, at least to me, and I was not able to successfully activate the phone. The clerks at Staples, whom I called for assistance, were of no help, and it was then suggested that I go directly to the nearest Verizon Wireless store (right down the block) and ask for help in activating the phone there.
So I drove to the Verizon Wireless store, and when I entered, phone in hand, I was left waiting for about ten minutes, until a clerk approached me and asked for "your first name and last initial". I gave my first name, but declined to provide the initial. Shortly thereafter, I was unpleasantly surprised to see my name, BARBARA, lit up on a billboard on the wall of the store. Now, I was sorry I had given even my first name, but I don't have to worry about it ever happening again, as after what the idiots at Verizon put me through, I know I will never set foot in that place as long as I live.
Again, I waited, watching the names on the lighted billboard, until finally my first name was called. A Verizon clerk asked how she could help, and I explained that I had purchased the Verizon phone at Staples (which happens to be in the same strip mall in Biddeford, Maine.) I told the clerk I needed help in activating the phone, and also handed over all the paperwork (instruction manuals) which had come with it, as well as the prepaid Verizon phone card.
The woman tried several times to activate the phone, using the instructions which came with it, but for whatever reason, she could not get it to work. Which made it clear that I was not the only one who had problems following the so-called "easy" instructions.
By this time, I had been in the store for at least 30 minutes, waiting in the hope that the clerk could activate the phone. Finally, in defeat, she called the manager of the Verizon store.
The manager emerged from the back, and when he approached me, he asked for my name. I told him my name was none of his business; that I had purchased a Verizon phone at Staples, that upon information and belief (as I was assured by the clerk who sold me the phone), I could use this phone with complete anonymity, and that all I needed from him was assistance in activating the phone, a service to customers they claim they will provide at no charge.
Now, the manager, a young man with a cocky attitude, said to me, "We'll need to see your driver's license."
No, I said, that will not be happening. You will NOT be seeing any such thing. Here's the deal: I bought a phone, upon the word of the seller (Staples) that it could be used anonymously and all I need from you is for it to be activated. He then said, "I can't do that, not until I see your driver's license."
Well, you're not going to get that, but why in hell would you want to see a driver's license?
"Just to make sure you are over the age of 18."
Over the age of 18?! What absolute rubbish, and a blatant lie.
I will be 60 years old in early 2011. Which I did not bother to comment upon, first, because my age was none of his business, and secondly, because the absurdity of his demand was beyond the pale, and by this time, my blood was boiling with outrage. He then smugly continued, stating that, "We'll need to scan your license into the computer, or we can't activate the phone."
Then you will not be activating this phone, I told him. I don't want it, and I will simply take it back to Staples and get my money back. I continued that this was an outrage, and just more police state tactics which are insufferable and violative of an individual's right to privacy. How dare you!
To the best of my knowledge, judging from the name on a Verizon Wireless business card at the front desk, the man's name is Jacob Allen. He is described as a "Retail Sales Consultant."
On the bottom of the card, it says:
We want to know what you think!
Well, I don't fill out online surveys. But I would be happy to tell them what I think, right here in print, on a public website. I think you're a bunch of morons, that's what I think. You people are good for nothing, nothing but drones in the hive, mindless sheep in the herd, lackeys to a corporate cartel, just doing your job, "just following orders", all for your little weekly paycheck.
How pathetic is that? Shame on you!
Now, back to Staples.
I went directly to the customer service counter, armed with my receipt, and the two items I had purchased, the Verizon phone and the prepaid calling card. I told the clerk (a different person than the one who had sold me the phone) that I needed to return these items, for a full refund, just as the other clerk had promised me, if for "any reason" I was not satisfied with the products.
I had previously been told, before my fruitless trip to Verizon Wireless, that according to the "company policy" of Staples, the prepaid phone card was not refundable. But considering the fact that after it became clear that I could not USE the card, just as I could not USE the phone itself, as I refused to have my privacy invaded by Verizon, I demanded my money back on both items.
The clerk listened, but said she was sorry, she could only refund my money on the phone, NOT on the prepaid calling card. It was "company policy".
I told her that this policy was unacceptable and said I needed to see the store manager. I was asked to wait, while a manager was called. I pulled the phone and the card from the bag, along with my receipt, placed all the items on the counter, and explained to the manager (a young man who appeared to be barely out of his teens) that I needed a full refund on the items I had purchased.
I once again explained, in great detail, that Verizon Wireless had made it clear that the phone could NOT be used in complete anonymity, and so the information given to me by the clerk at Staples had been false. Also, that since he had assured me I could get a full refund on both items, for "any reason", I took him at his word, BEFORE I made the purchase, and that I was entitled to my money back, no questions asked.
I further explained that Staples is fully responsible for the actions of their employees, and that ignorance on the part of an employee, which led to misleading a customer, was the problem of Staples, NOT of the customer, and that they would be held accountable, that I would not take a loss which is rightfully theirs to absorb.
The manager then asked me which clerk I had dealt with. I replied that I didn't know his name, as I would have had no reason to take note of it, but gave a description: Young, early twenties, heavy set, mustache. The manager was polite, apologized to me, and expressed concern that his fellow employee had misrepresented the items I had purchased, as well as the refund policy, and then proceeded to inform me that it was a matter of lack of proper "training" of the employees -- and that he, as a manager, was responsible to see to it that the clerks were properly trained, and that the customers were properly served.
I told him that the training of his employees was none of my concern; that Staples was completely at fault in this matter, and that the ONLY issue of concern to me was that I needed to get my money back, post haste.
The manager then said would be "right back" with my refund, took my receipt, and disappeared into the back of the store. I waited --and waited --and waited.
There was no place to sit, so I had to just stand there. Meanwhile, during what would end up to be a 40 minute wait, various clerks approached me, telling me that the manager was dealing with the matter and would be with me "shortly".
Considering the fact that I am disabled, this long wait was not only inconvenient, but it was painful for me to just stand there in one place, and so I finally went outside for a walk and some fresh air. Alas, a violent thunderstorm struck, accompanied by torrential rains, so back inside I went, still waiting, while apparently, according to various clerks, the "corporate office" was being consulted as to my refund.
The 40 minutes had passed. The manager I had spoken to (who said he would be "right back" with my refund) never returned. But now, another manager appeared and approached me where I stood at the counter. I was told by this manager (obviously older and of higher rank in the Staples chain of command) that they had spent all the time I'd been waiting on the phone with "corporate headquarters", and that despite their efforts, they could not refund my money on the prepaid card, as it was "company policy".
Well, I replied, here's MY policy. Your company is legally responsible for misleading me, through your employee, when I purchased items in good faith, and was assured that they could be returned, if, for ANY REASON, I was not satisified with my purchases. You have refused to return my money, you have kept me waiting here for 40 minutes, forcing me to waste my valuable time, waiting for a refund I was told by a second employee (a so-called "manager") that he would be "right back" to deliver.
I will therefore be filing a formal complaint to your corporate headquarters, and if I do not gain satisfaction, I will take you to court, not only for the money I have lost, but for damages, and as a matter of principle.
I've given you the opportunity to refund my money. It would be a mere drop in the bucket ($30.00, not including tax, for a phone card), and you could easily write up a voucher, give me my money and absorb the loss. But no, instead you have chosen this foolish course of action and you will surely pay the price for your ill-advised decision.
Now, interestingly enough, the young man, the first manager I spoke to, had asked me for the identity of the clerk who had given me the false information. But when I asked the second manager for the identity of that same clerk, he refused to divulge it. So I asked him for his own name, and he gave it to me: Shawn Piehler.
Congratulations, Mr. Piehler, you will now become notorious as the fool you are, and what's more, I will find out the names of all the other employees I dealt with and will expose them too. Was it worth it, toeing the company line, at the expense of a customer who was simply expecting you to do the right thing and refund her money, an assurance given before the purchase was made?
But there's more. Manager Number One (who said he'd be "right back" with my refund) resurfaced, just as I was leaving the store. He never even looked at me, but was skulking along the wall with his head down, obviously just waiting for me to walk out the door.
As it happened, I'd been there with a friend who was driving on that day. My friend had been waiting, along with me, and decided at the last minute that she wanted to purchase some items, so she approached Manager Number One, Mr. Junior Executive, to ask where she could find them.
To her surprise, he immediately asked, "What is your name?" She replied that she was not going to tell him her name, but asked him, What is YOUR name? He actually refused to give his name, after having the audacity to ask a customer for hers!
He then asked her if she was going to be a "witness", and she replied, None of this has anything to do with me, I'm just the driver. Which was true. My friend was only a bystander, not involved in any way, but the Staples junior "manager" nervously blurted out, "I have a lawyer too!"
No mention was ever made of any lawyer, not by me and certainly not by my friend, who was simply waiting there for me to conclude my business.
But when she came back out to the car, where I had been sitting while she finished her shopping, she told me that she had seen Mr. Junior Manager run out of the store, find the car where I was sitting, and that he had apparently written down the license plate number.
How absurd is this?
All this, over a mere $30.00, which could have --and should have-- simply been cheerfully refunded to a customer, with no questions asked.
The idiots at Staples and Verizon have shot themselves in the foot. They have been exposed, and there will surely be more to come.
By their fruits shall you know them.
Oh, and by the way, I never did get the trac phone. Nor will I ever consider committing such a foolhardy act as buying any sort of cell phone again.
I did return the Verizon phone, and got my money back --in cash. I still have the prepaid card, which I have saved, along with my receipt, for evidence.
And mark my words, fools, I will get my money back, sooner or later, and I guarantee that you'll wish you had never heard my name.
I will be boycotting Staples and its accomplice, Verizon, in perpetuity.
Screw you, Staples!
And screw you too, Verizon!
Barbara Hartwell Percival
August 2, 2010
201 Mariner Way
Biddeford, ME 04005
Biddeford, ME 04005
405 MARINER WAY
Biddeford, ME 04005
Biddeford, ME 04005
Ronald L. Sargent: Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Staples
STAPLES REFUND POLICY
(from the Staples website)
If you’re not 100% satisfied with your Staples purchase, return it for any reason.
Your purchase must be returned in saleable condition with the original packaging, including Universal Product Code (UPC), manuals and parts.
Returns with a receipt: If you paid with cash, debit card, or check, we’ll refund your purchase with cash if it was an in–store purchase or by check if you purchased through staples.com®. If you paid using a debit card and if the card and PIN are present during the refund, we'll credit the account used for payment. If your purchase exceeded $500 pretax, and you paid with cash, check or by debit card but do not have your debit card, your money will be refunded int he form of a corporate check. If you paid by credit card, we'll credit the account used for payment.
Barbara Hartwell Percival
Legal Defense & Research Trust
PO Box 22
Old Orchard Beach, Maine 04064
Barbara Hartwell Vs. CIA