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June 23, 2006 09:15 AM

Broken: Kinko's customer service

David Pogue had a bad experience at the photocopy-chain Kinko's. From Kinks at Kinko's:

I copied the Photoshop document from my laptop onto a flash drive and handed it to him. “It’s a Mac? We can’t print that,” he said. The woman in the back had been listening in. “Felix, if it’s a JPEG, it’ll print,” she told him. Bless you, dearie, I thought. With much eye-rolling and sighing, he approached the PC, turned his back to me and started working.

As he left, Pogue writes, "I couldn’t help but wonder what the guy’s problem was. In three different ways, he’d looked for reasons to *turn down* business."

I no longer use Kinko's because of similar experiences I've had in the past, and I know friends and coworkers who feel the same way. My question: if Kinko's employees consistently deliver such a bad customer experience - actively looking for ways to refuse customers - how does the company stay in business?


"how does the company stay in business?"


Posted by: Steve at June 23, 2006 09:39 AM

Kinko's SUCKS for printing pictures with any sort of decent quality to them. Seriously. You'd be better off going to Walgreens or something. It's amazing, seeing as how that's what they DO, and that they have so many huge printers. But maybe in actuality, that guy was doing you a favor.

Posted by: ambrocked at June 23, 2006 10:04 AM

1. Not all Kinkos are awful, we have one nearby that is indispensable for their kindness, courtesy, and willingness to help out and produce the highly custom stuff we need.

2. Kinkos can stay in business because Fedex owns them and would never let them go out of business now.

3. Large volume generic printing orders are way more profitable than the one-offs, so turning down one-offs doesnt' really hurt their bottom line that much.

Posted by: sir_flexalot at June 23, 2006 10:29 AM

It reminds of the Dave Chappelle show with the Popcopy (clearly a Kinko's) store training tape that teaches Popcopy's employees how to behave and essentially aggravate the customers. Anyone who has ever been in one of these massive chain copystores can relate. It is right on the money.

Posted by: Pat at June 23, 2006 10:31 AM

Well, I had an opposite experience. My fiancee and I printed our wedding invitations at Kinko's - we brought them a PDF and they printed it on vellum, which is not much like regular paper. The employee who helped us went above and beyond in making sure that we got what we wanted.

Anyway, it sounds like it was just one particular employee at one Kinko's - maybe the guy is just a lazy jerk.

Posted by: Jon at June 23, 2006 11:38 AM

I've always wondered that EXACT same thing!

They always say they can't do something, and you have to think of everything for them.

I had business cards printed up, but because I didin't have them centered just right on the file, they printed at different sizes, with some chopped off.

He just showed them to me, and basically explained it was my fault for not having the page set to their specifications.

Couldn't he have 1) fixed it himself 2) called and told me before he printed thousands of cards!?!

Posted by: brooke at June 23, 2006 12:06 PM

Like Pat, I was also reminded of that Dave Chappelle bit. Although it was meant to look like a print shop, it could have been any type of business. very funny.

Also, I agree that the 'one-off' business takes more time than it is worth. For the lowly employee doing the work, your one-time print job is just an iterruption. Now the wedding invites, that is a big job and there is a lot of profit there, so it will get lots of TLC. Not saying this is right, it is just the way many businesses are.

Posted by: Not the only guy named Alex, but one of many. at June 23, 2006 01:06 PM

My fiancee and I went to Kinko's one night to send out a FedEx. They told us they couldn't take a FedEx after 9 pm. The next FedEx pickup wasn't until the morning.

We said, 'that's fine, we'll leave it here and it can go out tomorrow morning.'

The guy said, no, we'd have to come back in the morning and drop it off. 'But,' we said, 'can't we just leave it here now, and it'll be picked up in the morning.'

'No,' the guy said, 'that's not how it works. You have to drop it off just before the pickup. Unless you are a corporate customer.' Which, of course, we weren't. We're just peon individuals.

So, of course, we called customer service, and we got no help. 'If that's the store's policy, so be it.' By the way, we were talking with the MANAGER of the store, not just a clerk.

Okay, I went to work and changed my company's corporate shipping responsibilities from FedEx to UPS. Much happier about that decision, and FedEx is out about $400-$800 per month. :)

Posted by: Blah blah at June 23, 2006 01:08 PM

Hello, I'm a mac. And I'm a PC.

“It’s a Mac? We can’t print that,” he said.

That's because if you had a mac, you would be able to print it yourself, you wouldn't need Kinkos.

Posted by: Its me, Alex again. Not the original Alex, but the one that just wrote the message above. at June 23, 2006 01:19 PM

Maybe he's a Microsoft fanboy and what he's saying he can't print is the obscenities he wants to scream at the poor defenseless Mac owner.

Posted by: Fuzzy at June 23, 2006 01:23 PM

Amazing. I just went to Kinko's the other week to have a few copies made of a 70-page document (with maybe seven color pages) and to have them bound.

The kid at the counter looked at me as if I didn't understand what it was that people did at Kinko's. The first thing she said was, "Well... if you want ME to do it, it's going to take a few days."

If I want her to do it? Is there a self-service binding machine?

I explained my confusion about her statement and she clarified that they normally take scheduled work, even for color copies, over walk-ins. Now, as with most Kinko's shops, this place screams retail. They have displays with products everywhere, welcoming signage, several customer counters. The whole place is geared up for walk-ins.

Only, they - apparently - have great disdain for people who take the time to drive over to the shop to engage in a face-to-face conversation. They much prefer faceless customers who can "phone it in."

As I was turning to leave, I said, "Ok. So you'd prefer if people such as myself don't bother you. I'm sorry I made an assumption about your services."

Her reply, "Yeah, that's ok."

By the by, AlphaGraphics (I'm not sure how widespread they are - but they're here in Texas) was about the same. Although I get the impression they would've helped if they had a working color copier. They, too, didn't seem too broken up over the fact they could not (or would not), however.

I felt like I was asking for help at a Post Office. It was -that- bad.

Posted by: Josh Sklar at June 23, 2006 03:41 PM

I've always wondered how they stay in business... I'm an art student and need to have things printed from Photoshop pretty frequently. I've heard so many horror stories about Kinko's that I usually steer myself and other classmates the other direction. I find myself walking through the doors of a CopyMax (at OfficeMax) for my prints. They have excellent customer service and actually know what they're talking about (oh yeah, and their print-outs are great too).

Posted by: Shiloh Steinhebel at June 23, 2006 06:03 PM

I think it's just a matter of a LAZY GUY!


Posted by: Another guy named Alex B at June 23, 2006 07:03 PM

I went into Kinko's to get stuff printed for my wedding. I wanted THEM to do it.... copies, laminating, punching, etc.

They REFUSED. I said I would pay extra. They had 4 people working. Again, they refused and said I could do it on the hand machines. Which of course - half of them jammed, no colored paper out there, I don't have the @%#$%$ card, etc.

Why did I even try?

Posted by: cheryl at June 23, 2006 08:18 PM

The last time I walked into a Kinkos, I simply needed 50 color copies. They told me it would take TWO DAYS.

I went home and printed out 50 copies on my $60 inkjet printer, which turned out to be far cheaper and two days faster.

Posted by: Gene at June 24, 2006 12:11 PM

Lazy clerk + retail business = broken. It might just be a local problem. Me? I'm intimidated by Kinko's. I never know if I'm asking the right person the right thing. There was a branch of Kinko's near my old house that had a retired guy working there during the day. He would direct customers to the right place. I always tried to go to that branch because of that guy. Nowadays, I only go to Kinko's if I need something I know I can do without much help. I simply skip over the machines that need paper or toner (usually about half the machines). It's enough to want to put a print shop in your basement.

Posted by: errata at June 24, 2006 01:00 PM

I went into fedex kinkos the other day to print something off the internet. They're basically using dial up and it was so slow and couldn't handle the page I needed to print so they got $.63 of my hard-earned money but I'm still trying to deal with it. :(

Posted by: Maulleigh at June 24, 2006 01:10 PM

Doesn't surprise me much. Only a year or so ago I could come to my local Kinko's and get a poster laminated by a clerk in 5 minutes. Nowadays, it'll take them several hours. It can't just be because they have that many more customers; it's always like this now.

Definitely broken!

Posted by: Ilya at June 24, 2006 04:12 PM


Posted by: Jeff at June 24, 2006 09:05 PM

someone should start a print shop chain and open stores next to every kinkos... steal all their business lol

Posted by: yingjai at June 25, 2006 02:12 AM

Most businesses in the USA are like this now.

UPS--Customer Service is RUDE!!

LAX--Customer Service is RUDE!!

Airlines--Customer Service is VERY, VERY RUDE!!

What the *()%&@*& is wrong with everyone?

Don't they want to DO BUSINESS?!

Why the *&*@$& don't the OWNERS review tapes of

the customer service complaints?!

Why bother to MAKE A BUSINESS if you are going to just throw money away????!!!!!!!!!!!


Posted by: joe at June 25, 2006 03:14 AM

I think pretty much sums up your Kinko's frustration:

Posted by: Nick at June 25, 2006 06:28 AM

The reason why there is so much bad customer service is because of the customers. I use to work in the Movie Theatre business. And let me tell you, Movie Theatre's have some of the most nastiest, rudest, ugliest customers out there. Not ALL customers are bad, but the ones that are, ruin it for everybody else; which in turn makes bad customer service all around.

Yeah, it's not fair for a clerk to treat a customer like dirt. But after 8 hours of whining and demanding from previous customers throughout the day. It's very hard to keep that customer service friendly attitdue.

Posted by: AJ at June 25, 2006 10:21 AM

You know... I think customer service is so bad because the pay is poor, the training is almost non-existent, and the employees have almost no input into the management of the companies they work for.

Posted by: errata at June 25, 2006 10:23 PM

I totally agree with Joe and errata. Customer service is overwhelmingly broken in this country. I think the biggest problem though is that business' focus is too much on money. And yes, I realize that that's the reason to get into business mostly, but they don't seem to care about quality at any level anymore, because quality isn't cheap. They don't care about repeat business, because there's enough people in this world. And most people don't take the time to actually complain to the business itself, so they're willing to deal with the few that do. Very, very broken.

Posted by: ambrocked at June 26, 2006 10:04 AM

Manners are what's broken, both on the part of customers and employees. Two quick examples:

Yesterday in a department store I saw a grown man, nicely dressed, with his daughter, accidentally knock some clothes off a shelf. Did he pick them up? No, he looked at them and walked by. I said, "hey, I think you dropped something." He just scowled at me and kept walking. Couldn't be bothered to pick up his mess.

But, to the folks who earn around minimum wage and are so disgruntled because of it that they think they don't need to provide good customer service: you might as well get used to it. With a bad attitude, you will go nowhere. I earned minimum wage once, and it was a good lesson. I learned that I sure as hell didn't want to do that for long, so I improved my skills, stopped feeling sorry for myself, and got a better job.

Posted by: Whiner at June 26, 2006 11:20 AM

Whiner, very, VERY true. I see that sort of stuff all the time too. I'm the type of person that will pick up stuff I didn't knock off (I, too, have worked many of those customer service jobs, so I sympathize), and you should see the looks I get from other people around me, like they think I'm NUTS! It's a terribly sad state of mind most live in these days.

Posted by: ambrocked at June 27, 2006 09:21 AM

I've found that if you're female and if you smile nicely at the clerks they will usually go out of their way to help you. Heh.

Posted by: Fayth at June 27, 2006 10:16 PM

I'm a former Kinko's employee... I started when it was owned by Paul Orfela and have just recently resigned. After Paul stepped down and out, there were many changes made. The one thing that made Kinko's what it was "back in the day," was his care for who he addressed as "co-workers." Over the years, because of powerless managers, overbearing HR and lack of interest in what they now call "team members," there has been a decline in good service. Believe me, it's hard to get rid of the cancer when HR won't let you. I'm sorry for all that you people experienced... I know it didn't come from me, because I always cared a great deal for my customers... and believed in Kinko's up until recently. Wish I had the money to start my own copy business and show em' how it's really done.

Posted by: stevie at July 8, 2006 11:53 AM

reply to the post by Blah blah

who tried to ship package after 9pm

at Fedex Kinkos

that manager was wrong I work for Fedex Kinkos

[Marina Dey Re]

and our store is open 24 hours -the only time

we dont accept packages about 5:00pm when we have to the shipments process(ready) for the courier pickup

otherwise we will take fedex shipments 24 hours a day (unless the Fedex system is down of course!)

Posted by: Mark Panitz at July 9, 2006 11:51 AM

I agree with stevie. I have used Kinkos in Pennsylvania, New York and Southern California and generally experienced good customer service over the 16-year period PRIOR to the Fedex takeover. I think Fedex is the culprit in dragging down customer service at Kinkos, although I have no idea why there is such a high frequency of disrepair at many of the locations.

Posted by: drewscreen at February 6, 2007 08:34 PM

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