May 22nd, 2002

Mama Deb

Annoying Boy Strikes Again

Actually, this is all about great respect for the Staples customer service lady.

I'm the one who manages the supplies for our small storefront real estate agency. That means I keep track of the paper - we go through reams - and the toner and the small stuff like pencils and legal pads and post-its, as well as toilet paper and paper towels and the occasional storage box and so on. Some of it comes from specialty suppliers, but most of it comes from Staples.

The routine is simple. I look around and decide which supplies we need to get, usually at a point where we are close to running out of paper, and make a list. I show the list to my boss, who is a micromanager, so it makes her happy to make changes. I add what she tells me, and go through the Staples catalogue with post-it notes, marking the appropriate pages and making notes as to quantity.

And then I get the business credit card from either her or her partner, call Staples, give the order and the credit card number, take down the confirmation number, hang up, and give the credit card back. The process takes ten minutes. Maybe. I assume that this is the normal process for small business like ours. No one wants to waste time, after all.

Today, Annoying Boy came in. Technically, he doesn't work for the agency, but he used to. What he does do is act as the synagogue secretary, and as my boss is the treasurer, it makes sense he comes in to do some work. And he asked me if there was a Staples catalogue so he could put in an order for the synagogue office. I told him I was about to make one, and gave him the catalogue so he could find what he wanted.

And he sat there playing ineffectually with the computer and chatting with an agent who didn't particularly want to chat. And I needed to put in the order. We were down to a ream and a half of paper, and if I don't order, no one does, and I'm off until next Tuesday. I don't know why the other part time secretaries don't order, but they don't.

I got the credit card from the boss's partner, who mentioned something about labels but left before I could figure it out, and got the catalogue. I couldn't wait any longer, you see. Five minutes later, I'd completed our order. And then Annoying Boy decides he'll place his own order now.

And this is when I admired the Staples Lady. She allowed me to put her on hold so A.B. could take the catalogue. It takes him a half hour to make the order, because he orders by name and page number, not by listing number, and he asks about prices that are right on the page, and he waffles and changes his mind and changes it back again, all with her on the line. And then he can't decide how he wants it delivered - in with my order, separate order, how? And finally I get it bac, to have boss's partner decide he wants the labels *now*, and we have to find them, which we do, and he has to decide which ones, and she's still there while I do this. Poor her. We made the simple decision to put Annoying Boy's stuff in a separate order with a separate invoice, addressed to him, and completed the orders.

I apologized profusely, and she said it was all perfectly normal. And she never lost her cool. I totally admire her.