Tuesday, April 27, 1999

Kinko’s Copies

Don’t get me wrong.  I love having a 24-hour copy shop available just about wherever I go.  Among other things, it lets me produce meeting agenda updates and the like on the night before a meeting, rather than doing them ahead of time, carting pounds of paper with me on the plane, and having them be out of date when used, to boot.  It lets me do what I want, when I want, how I want — the metaphor for the 90’s work ethic.

But the company doesn’t train their “Copy Consultants” worth a damn when it comes to dealing with self-service copies on anything but 8-1/2x11 paper.  You see, their counter keys record every pass of paper through the machine.  The keys don’t care if that is on cardstock, 11x17 paper, double-sided, and so forth, despite the fact that Kinko’s has different price structures for each of those.  As a result, the cashiers will read 109 ticks on the key and try to ring you up for 109 single copies.

Since double-sided copies are priced at a penny or two less than two single copies (often 7 cents per single, 13 cents per double), this can really add up when you are making 30 sets of six double-sided pages.  (That would be 12 sheets per set, 360 sheets total if done singly, or $25.20 plus tax; 180 sheets doubly is only $23.40.  A couple bucks at a shot!)

But as I said, the counter people are poorly trained to deal with this, and it’s even worse if you do a mixed run, some single and some double.  A recent job involved 271 ticks — 67 single sheets and 102 doubles (204 ticks) — which should have priced out at $17.95.  After the cashier gave me my receipt to charge me over $20 (271 singles, plus tax), I pointed out a second time (knowing it would be ignored the first time anyway) the list I had written of what copies I made.  Ten minutes or more later — and with several people in line behind me — he gave me a second receipt, this time for only about $13 (67 singles, 100 singles, and 2 doubles!).  So I took it and left.

Another recent event should have been about $3 and I was charged $4.  My insistence that he do the bill right so flustered the cashier that he gave me the job for free.  (Fine by me!)  And then there was the time in Ft. Lauderdale where they had to get two other people, including the manager, before they could get the bill entered correctly.

Usually the managers know what they are doing.  I recently got rung up by one of them with a very mixed bill: some 300 ticks, on two weights of paper, on two sizes of paper, some single and some double (all carefully enumerated by me, with the math checked twice).  She rang everything up, nice and quickly, but mistakenly rang up the 11x17 copies as 8-1/2x14.  (If the store goofs in my favor, I usually point it out to them if they haven’t already been screwing up, but in cases like this where the difference is about 8 cents, it’s not worth it to either of us.)

So the moral of the story is: if you’re doing anything more than single-sided copies, expect them to get it wrong, and to get it wrong in their favor.  (That is, the poor training actually brings in more money for the company.)  Keep track of exactly what you made, and fight for the extra dollar or so that they owe you.  And if you get them really flustered, you can come out way ahead.

Updated on October 10, 2000

Updated December 11, 2009
A lot has changed with Kinko’s — now FedEx Office — since this piece was originally written.  No more counter keys, pretty much everything computerized.  My last job that they did was two PDF files brought in on a thumb drive, and the guy knew exactly how to produce a booklet from it, including assembling a proof for me on the spot.  Kudos.

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