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Driving away customers with inefficiency.

Forty-five minutes at my local Kinko's has left me with a sour taste in my mouth. Even with the help of the friendly staff, I was unable to accomplish one simple goal: get a digital scan of my student photo identification onto my laptop. Stopped at every turn by limitations of their operating system as configured, the only immediately alternative was to spend five times as much money to get my data. My card was refunded for my time, and I'm taking my business to somewhere that can be of actual service: a friend with a scanner, for free.

Things started off well. I put my debit card into their machine, logged onto the computer (after accepting a ten-page terms of service agreement), and spent the first minute locating and opening Photoshop. Two more minutes were spent working around their misconfigured scanner drivers. Another minute to do the actual scanning, and I have (2) three megabyte files. Now the fun starts.

When I logged in, I presumed that their toolset of software would include applications for sending files to remote fileservers, a feature corporate types often require from their network administrators. In this, I was wrong: Kinko's does not provide functionality through their Macintosh installations to upload files to the Internet.

After logging out to the consider the situation, I realized that the web browser could be (ab)used as a file transfer agent. As I attached my laptop to the Ethernet connection one cubicle away, it occured to me to try file sharing from the PowerBook (since OS 9 should be able to talk to OS X). Unfortunately, this is not the case: my attempts to see the laptop's file sharing from their workstation failed, even with AppleTalk enabled.

I spent thirty minutes (!) on IRC, discussing both my dissatisfaction with Kinko's and possible solutions to the problem with several groups of people (altogether, about two hundred people were present to hear my complaints). Several solutions presented themselves during this time, none of which were viable or cost effective:

  • Purchase a USB dongle hard drive
  • Email the files (somehow) to Kinko's at $10 per CD
  • Use a webmail interface to upload the files (too large)
  • Use a file upload form to get the files to a webserver (requires access to a public webserver)
  • Print the scans (print.. scans?)
  • Burn them on a CD (can't burn CDs at the workstation)
  • Buy and save them to a Zip disk (I have no Zip drive)

The careful application of money, or the forethought to carry a pile of spare connectivity cables, would probably have saved me much of this experience. In a business such as Kinko's, where customer service is key, neither of those should be a prerequisite to use their facilities; if I had chosen to apply such forethought to my spur-of-the-moment Kinko's attempt, I would have gone with a friend's scanner instead.

So, all in all, forty-five minutes of my lunch hour wasted. This is completely unacceptable, for what should have been five minutes at 20 cents a minute. Thank you for trying, Kinko's; I'll call on a friend next time instead.

Link: Chuq Von Rospach points out that this is a very one-sided story; I concur. I recommend reading his counterpoint to this post; it's the grain of salt I didn't include.


I understand your problems with the work at Kinko's, but there are always issues there regarding the ease of use and availability of software at those machines.
The workers there are great and helpful. However, how usable do you think is a business that charges you for the amount of time that you are using their computers? Whenever some store finds a user-friendly configuration, their numbers will go down, and thus the other, not people friendly setups, are the ones rewarded.
Once in this scenario, invoke management, and there you go.

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