That Was Easy?

I am just back from Staples, where I picked up some shipping supplies. It was your standard trip to Staples, the store that touts itself with the slogan “That Was Easy”.

It is 2014. Technology is bounding ahead in enormous leaps. Everything is connected to everything else and everyone wants to know your business. Like every other retailer in the U.S., Staples wants you to be part of their rewards program so they track your spending habits and give you a carrot once in a while for buying three tons of paper clips.

When it was my turn at the checkout I was asked the question, “Are you a rewards club member?”. I can never remember if I am or not, because after all, Staples wants you to carry a card and quite frankly I’m not that invested in the program. But then some sort of ding happened in my head and I decided to rejoin the rewards program. Maybe I can use a carrot after all.

“I’m not a member, but I’ll sign up.”

The cashier pulled out a pamphlet the resembled something you fill out to sign up for a credit card, pulled off a flimsy piece of paper that was glued to the pamphlet and scanned the number.

“If you could please take a moment to fill this form out, I’ll enter it into the system and you’ll be all set.”

This is where I took pause. There was a considerable line of people behind me. After all, it’s 2014 and retailers are cutting back wherever possible. Theoretically they could probably save a chunk of change by not buying expensive point of sale computer systems that they are never going to use, but I digress. One checkout, long line.

The cashier started fumbling around for a pen. Or a pencil. Or a crayon. He couldn’t find a pen but if I’d wait for a few moments he could probably grab one off the display, because after all, I am at Staples. That Was Easy.

“Can I just register online later?”, I ask.

“No, we have to enter the information into the system”, was his response.

It’s 2014. This should be simple. There shouldn’t even be a card. Sign up online, get an app for your iPhone or Android device and they scan it. It works for Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and lots and lots of other retailers. But Staples, where they say “That Was Easy”, can’t get with the program. They’re still thinking along old-school lines, where customers like paper-based engagement and carrying lots of cards that feel like coupons.

“That Was Easy” couldn’t be further from the truth.

I finally convinced the cashier that I would take the paper home, complete the exam at my leisure and bring it back when I ship the items that I was buying the shipping supplies for. He approved my taking the exam out of the store.

It’s sitting here on the dining room table. It’ll probably be burned for warmth.