This past weekend we spent a lot of time putting our house back into the “non-Christmas” mode. All day Sunday we were taking down the Christmas tree, re-packing all of the nick knacks, and returning our regular decorations to their normal place. One of the things I also did on Friday was to hang new calendars on the refrigerator and other places around the house. When I make the calendars for friends and family at the end of the year, I also make one for myself to take to work, as well as one for the kitchen. Imagine my dismay when I hung the one on the fridge and noticed it was….crooked.
This is the 10th year that I have produced calendars. I have written in the past about how I got started and how the process has grown. Because of some of the details I put on the calendars, I choose to do my own printing at home. When I finish, it has been my practice to take the calendars to Fedex Office (formerly Kinkos), and have them bind the calendars, put covers on the front and back, and…..drill a hole to hang the calendar.
For 8 of the 10 years, that process worked flawlessly. I would bring home the stack of calendars and spend an evening wrapping them for the recipients. For the rest of the Christmas season I would get to see the joy and excitement on people’s faces as they opened their calendars. Later, they would take them to wherever they chose to hang them, and this gift would be with them for the entire year (sort of like the Jelly of the Month Club!).
Last year marked the first time I ever had trouble with the process. After dropping off a batch of about 15 calendars, I got a call from Fedex Office telling me that they had damaged a couple of the calendars in the drilling process. I went up to have a look, and it was not salvageable. They offered to bind and drill the replacement calendar free of charge, but that missed the point that I still had to have my own paper and ink, and my time, invested in fixing the problem. I took an evening and re-printed the handful of calendars that were damaged. They were bound and wrapped and I thought all was well. Then, after the season, when people started hanging them we found out that the holes on many were drilled off-center causing the calendars to hang on an angle.
Two of the calendars with this problem were the one from my kitchen and the one from my office at work. I took them up to the store and showed them, and they refunded part of the money I’d spent with them.
This year when I took the calendars in I was very explicit about telling whomever was taking them that the hole had to be in the middle. I got that smile and nod that comes when someone has given a seemingly unnecessary detail. After all, isn’t it obvious that the hole goes in the middle?
This year all the calendars came back without incident. They were wrapped and given away. It wasn’t until this past weekend that the mistake was noticed that the holes are off-center again!
I checked multiple calendars that I had available, and all had the same problem. The hole was drilled 1/16th of an inch off center. That doesn’t seem like a lot when it is written, but it is enough that the calendar does not hang straight.
Yesterday I had a discussion on the phone with the manager at Fedex Office. Over the weekend I’d brought in a couple of examples, but the manager wasn’t there, so nothing could be done for me. The gal I talked to yesterday I have worked with many times in the past 10 years. She was very understanding, and offered to refund all of the money I spent with her store. I told her I was more than happy to take my money back, but that it really didn’t fix the situation. She asked me what would fix it and I said… “nothing.”
The truth is that the problem can’t really be fixed. Thirty-one calendars are out in people’s homes and offices around the country. As they are hanging them they are noticing that, once again, the calendars hang crookedly. Not all of the calendars had this problem last year, and I honestly don’t know how many do this year. It might be all, or it might only be some.
This is a great case of why quality matters so much. Giving back my money for the work is the right thing to do, but honestly this isn’t about the money I spent with them. If there were some way I could give them MORE money and have the problem fixed, I’d gladly have paid, but that isn’t possible. Because of the nature of the problem, there isn’t really a solution to be had.
When it comes to quality and customer satisfaction, the amount a person spends rarely tells the whole story. There are few things I can think of that I have bought where the dissatisfaction of getting a lower quality product was offset by getting a lower price. I am not talking about a minor scratch or dent that may or may not be visible, I am talking here about a fundamental flaw.
At the end of the day I know that the people who received the calendars won’t think less of me or my work for this flaw. I know that they are all excited and thankful for the gift. (I actually made other mistakes on the calendar that are a much bigger deal, but that isn’t the subject for today) In the case of the off-center hole it is about my own personal pride that was hurt.
As it turns out, I am not angry with the good people at Fedex Office. This whole thing has left me honestly sad and disappointed. I explained to the manager that after back-to-back failures on their part (I had one of last year’s calendars with me to show that the problems were nearly identical), I can no longer trust them to do the job. Between now and next year I am going to have to find another place that will reliably drill the hole in the right place. It is even possible that wherever I go next year might charge more, and I am completely fine with that, but Fedex Office has lost a customer over a 1/16th of an inch mistake.