Not All Cash Is Green: Part Two


My dear people, I have led you astray. Remember my post about the awesome Staples Rewards program that allows you to earn store credit for recycling your ink cartridges? Much to my dismay, they have changed their policy! Now you must spend $30 in a 180 day window prior to recycling in order to earn your credit. Of course, no one tells you of this change when you go to recycle. They just happily take your cartridges and say you’ll receive an email notifying you of the credited amount to your account. I faithfully recycled my cartridges in February and that day never came. Then the printer ran out of ink, so I called the store and explained that my rewards hadn’t appeared on my account. I was told to go into a branch and a cashier would call the 800 number on my behalf and redeem the credit for me via phone. No mention of, “perhaps you didn’t know, our policy is different than it was last time your recycled with us”.

So, I went into the store to explain the situation and got a blank stare from the cashier–who then called the number anyway, only to find the offices were closed on the weekend. Even the all powerful faceless voice on the other end of the line needs a break every five days. They said there was nothing that they could do until a weekday. Okay, no problem. I’ve been down this road before and it requires patience and perseverance to get the deal. Bring it. Come Monday, I return to Staples and received a similar blank stare from another cashier after explaining what I was told over the phone. She passed me along to the manager who also stared at me until she got on the phone and called Oz. While she was on hold, she finally turned to me and said, “did you spend $30? Because you can’t receive the credit without doing that first.” What?! Since when?! March 2013, apparently. Who knew. Not I, dear reader…and for that, I’m sorry.

blogThe manager handed the phone over to me and the representative said to go ahead and buy something worth $30 or more and that I would then receive my credit. Of course that meant returning to Staples for a third time because the credit wouldn’t appear instantly. My only choices were to cough up the dough, or lose out on the nine cartridges I had already recycled. Before hanging up, I asked the lady if the amount would show up on my account automatically or if there was more action needed on my part. She said it wouldn’t (!) and I’d have to call in again and work it out over the phone. Glad I asked, lady. Then I requested a direct line to call to bypass all the automated stuff. She said there wasn’t one. Normally this would be where I would explain to you the importance of thoroughness when dealing with customer service, but clearly it didn’t pay off in this case. And that is where we left it. I walked over and picked up a couple of cartridges totaling $37 and went on my way.

Cut to today–Thursday. I waited a couple of business days, as I was told to and checked the online account. No rewards credit shown, no problem–she said to expect that (after I asked). I called in and did the little keypad dance, finally getting a hold of a real person. I explained the entire situation and was then informed that both the manager and telephone representatives had miscommunicated the process to me. It didn’t matter if I had spent $37 after recycling, what matters is that I do it before. So you mean I spent $40 and gave you $18 worth of cartridges for…nothing? Luckily, the lady offered to give me a one time courtesy credit and informed me that my $37 will go towards future recycling as long as I do so in the next six months. GEE THANKS. Is it really a courtesy if I actually gave the thing I am receiving credit for?

Needless to say, I will not be returning to Staples for all my recycling needs. You know what else I learned? Office Depot has started doing something similar! In researching alternatives for this article, I found that the competitor will give you points which you can cash in for future purchases if you spend $10 there in the same month that you recycle. It sounds like the incentive here is they want you to be a regular customer, not just some mooch trying to score an easy deal. Psh. How dare they threaten my frugal ways! Is there any place that simply pays you for recycling anymore? The answer is yes. For now. Apparently OfficeMax still does. They have a program called MaxPerks where you can bring in any brand cartridge and receive $2 in store credit per cartridge. We’ll see how long it takes for them to jump on the “you have to spend money here too”, bandwagon.

I found a number of online companies that will pay for you to ship them the cartridges, so long as you have a certain number to send at once; most require somewhere in the 20-30 range. Since I have not personally tried any of these, I am weary to suggest any. But I stumbled upon this article by The Krazy Coupon Lady, who has some wonderful suggestions for online options.

I’m beginning to think I should start blogging about my interactions with customer service rather than frugality. The silver lining in all this is that in true Sara style–I am taking back one of the cartridges I bought on Monday and returning it. Then repurchasing it with my rewards dollars so that I get $18 back. Got you there, Staples! So I will have only “wasted” $19 on this adventure, which doesn’t bother me as much as $37 did. That is, if you call paying for ink a waste of money, which I do. With Earth Day coming next Tuesday, this is the perfect week to share your ink recycling tips with our readers. Please share if you have found a place to do it and how it worked out for you. Happy recycling!


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