Staples Doesn’t See Anything Wrong With Preying on Stupidity

Earlier this week I stopped by Staples at Union Square (Manhattan) to make some copies of two documents for a project.  The black and white copies were 11 cents apiece, which I thought was reasonable enough, considering the fact that I saved time by just making my copies there.  Home scanner/printer all-in-ones are fairly slow to scan and slower to print compared to a commercial machine.  The process is pretty simple too.  You put your debit card in a slot, like on an ATM, and when you’re done making copies, you press a button and your card is charged and ejected.

Today, when I was thinking about the dozen pdfs (each 10 –20 pages) that I need to print, my first thought was to go to Staples.  It would be faster, less of a hassle and I have an unlimited MetroCard.  So, off I went.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go quite as smoothly as making copies.

When I walked into the Staples I started looking at the black and white copiers.  There was no spot for a USB drive so I went to the counter to ask about having files printed.  The girl at the counter told me I could leave the files with her and come back and get them in about two hours, or I could rent time on their desktop computers and just print them right away.

Ok, so I went to the desktop computers.  20 cents per minute.  That wasn’t too bad, so I stuck my card into the slot and waited for it to start up.  I plugged in my thumb drive, opened the first pdf and clicked print.  A new box popped up and told me that to print 10 pages it would cost me $5.33.  Wait, what?  I did the math real quick in my head.  11 cents x 10 = $1.10 plus tax.  Uh?  What’s going on?  So I just logged off and went to the counter again, and this is the conversation I had with a male employee.

“I just wanted to double check something with you.  I tried to print out a pdf on your computer and it told me that the total cost would be 5.33.  That seems a bit expensive.”

“Oh yes, to print it’s 99 cents per color page, or 50 cents per black and white page, plus tax!”

“But, the copiers are 11 cents per black and white page.”

“Oh, well on the computers you’re getting the extra services of using the INTERNET and you’re able to print documents!” [If I could make hearts and rainbows appear around the word “Internet” there I would.  He said it like it was a powerful and beautiful magic, the likes of which a fool like me had never seen.]

“But, I’m already paying an extra 20 cents a minute to use the computers.  Why am I also paying more for the same thing as a copy, just to print?”

“Well, it’s a special extra service.”

“What’s special about it?  The end result is the same thing as a copy.  It’s a paper with text and images printed in black and white ink.  Why does it cost so much more?”

“You’re getting the extra service of being able to use our computers.”

“Yes, I get that, but I’m paying 20 cents a minute to use the computer, so why am I also being charged so much more to create the same black and white page as I could on your copier if I’d come here with a hard copy of the document?”

“Well, that’s just the way our pricing is.”

“So, you want to charge me 4 times as much to print as to make a copy and you don’t see anything wrong with that?”


So, I left.  If I print a document to their copier and the copier prints it, or I put a page on the glass and copy it, it still uses the same amount of materials to produce the new page (copy or freshly printed from a file).  So, I can see paying the 20 cents a minute to use their desktop computer to open the files and send them to the printer.  Sure, why not?  But why should I pay 50 cents instead of 11 cents per page?  Hell, if you think about it, you’d only have to print about 40 pages before you’d already spent so much money you could’ve bought your own home printer, or in my case, a new black ink cartridge.

Staples, how about some better pricing on your print services?

Living in Singapore

Typical Movie Experience in Singapore

Going to the movies in Singapore can be an ugly experience if you’re not prepared for it.  I’ve often been told by Singaporeans that this is a small island and there isn’t much to do.  I’m not sure I can agree with that, since there seems to be quite a lot to do here.  There’s definitely more to do than in most places I’ve lived, but I suppose it’s a matter of perspective. Regardless, I think that mentality is partially why going to the movies has become so popular here.  More so than what I’ve come to expect anyway. Every movie is packed, even the bad ones.

The first thing you should know about going to the movies in Singapore is that you HAVE to book your seats in advance.  That’s not something I was used to, coming from the US.  There, it’s possible to book your seats in advance through the internet if you want to, but it’s often not necessary.  In some cases, there is no internet booking and you just have to show up early enough to get a ticket before the movie you want to see is sold out.  In Singapore, even days after a movie has been out, if you wait til the last minute and try to get your tickets at the theater you’re likely to be disappointed.  Movie theaters here fill up fast, often leaving only the front two or three rows open to latecomers.  I’ve sat through a movie in the 3rd row before, and it was a very unpleasant experience that left me with a stiff neck.

So, booking online is a must. All of the major theater chains here offer the service and to get really good seats, you should try to book at least a day and a half or two days in advance. Ya, crazy right? That’s especially true if you want to book a ticket for a Friday or Saturday night. For example, about six hours ago (Thursday night at about 8pm) I booked tickets for tomorrow afternoon for a 4:40 showing. Half of the seats were already taken. Ah, and if you haven’t guessed, tickets are booked on a selected seat basis, whereas in the US it’s a first-come first-served when it comes to getting the best seats, regardless of when you bought your ticket.

An example of the seat selection screen for Cathay.  Notice the timer.  If you don’t finish in time the seats become available for someone else to book.  Also, keep in mind that this screen cap was taken 18.5 hours before the movie starts.  The blue Xs are occupied seats.

An example of the Cathay booking confirmation screen.

A friend of mine in Italy asked me what sorts of things you can expect to find at the refreshment stands in a Singapore movie theater, and in this regard things are basically the same as you would find in the US. You’ve got popcorn (sweet and salted), nachos, soda and other drinks and candies. I think there are hotdogs too. This is a bit off-topic, but I was amused to find out from Rowena that in theaters in Italy you can usually find beer at the refreshment stands. That’s an interesting example of cultural influence.

Once you get your refreshments and present your tickets you can head to the theater hall and find your seats.  You would think that at this point everything would go about the same right?  Well, sure, for the most part it does.  You sit down and get to see some previews, the admonition to turn off your cell phone ringers, and the warning that video recording is illegal.  But, interspersed with those previews and warnings are many, many commercials.  Half the time they’re local commercials for small businesses and they’re really not that great.  Also, there are a LOT of them.  I mentioned that right?  If your ticket says your movie starts at 4:30 PM, you can expect the actual film to not start until roughly 4:50 PM or a few minutes later.  I can understand sitting through a few previews and maybe a Coke or Sprite ad, but not 20+ minutes of the stuff.  So, when we go to the movies we tend to walk in a few minutes late, or we mess with our cell phones while waiting for the actual film to start.

After that it’s smooth sailing.

Just some other, dry info:  Tickets are usually 8.50 to 10 SGD apiece and refreshments are high as well, though that’s not anything new for most people.  For two people going to the movies and getting refreshments you can expect to spend 35 to 40 bucks.

Day Trips in the City Living in Singapore

Beer & Cigarettes in Singapore

Differences in prices between locations is nothing new to me, but I was shocked to see the price of alcohol and tobacco products in Singapore.

I spent most of the years I lived in the US in the southern states, where prices are more reasonable, due to lower taxes. I won’t go into the “when I was younger” stuff, but when I left the US in 2008 you could get a pack of cigarettes for about 3 dollars in Texas. It was about the same in Georgia. When I would visit my mother in New York City I would typically bring cigarettes with me, because they’re about 7 dollars a pack there, which I thought was ridiculously expensive. Beer is about 5 to 6 bucks a pack regardless of where you are in the States.

So, like I said, I was used to seeing different prices for these items. Still, I was shocked when I saw that in Singapore the average price for a pack of cigarettes is 11 Singapore dollars and the average price for a six pack is about 15 to 18 Singapore dollars. I had to wonder why the prices were so high, and after having spent some time here, I think I’ve found the reason. Singapore is a country that prides itself on cleanliness and that carries over into a push by the government to promote healthy living.

That’s not all bad, of course. I’ve never seen a place with so many parks, free work-out areas, and playgrounds, all of which are kept in near pristine condition. On top of that, each regional area has a gym and pool, which have very low entrance fees. If you’re a swimmer or you like to work out in a gym then you’ll definitely appreciate the Singapore government’s health initiatives.

On the other hand, the Singapore government has also put steep taxes on the alcohol and tobacco, to influence people to use them less, if not quit entirely. Again, that’s not exactly a bad thing. However, for foreigners who come to Singapore to live, it requires a slight lifestyle modification.

I never really drank much anyways, so cutting alcohol almost completely out of my life didn’t phase me. The cost of the cigarettes, though, makes my wallet cry. It’s hard to go from carefree smoking to counting your cigarettes and counting your puffs. I remember tossing half smoked cigarettes into butt cans on my way into buildings, but now I stop to finish the cigarette before continuing.

So, if you move to Singapore and like to drink and smoke, expect the amount of time you spend partying to get cut down. On the bright side, you can take advantage of the convenience of the gyms and pools to get back into shape, so you can look good when you take vacations to the numerous, gorgeous beaches in the Southeast Asia area.