By Frank J. Romano In the Orlando Convention Center, shipping a box in my own packaging would require a $20 handling fee. April 25, 2005 -- Recently, I had to use the services of FedEx Kinko's and The UPS Store. Both experiences left me less than satisfied and pointed out some interesting lessons about the "service" in customer service. On a recent trip that took me to four states over 10 weeks, I found myself needing to print and ship. As a long-time fan of Kinko's where I could arrive in the middle of the night and get something printed, I now notice that the stores are being re-arranged and the shipping counter now dominates most locations. The store in St Louis had no FedEx boxes and other locations were out of something--like the clear pouches or overnight envelopes. The store in the Orlando Convention Center was a disaster. To ship a box in my own packaging was going to require a $20 handling fee, even though I have a FedEx account. The tape I used (being a guy, it was duct tape) had to be removed and replaced with shipping tape. So, I re-packed the contents in a FedEx box and there was no handling charge. Customer Service? I asked the free person a question and the response was "I'm the manager; ask one of our staff." The Orlando Convention Center location is always busy. I was there a lot and could observe other customers. No one on the staff seemed to have technical ability and they could not help with the missing printer drivers--which meant we could not print to certain printers. If we needed to copy anything, we had to read the instructions on the copier. No one seemed to care about customer service. My first visit brought me to the counter and the three people behind it. One person was talking to another staff member, and one was free. I asked the free person a question and the response was "I'm the manager; ask one of our staff." This is not the Kinko's I remember where everyone worked as a team. For other shipping, I found, and went out of my way to use FedEx-only locations where there are abundant supplies and good service--at least, from my experience. A Second Experience I had to review a book proposal for a publisher. They sent me a 500-page manuscript with a ready-to-ship UPS bar-coded label for its return. I visited the local UPS Store to get a UPS box or envelope and pouch to ship the book back to the publisher. The store had no UPS supplies, but I was told that I could purchase the supplies. The sign said The UPS Store, not Mailboxes, Etc. A visit to a second store got the same response, and they wanted a handling fee. Are UPS Stores not allowed to carry UPS supplies? I searched high and low and found a UPS drop-box. It had one envelope and pouch and I snatched them. A Lesson in Customer Service Service is a correctable and manageable human activity. I am not picking on these two organizations, but the experience was an object lesson in the concept of service and the customer experience. Both organizations are re-aligning their retail business locations and one would expect glitches. But service is a correctable and manageable human activity. Consistency across all of their locations is just as important. I expect the same great service no matter which retail store I visit. If these two companies do not get it, they should direct us to Sir Speedy or Alphagraphics or a local printer that does understand the concept of customer service.