Pitney Bowes: The Pits
by Kit Cassingham
My office had used a Pitney Bowes postage machine to help us more efficiently handle our business mail. It worked well, though it did have the inconvenience of requiring a trip to the post office to refill the postage. Also, we were told that it was legally required that they "inspect" the machine twice a year -- presumably to ensure we had not tampered with it. It was definitely a bother to have the guy come by every six months, but it was better than standing in line at the post office every day.
When postage systems became available through the Internet, we shifted to one of those systems and cancelled our account with Pitney Bowes. One odd thing we suddenly realized was that the "inspector" hadn't shown up in quite awhile -- maybe a couple of years. But that didn't matter anymore: having cancelled our account meant Pitney Bowes had to retrieve their machine, and we'd be done with it once and for all. We had a home office, so we made it clear they needed to call first so that we would be there for them. We never heard from them, and the postage machine became a nuisance in the office because of the space it consumed.
A year later we moved our office. Sure enough, one of the things we had to pack up and move was the dusty postage meter. We had called Pitney Bowes a couple of times during that year; they always promised to come get the machine, but never did. At least they had stopped charging us for it!
By now, I was fed up with this big, old, clunky mechanical machine constantly getting in the way, so I decided to get aggressive about getting rid of it. I called again, and Pitney Bowes claimed to have tried to pick up the machine, but that nobody was at the office. I replied that they were supposed to call first, and clearly they hadn't. And if it's so important to ensure the machine hadn't been tampered with, why hadn't they bothered to check on it anytime in the past three years?! I forged ahead with the demand that they come get it -- now, please!
They asked me to confirm my address, but I decided to take the tack that if they didn't know where the office was that they would have to call first, so I refused to confirm or deny the address they had on record -- and told them why. OK, they said: they promised to pick it up by the end of the week, which of course meant that someone would be calling us to find out where the machine was. That was fine -- I could stand a few more days of the machine sitting by the door, waiting for them.
Of course nobody called, so Monday I called again. I told the clerk that I was going to call every day until the machine was gone. She promised me I'd hear from somebody that day. No one called. I called Tuesday, and we went through the same dance. By Wednesday she was so frustrated with the situation she told me she'd have her manager call me. Progress! Well, maybe not: the manager didn't call either.
By Thursday the poor gal was almost in tears. Heck: if she was this upset after just four days, imagine what we had been going through for well over a year! I told her if they didn't want the machine, I'd leave it on the curb for the garbage truck to take away. She said that we couldn't do that, it was "illegal"! I retorted that since they didn't know where the office was, they couldn't very well report us! She finally cracked and begged me to tell her what I "wanted". Ah, at last.
I said that I "wanted" the machine to be picked up that day. I would give the person who was coming for it my address when they were on their way, just to make sure they didn't try to claim nobody was in the office when they came for it. Simple! Yeah, well, it still took a couple of calls, but finally the Pitney Bowes manager called, and I was able to relay my problem. He took care of it: the delivery person was on his way within two hours. I finally had the machine out of my office, with only about 10 days of daily calling -- but over a year of waiting!
Pitney Bowes does still seem to be in business, which is hard to believe considering their lack of customer service. They left me in a difficult "Catch-22": it was supposedly illegal to throw the machine out, but they didn't seem to want the obsolete postage system any more than I did. So why did I have to deal with their inability to keep up with the times? I don't know if they ever did catch up, but I don't care: their leaving me to deal with the problem means I'll never do business with Pitney Bowes again.
Kit Cassingham is the founder of Environmentally Friendly Hotels, a directory of the top lodging properties with environmental practices, and ECOnomically Sound, a site promoting environmentalism in the hospitality industry.