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The Column

Welcome to PopCopy

I went to Kinko's this week. That was my first mistake.

The Dave Chappelle Show debuted with a sketch about PopCopy, an obvious satire of Kinko's. The sketch was an employee training video that instructed their workforce to ignore patrons, tell customers that all the machines are down, and soil bathrooms with chocolate sauce to give the appearance of fecal matter. "Mmmm," Chappelle said, "poopy!"

The only Kinko's I'd previously been to had been the store near my college campus. It wasn't like the ones Chappelle was mocking because it didn't have much business; no one on campus went anywhere they didn't accept dining dollars.

I recently moved to midtown Manhattan, where there are more Kinko's than Starbucks, and there are more Starbucks than people, and there are more people in Starbucks than chairs. Tuesday, I needed to make a large laminated color poster, and so I called a nearby Kinko's and asked if they could do it that night.

"Sure," they said. "Bring it down."

I had called the Kinko's on Lexington and 54th street, but accidentally walked over to the Kinko's on Lexington between 53rd and 54th. Jimmy, who'd been a proud member of the Kinko's team since January, 2003, forwarded me to the other store. I soon found out that "sure" meant "we may get it done by closing" and "bring it down" meant "tomorrow."

The next day, I got a call saying my poster was ready. What they meant was that if I came down, they'd prepare the poster for me right then since it only takes three minutes anyway.

While a bit annoyed at having to wait a day and make two trips, this was still not enough to convince me that Kinko's was part of the evil empire. And so I went back the next day for a new project. This was my second mistake.

When Kinko's was founded, the employees were instructed that the customer is always right. Now that they have close to a monopoly on copying services, the employees are instructed that the customer is always there.

I needed to print two color pages on card stock and fax one sheet of paper I'd previously printed. This time Sam, whose seniority extended back to December of 2002, told me that he was too busy to print the job himself, but he happily placed the cardstock in the printer tray for me. And by "happily," I mean "hatefully because his poor life choices led him to work at Kinko's."

I needed to wait for a computer to free up. There were three available, but one didn't print, one had no disk drive, and the last one looked fine, but an out of order sign was blocking the keyboard.

Finally my turn, I asked my documents to please print and they, in turn, asked me if I was sure. I told them I was, and they asked me if I was sure sure. Once I assured them that I was sure sure, they still wanted to know if I'd accept the charges that I'd twice told them I'd accept. This was very kind of my documents, since the computer was charging me three hundred dollars per minute for this conversation.

After all of this, the paper jammed. While most of the Kinko's employees ignored me, I flagged Sam down to fix the printer. He told me that the color printer didn't take cardstock, and I shouldn't have put it there.

"But you put it there!" I said.

"No I didn't," Sam said. "You must have."

"Sir," I replied. "Of the two of us, who do you think is more likely to have access to cardstock?"

Instead of realizing that the answer was "the person in the denim shirt," he suggested that I print to a regular sheet of paper and use the photocopier to get my project to cardstock.

"Great," I said. "Where's the color copier?"

"We have two of them over there," Sam replied. "But they're down."

I had nothing to show for an hour of my time other than $10 of charges on my credit card. After waiting several minutes for an attendant, they credited my $10 back, and told me to send my fax at the self-service machine. Which necessitated my getting back in line to pay for it. After fifteen minutes of waiting in line to unsuccessfully give them a dollar fifty, I grabbed the arm of an employee walking by.

"I just wanted to let you know that I've given you an hour and a half of my life," I said, "and all you've given me is a one page fax. Now I'm going to leave, and I'm not going to pay you for that fax."

"I understand," he said. "I apologize for the delays, and hope that you leave here today with a positive opinion of Kinko's."

"Mmmm," I said, as I balled up the receipt for the fax. "Poopy."

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