45 Minutes, each way, in a snowstorm

Copies in hand, I left FedEx Kinko’s yesterday at about 6:15PM. Within five minutes I realized that I didn’t have my phone.  I returned to Kinko’s less than 10 minutes after I left, but my phone wasn’t there.  I searched the parking lot at dusk, as a wet, cold early Spring snow was poured down on me.  I went back into Kinko’s again.  I searched the parking lot again.  I looked under the seats of my car about seven times.

No phone.  I went to my cousin’s house and called my wife, Arna, to ask her to be on the alert for a call if someone found my phone – after all, she’s first on my speed dial.  By the time I talked to her she had already received a call from a woman who found my phone, in Kinko’s.  “I didn’t trust leaving it with the people at Kinko’s so I took it home with me,” the woman said.

“Where do you live,” asked Arna.

“Schiller Park.”

Schiller Park is more than a half-hour away, 45 minutes in this wet, slippery snow.

Think about this for a minute. She was a customer of FedEx Kinko’s, but didn’t trust their employees enough to leave a stranger’s phone with them.  She thought I would be better off driving an hour and a half round-trip than risking that a FedEx Kinko’s employee might steal my phone.

What about the FedEx Kinko’s experience made this woman, who obviously is human and caring enough to want to get my phone back to me, not trust them at such a basic level?

Could it be as simple as cold, transactional, perfunctory customer interactions?  Is there nothing FedEx Kinko’s could have done to earn the lowest threshold of trust from this person?  Or, could they do a better job of putting a human face on their employees, so customers won’t think they are potential criminals?


  • Brent Walker
    Apr 06, 2009 - 17:08 pm

    Steve, I think it may have more to do with the woman than it does with her perception of Kinko’s. It’s a sad commentary on our society as it currently stands, but we are fed so much fear, and taught so insidiously to objectify other people, that there may have been nothing the people at Kinko’s could have done. Just a theory…but I’ve certainly met a lot of people who distrust by default.

  • Phil Yastrow
    Apr 06, 2009 - 22:56 pm

    I have been reading brother Steve’s blog for a long time, and this one made me wonder. Was it the woman or was it the Kinko’s brand? The Kinko’s brand is so strong that it might have been the woman. However, if the Kinko’s brand was very very strong and built on trust, leaving the phone would not have been an issue. This is metaphorical of building a brand on trust and I want my customers to trust me even more after reading this. I may make this story part of my story to customers.

    Thanks Steve,


  • Eliot
    Apr 07, 2009 - 11:20 am

    Great post.!

  • Larry Kaufman
    Apr 07, 2009 - 17:01 pm

    I marvel at Steve’s ability to take any experience and find in it either a brand harmony message or a We relationship message — or both.

    Meanwhile, Steve and those who have commented on his blog post have related to the Kinko’s brand. How long ago was it, and how much money has FedEx thrown at retiring Kinko’s and building FedEx Office?

    To use another Yastrow metaphor, when I started retracing my steps in search of a lost phone, I found it at Portillo’s. Hot dog! That they saved it for me was a Kiss — that they made no effort to track me down was, I suppose, a Slap. Yet slaps are so frequent, and kisses so rare, that the Kiss wins and I continue to honor the Portillo’s brand.

  • Judith Ellis
    Apr 07, 2009 - 17:05 pm

    Trusting people usually trust people. So, this may imply that this woman’s action has more to do with her. But it may also depend on a number of factors: the location of the store, the vibe given or perceived–rightly or wrongly unassociated with who she is as a person, or her frequent visits to this particular Kinkos which may have caused her to feel as if the employees could not be trusted. Yet, she returns?

    Is it improbable to think that every employee would represent the Kinkos brand thoughout the United States all the time? Probably so. But we do hope that our brand always speak our core values, although sometimes there are employees that are not properly aligned with them at any given time. We also hope that something as basic as honesty and the respect of others’ property would be honored. This is why a focus on being the brand is so important. Who are we?

    Thanks for the post, Steve. It’s quite thoughtful.

  • erik
    Apr 13, 2009 - 17:16 pm

    steve: you haven’t told us what happened when you showed up at her house. (by the way, she must be crazy to have walked off with your phone.)(you need to get one of those silver chains the hell’s angels guys have to hook their huge wallets to their belts and attach that to your cell phone.) so didn’t you ask her why she walked off with your phone? what did she say? how did she intend to get the phone back to its owner? what was she doing in a fedex/kinko’s 45 minutes from her home? so many questions here.

    • Steve Yastrow
      Apr 20, 2009 - 06:45 am

      I arrived at her apartment building in this nasty snowstorm, and her husband came out the front door. I ran up to meet him, holding a slip of paper on which was written the address and her cellphone number. There was an awkward moment as I took the phone (in a plastic bag) from him, shifting the piece of paper to my right hand as I went to shake his hand. It looked like I was about to hand him some money for his wife’s troubles, but, of course, I wasn’t. The entire interaction lasted about 2 seconds.

      So, I never saw her … and I never asked her husband why his wife was so certain that Fed Ex/Kinko’s employees would rather steal their customers’ belonging than make copies for them.

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