In May, I came across a news story involving Xerox and The Pennsylvania House of Representatives. According to the story, Xerox was over charging for its services there and a group called CopyWatch called them out. If you missed the story, CLICK HERE.
It was not a happy ending for Xerox and this is not the first time I have heard of this kind of thing happening in our industry. It was however, the first time I had heard about this organization called CopyWatch. After doing a little digging, I learned that Copy Watch is a “contingent cost recovery service specializing in reducing copier and printer expenses.” In plain words, they claim to be experts on all matters related to managing in-house digital production equipment and our deployed, multi-functional convenience copiers.
Their business model is simple. They come into an organization, plug into the network, and start gathering data. They assess printer types, printer volumes, and printer locations. They review contracts and leases. Then, once all of the information is collected, they evaluate it and return a report recommending cost saving measures. If they fail to identify any opportunities, there is no charge to you or your institution. If they do find a way to save on expenses and you choose to implement their recommendations, then they ask for 30% of the net savings. They make a little money, and they promise to save you a lot of money.
Since there was no obligation, and CopyWatch was willing to sign a nondisclosure agreement, I thought it would be interesting to see if I was doing my job of managing these expenses as well as I should be or if this company I had never heard of knew more about my job than I did. I reached out to them in June and I was pleased to learn that the sales person who would be paying me a visit was an alum of Messiah College where I work. But that is where my experience with CopyWatch stopped being a positive one.
For starters, we set an appointment for July 28 and my sales rep arrived one month early on June 28th, two days before the end of our fiscal year. At first, I thought it was an honest mistake but now I think it may have been intentional. I think this company was trying to catch me off guard to make me look incompetent. Unfortunately for them, I just happened to have all of my printer and copier data in front of me because I was reviewing it for an annual report to my VP. Questions from the vendor that were clearly designed to stump me or produce a hesitant response were answered quickly and accurately.
My second issue with these folks was the manner in which they wanted to conduct our meeting. My sales rep, the Messiah graduate, wanted to sit in my office and conduct a conversation with me and his boss (via cell phone) who was sitting in traffic somewhere in New York City. So, I am at my desk rifling through excel spreadsheets and these guys both have me on poorly connected speaker phones. Our exchange went something like this:
CopyWatch Guy: Do you own or lease your copiers?
Dwayne: Our fleet is comprised of older technology that is owned but still useful as well as newer equipment that is leased.
CopyWatch Guy: I’m sorry; can you repeat that?
Dwayne: Both. We own some equipment and we lease some.
CopyWatch Guy: What’s that you say?
Dwayne: I think we have a bad connection.
CopyWatch Guy: What do you mean you have an objection?
CopyWatch Guy: Huh?
We would have honestly done better speaking through paper cups and fishing line. Meanwhile, the gentleman on the other end of our transcontinental screaming match couldn’t seem to stay on topic.
CopyWatch Guy: That sure is a lot of color being produced on one HP.
Dwayne: I think you are confused. We are done talking about local printers. We finished that part of our conversation 10 minutes ago. The volumes I just gave you were for our V-80.
CopyWatch Guy: 80? I thought you said half a million?
Dwayne: I said V-80. V as in Victor and the number 80. Xerox V-80.
CopyWatch Guy: Who has a V-80?
Dwayne: I think this would go better if you were here in person.
CopyWatch Guy: Hold on. I am getting another call.
Dwayne (Sarcastically): Oh good. Maybe it’s the guy with the V-80.
While CopyWatch Guy took his other call, I did have a very nice conversation with the sales rep sitting with me. He told me a bit about the company and provided some real life examples of how his company was able to help other organizations save money. Then, he handed me a pocket folder full of documents that served to support his claims. When I opened the pocket folder, I could clearly see that the papers enclosed were most likely copied using production technology built by the same people who build communication devices with paper cups and fishing wire. His marketing materials looked like they were produced in the early 1980’s on a fax machine. The printed text was broken up and unreadable. The graphics were faded. Fonts that were meant to be black and bold were actually gray and washed out.
I pointed out the poor quality to the sales rep and told him our meeting was over. I said, “If this is what cost savings looks like; then I am not interested.”
Then his cell phone rang. It was New York CopyWatch guy calling back.
CopyWatch Guy: Sorry about that, I had to take another call.
Dwayne: That’s OK. Your colleague and I started another company while you took your other phone call. We are calling it MeetingWatch. Our work will involve a careful review of meetings with vendors to see if we can identify any situations where people’s time is being wasted.
With that, our meeting was over and I went back to doing all of the things CopyWatch promised they could do better than me. Not today CopyWatch. Not today.