A few months ago, the shredder we bought from Staples, after four years of dutiful service, finally died. It was one of their Staples branded cross cut shredders, I think I paid something like $40 for it, and it worked well for two years and struggled for another two before the motor burned out (my guess anyway). Since then, I’d just been accumulating my documents in a banker’s box in anticipate of a visit to one of the office supply stores for their shredding services. I’ve mentioned, in the past, that there are plenty of free document shredding services  available and they usually peak around tax season, which is right about now.
I had accumulated around five pounds of shreddable documents, which isn’t more than a couple inches laid flat, and was looking to get rid of them. With an Office Depot and a Staples nearby, I decided to try out both to see how they compared.
Staples is my go-to office supply store because I’m able to recycle ink cartridges and get store credit for them ($2 each, max of 10 a month) and because they’re closer. You can locate the closest one near you with a Copy & Print section  to do your shredding. At 79¢ per pound, the pricing is pretty standard, the service is outsourced to Iron Mountain.
When you bring your documents to Staples, they will take them and put them in a locked industrial garbage bin. There’s a slot at the top that lets you slide in about half an inch worth of documents at a time and an employee does it right in front of you. They don’t shred the documents in front of you. The tradeoff is that this is much faster than waiting for documents to be shredded but you no guarantee that the documents will be shredded. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with that because we were talking mostly junk mail and credit card applications. I might not be as comfortable with old tax returns.
When you get there, they weight the stack and then drop the papers into the bin.
Office Depot  charges 99¢ per pound and they have two levels of service. For a “smaller job,” which isn’t clearly defined, they shred it right in front of you. Someone stands there and shred the documents while you wait. The tricky part with this is that there typically isn’t more than one person working that area so they’ll go help a customer while they’re shredding. Five pounds can take quite a bit of time, especially with interruptions.
They also have the option to put your documents in a locked bin, just as Staples does, and it gets outsourced to Iron Mountain as well. All things considered, if you have a lot of documents, this is probably a better option than waiting for an employee to shred it.
It’s twenty cents more a pound but if you want to see it shredded in front of you, Office Depot is a better option.
I know there are other shredding services but I haven’t used them so I can’t speak to how they work. I know that Office Max has a service where you pay 79¢ a pound, they collect and outsource the shredding to Cintas. There are also probably local options too from office supply companies without a national presence. It seems that most do one of two things – shred in person or shred off-site with a partner like Iron Mountain or Cintas. Use whichever one you feel most comfortable with.
(photo: Andy B&W