Office Depot – Unethical – Scam – Bait and Switch – Take your pick…

So, Office Depot cancelled my monitor order upon arrival at the store, even though the website said it was in-stock at the time of my order and upon initiation of charging my credit card.

For people who found this via a search engine (and there will be some), let me give you some information that I learned about the ethics of Office Depot.

According to an employee at Office Depot in Savannah (I have his name– no need to single out a non-manager):

  • It is possible that somebody is purchasing an item in the store at the exact same time you are ordering the same item online, even if you are ordering the item an hour after the store has closed.

According to Tony Hill, the store manager of the Office Depot in Savannah:

  • Items listed on the website as being in-stock at a local store may or may not be in stock.
  • Customers who have ordered and paid for an item only to find it is out of stock upon arrival to pick it up are not offered a discount of any sort on a similar item, nor are they offered a gift card to make up for the inaccuracies of the Office Depot inventory system, nor are they offered a simple 10% off coupon.

:::OPINION::: Mr. Hill does not seem to be interested in maintaining customers with growing businesses. Office Depot management at the store level does not seem to be empowered to ensure customer satisfaction.

According to Kimberly Bryant in Executive Customer Relations at (800) 937-3600:

  • Placing an online order for in-store pickup of an in-stock item does not guarantee that the item will be in stock.
  • Customers may walk in and purchase an item, even if another customer has purchased and paid for that exact item via the Office Depot website.
  • Employees are customers, too. Simple logic: Employees can cash and carry an item that a customer has already purchased if they find the item to be a good value.
  • Customers who have ordered and paid for an item only to find it is out of stock upon arrival to pick it up are not offered a discount of any sort on a similar item, nor are they offered a gift card to make up for the inaccuracies of the Office Depot inventory system, nor are they offered a simple 10% off coupon.
  • Clearance items are not always marked as “Clearance.” It is up to the customer to determine whether or not an item is on clearance based on the current and previous price of the item.
  • Office Depot is not able to send a Cancellation email to the email used to place the order.
  • Executive Customer Relations is to return phone calls of customers if they are disconnected in-call.
  • Phone calls can end when a customer is in the middle of a sentence.
  • Executive Customer Support does not have the phone number of the district manager.
  • If you are persistent enough and call back after they hang up on you mid-sentence, Executive Customer Support does have the phone number of the district manager.

:::OPINION::: The information supplied by Kimberly Bryant seems inaccurate, and the above, while provided directly by Ms. Bryant, should not be trusted. Executive Customer Relations is code for “reading off a different script.” Executive Customer Relations does not seem to be empowered to achieve customer satisfaction.

According to Don Butler, the District Manager at (843)769-0943:

  • There is a delay in inventory updates on clearance items.
  • Employees can only buy clearance items after they have been on clearance for a minimum of 48 hours.
  • Customers do not have to determine whether or not an item is on clearance by price. Clearance items should be marked as such.
  • District Managers can offer discounts or gift certificates to compensate customers for Office Depot’s flawed inventory system.
  • District Managers are truly concerned about maintaining growing businesses as customers, most likely because there is a Staples 3 miles away, and an Office Max 2 miles away.

:::OPINION::: Mr. Butler has expressed interest in trying to right the situation. He seemed to agree that if a customer orders an item and are told the item is in stock, the customer should either get the item, or some form of compensation to make up for the flaw in their inventory system. He stated he will look for the item elsewhere, and will offer a discount on other monitors or in-store credit to make up for the the inconvenience of travelling to the location to pickup an item that was ordered only to find out that there was an error in the Office Depot system.

I plan on linking to this entry from my signature at America’s Debate. We serve millions of pages per year (7,364,897 since July 2004) to over a million visitors (1,567,605 since July 2004).

My time was well spent on this entry if just one Office Depot executive stumbles upon this post and sees how the flaws in their inventory and ordering system has an end effect of losing customers, or if just one person reads this and decides against ordering from Office Depot.

There are plenty of office supply stores, and they all sell the same products. What sets them apart is service, or lack thereof. Barring any unforseen circumstances, Office Depot has officially been moved to the bottom of my list of local office supply companies.

4 thoughts on “Office Depot – Unethical – Scam – Bait and Switch – Take your pick…

  1. A friend of mine a couple of years ago purchased DVD-R’s online from Office Depot. When he got to the store of course, they were not there. This seems to be a common problem with the company. Their inventory system is terrible. A short time ago, I worked at Circuit City (for two years) and if you bought something online, it was taken off the shelf.

    I am so happy I am not in retail anymore.

  2. Hey Michael!

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

    I read a few accounts from people who had problems with the exact same monitor as the ones I ordered.

    One customer claimed that they called the store, and asked if the item was in stock. The clerk said there were four of them. The customer asked the price, and the clerk said it was $369.99. The clerk then scanned the actual item, and of course, it rang up at $166.01.

    When the customer arrived at the store 15 minutes later, they were all sold out. What is the likelihood of that?

    Just a tad bit more to pile onto the “unethical” claim. ;)

    Mike

  3. One problem I saw a lot in retail ( I had to call local competitors for price matching ) is that especially for Office Depot that their computer inventory was terrible. Every time I called, I made sure that someone physically found the product. People are too lazy to look and just take the computer’s word for it.

  4. Hehe…so when you called, did you say, “Hello Best Buy employee, this is Michael from Circuit City. I have a customer who wants to shop with us, but at your prices. Can you please tell me the cost on Item X, and can you physically walk back to the display to see if you have any in stock?” I can’t imagine that would go over well. I wonder if they blocked the caller ID data.

    It should amaze me that companies have trouble maintaining lists of their inventory, but it doesn’t. Take a deeper look at many large retailers’ websites and you will usually find enough amateur coding mistakes to reveal part of the reason why.

    Even a store that I have praised on this blog– American Musical Supply– has inventory problems. I don’t even think they have a brick and mortar storefront, either– just a warehouse. But, sure enough, if you head over to their site, pick a product category, and hit Sort By->Price->Ascending, the results are in a random order! It really made it difficult to pick out the right product. Of course, they made up for it by going out of their way to pricematch a clearance item to a competitor– 30+ days after the sale.

    The same holds true for Office Depot (the error part, not the going-out-of-their-way part). Take a look at their current 19″ monitor section, and again Sort By->Price->Ascending. The first result– a 17″ monitor!

    Now how are we supposed to expect them to keep their inventory straight when they can’t even write a simple select query, or can’t even place their products in the proper category?

    I guess we can’t.

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