Office Depot – Last Entry – Good Riddance

Barring any unforeseen circumstances– like them getting me a couple of monitors and redeeming their poor policies and services of the past week– this will be my last post about Office Depot. There won’t be any future opportunities for Office Depot to offer any more poor service to me, as I will no longer be shopping there. They have lost a customer of well over three years because, while they could admit that I received poor service, they could not make up for it by honoring my original purchase price for a similar item.

Part of this post is going to come from an email I sent to Casey Ahlbum, the Manager of the Office Depot Executive Customer Relations department.

Before I start, I would like to thank the people who have taken the time to read this. I know that my two prior Office Depot posts are getting a decent amount of traffic. Just look at the comments– there are actually comments! Normally, my blog gets a fair amount of readership, but never any comments. It seems that my entries about Office Depot have been enough to pull the commenters out of the woodwork!

If a company–any company– has mistreated you I encourage you to stand up for yourself and demand satisfaction. Even if you do not get that satisfaction, you will at least know that you tried your best to give a misbehaving company a chance at correcting a situation and earn your business. And for companies that don’t rectify problems created by their own faulty systems, I encourage you to never patronize those companies again.

It is simple. If Soyo or Belkin denies your rebates without good reason, do not buy their products. If the retailer where you bought the products will not honor the rebates even though they are legally obligated to do so, don’t shop at that retailer. If Target charges a late fee on a credit card for which you never received a bill because their internal address system was unable to update billing records (but able to update credit line increase records), then don’t shop at Target. I haven’t shopped at Target for over five years. And if a company like Office Depot charges your credit card for the full amount of a purchase that they said was in stock, and they are unwilling to give a comparable product at the same price as agree, then don’t shop at Office Depot.

There are almost always alternative companies that are willing to earn your business.

On Sunday, July 24, I received an email from Mr. Ahlbum, the Manager of the Executive Relations Department. He had been asked to contact me by Brian Levine in Media Relations.

If there is one positive statement I can make about Office Depot, it is that Mr. Ahlbum was polite and pleasant in our correspondence. Of course, he was unable to provide two monitors at the price I had agreed to pay and was subsequently charged, but at least he gave it a try. In all likelihood, Mr. Ahlbum was simply not able to get permission to offer the monitors to me at the price I had agreed to pay.

Mr. Ahlbum’s initial email was very polite, and asked that we get in contact so we could discuss ways to address the matter. Of course, the easiest way to address the matter would have been to sell me two monitors, but that was seemingly out of the question.

Here is the email I sent to Mr. Ahlbum in response to his request for contact:

I appreciate your response.

On Friday, District Manager Don Butler returned my several phone calls from Wednesday and Thursday, only after I called again and left another message with Susan, who takes his messages. Mr. Butler had previously offered $100 off each on any two monitors sold by Office Depot. After researching this, I found that, when accounting for a $100 discount on all other monitors in the Office Depot inventory, I would actually be paying similar prices to those at nearly every other retailer.

I had found that Amazon-Tiger Direct sells a monitor that Office Depot also sells– the KDS K-917S– for $269.99. If Office Depot were to price match the Amazon-Tiger Direct price, and then apply the $100 off per monitor that Mr. Butler offered, my final price would be $169.99, which is a mere 2% more than the price of my original order. I would certainly have been satisfied with that.

Mr. Butler informed me that Office Depot does not match Amazon-Tiger Direct prices. He stated that he would match a price of any merchant in Savannah, GA, or Charleston, SC. I thought this was odd because it seems to be contrary to the Low Price Guarantee policy listed at the Office Depot site. I informed Mr. Butler that I thought his offer of $100 off each of two monitors was not very good, considering it basically brought the prices of the monitors down to that of other competing merchants. I informed him that I was posting full details of my experience with Office Depot online for all to see.

I went back and reread the Office Depot Low Price Guarantee policy, and I still couldn’t see where it blocked price matching for Amazon-Tiger Direct. I called 1-800-GO-DEPOT and spoke with the first agent who answered the phone. I asked if Office Depot matched Amazon-Tiger Direct prices. The representative stated that Office Depot did match Amazon-Tiger Direct prices, however they charge overnight shipping charges for these items. I thought it was odd that a customer service representative would have different information than the District Manager, but I was not surprised judging by my past communications with Office Depot employees.

At this point, it seemed that every level of Office Depot with which I had dealt– from the Floor Employees to the Store Manager to the District Manager to Executive Customer Relations– were unclear on company policies and procedure.

I decided to dig a bit deeper to find someone at Office Depot corporate willing to listen to my story about being given incorrect information from the very moment I placed my order. I eventually discovered a phone number to Office Depot corporate: 561.438.4800. I called this number, explained my situation to the operator, and she transferred me to someone whose name I cannot locate in my notes.

The man with whom I spoke was understanding of my problem, and attempted to help, albeit in a round about way. He confirmed that an Amazon-Tiger Direct price should be matched, although frankly I had no reason to believe him. He offered to match the Amazon-Tiger Direct price on the KDS monitors– the cheapest 19″ LCD monitors in the Office Depot inventory. I thought I was finally getting somewhere.

Since the price match was offered, and since the District Manager had already told me that I would get a $100 credit per monitor because of the inventory confusion, I was under the impression that I would be able to get the monitors at the matched price, minus $100 each per the district manager.

The person on the phone informed me that this was not possible. He stated that Office Depot would lose money on this transaction. Here is what he offered: He would have the two monitors sent to me for the Amazon-Tiger Direct price of $269.99. I would pay $539.98 plus tax for the two monitors. He would also include two $100 Office Depot gift cards, further reducing my price to $339.98 plus tax.

Unfortunately, this was simply not financially feasible for me. When I placed my initial order for the original monitors, Office Depot placed a “precharge” on my debit card. This precharge actually reduced the amount of available funds in my bank account by the cost of the order.

As of right now– early Monday morning– the funds are yet to be returned to my account. I understand that, after contacting my bank, that I am dependent on my bank to return the money as the precharge falls off the system. But, if the items were not in stock at the time I ordered, I should not have been precharged for the items. No money should have been held or reserved from my bank account at the hand of Office Depot if the monitors were never in stock from the beginning.

I understand that $350 is a small amount of money for a large company like Office Depot. Part of the reason that sum is insignificant to Office Depot is small businesses like mine who purchase small quantities of supplies, but purchase them from the same place time after time.

We are a free website– we don’t generate a lot of revenue. In fact, this monitor purchase is more than 10% of our annual revenue– not profit, revenue. We do not profit. We provide a great service for free, and ask for nothing return. As a result, we pinch pennies everywhere we can, and getting a good deal on technology items and office supplies is one way we accomplish that.

Since my funds have not been available to me for going on six days now, I was unable to accept the offer of an Amazon-Tiger Direct price match including the two $100 gift cards– I simply do not have the money, even though there is a small chance that I might if my original funds were returned.

After I declined the offer, the representative offered to send a $100 gift card, which may or may not be on the way, regardless of whether or not I purchased the monitors.

If Office Depot could sell the monitors for $269.99 and add in $100 gift card, bringing the price to $169.99, I do not see why Office Depot cannot simply sell me the monitors for $169.99. That is only 2% more than my original order.

With three office supply superstores within five miles, companies are distinguished by their service. The accuracy of the information provided by the employees of a business directly impacts a customer’s chance of patronizing the business in the future.

At this point, I am not too sure what else can be done to correct this situation in my eyes short of finding two new 19” LCD monitors for me to purchase at the same cost as my original order.

If you still wish to contact me, I may be reached at 912.xxx.xxxx during most of the day.

Thank you again for your response,

Mike

Yesterday evening, Mr. Ahlbum left a message on my machine while I was getting dinner. He basically stated that he would like to apologize, and would like to clarify what I should expect from Office Depot in the future.

I thought I had made it fairly clear that, without monitors on my doorstep, there would be no reason for clarification of Office Depot policies. Without monitors, Office Depot would lose me as a customer, no matter how many times they apologize or how many gift cards they send me.

I attempted to telephone Mr. Ahlbum this morning at the telephone number he left on my machine, and the automated operator did not seem to want to transfer my call. I sent Mr. Ahlbum an email:

Mr. Ahlbum,

I attempted to return your telephone message of yesterday evening, and was told by an automated operator that my call “could not be transferred at this time.”

I appreciate your effort in calling. However, I am not particularly interested in learning much more about Office Depot policies, or Office Depot’s positions short of receiving two monitors for the price I was originally charged.

Being aware of Office Depot policies as a customer means very little when the chain of command is unclear about those same policies. Were a situation to arise in the future where I was clear on policy but the in-store employees or managers were not, I would not expect that my assertions of knowing the policies would be very persuasive.

I plan on using the offered gift card as intended– as a gift. I have very little intention of shopping at Office Depot in the future, even for free.

There is an Office Max 1.73 miles north of the Office Depot location in Savannah, and there is a Staples 3.32 miles south. Both of these companies offer very clear policies on their website, including price match policies that specifically address Internet price matching.

I have shopped at Office Depot for three years now, mostly out of convenience. The Office Depot location in Savannah is directly next to Best Buy, and it makes for convenient comparison shopping. Convenience, however, is always trumped by service and price, and Office Depot has performed poorly in both regards, and has done very little to maintain my business.

Again, thank you for your time, and best of luck to you and Office Depot in the future.

Mike

Mr. Ahlbum responded:

I am sorry for the difficulty. I understand that Mr. Butler has made you aware of how such a situation can occur, and believe me, we understand why you are upset! I wanted to speak with you personally,to apologize for the way that the call was handled in my office. The poor level of service provided was simply unacceptable. We should have been able to provide a suitable explanation, but more importantly, found a reasonable way in which to address the difficulty so that you were satisfied.

I am embarrased that this did not occur initially and I sincerely apologize. Mr. Bartlett has sent out the $100 gift card that was promised during your call. I hope that you will accept this with my apology for the poor service along with my thanks for bringing these concerns to our attention. I do not expect you to experience difficulty in the future, but if you do, and you are not able to resolve it at the local level, please feel free to contact me.

Sincerely,

Casey J. Ahlbum
Manager-Executive Customer Relations
Office Depot, Inc.

I responded one last time, and am no officially done with Office Depot:

Mr. Ahlbum,

I am confident that you are correct in stating that I will not experience any more difficulty with Office Depot. After giving Office Depot about a dozen opportunities to make good on my purchase without a single opportunity being accepted, no amount of gift certificates or apologies would earn my business back. I would be happy to send the gift card back at your request.

I finally received my funds back this morning after being held for six days since last Tuesday when I placed my order and when my credit card was charged. I will be ordering the monitors referenced in my last email from Tiger Direct this evening.

I hope you forward my concerns on to someone who has the ability to review and change Office Depot policies at a corporate level. If a hold is placed on a customer’s funds and that hold leads to the funds not being available for six days, the order should be completed, even if it means a loss for Office Depot. If there is even a possibility that an item may be out of stock, a customer should only be “precharged” one dollar, if anything at all. Additionally, if a customer orders an item and the item is found to be out of stock when the customer arrives, they should be offered a comparable product for the same price.

I sincerely appreciate that you have taken the time to address this, and am disappointed that, in the end, Office Depot was unwilling to provide comparable monitors to those that I purchased.

Thanks again,

Mike

I’m not expecting a response back, and if I where Mr. Ahlbum, I wouldn’t offer a response. He knows what it will take to keep me as a customer, and is either unable or unwilling to meet my request.

Office Depot, in my opinion, has lost their focus: Customers. Their slogan is “Taking care of business,” but it seems as though their policies are not be written to empower their employees to fulfill the expectation that a slogan like that creates.

Hey, I have an idea. Maybe I can get Office Depot to sink a few hundred grand into my NASCAR. That really takes care of business.

Thanks for three years of good service followed by one week of inadequacies, Office Depot. Now I’m off to find out why “Max means more” and “That was easy.”

3 thoughts on “Office Depot – Last Entry – Good Riddance

  1. Wow! I can’t believe that Office Depot wouldn’t offer you the price they promised. I’m glad you’ve decided to boycott them. The sad thing is many people probably don’t fight it when they get the shaft, and that’s why these big stores continue to treat their customers this way. I had a really bad experience with Cingular:
    http://forums.wirelessadvisor.com/showthread.php?p=65909#post65909
    I plan to cancel my contract with them later this year, to prevent a penalty for early termination.

  2. Heya Acidic. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)

    I read your whole post at the link you referenced. Holy cow! I would be canceling, too. I’m glad you finally got it resolved.

    Don’t get me started on cell phones, though. I do not have a cell phone, and I don’t plan on having one again in the future. You’re right, the “service providers” are absolute monsters to deal with.

    I had an issue a few years back with Sprint that turned me off to having a cell phone. I signed their little one-year agreement for a plan at $40 a month. I live in Savannah, GA, which is directly on the border with South Carolina. Because of this, my cell phone would often pickup towers in South Carolina instead of Georgia. Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal– I was still on the Sprint network so I was charged no roaming fees. The problem was that my bank’s telebanking line was a toll free number, and it was for in-state toll free only. Since the phone picked me up as being in South Carolina, I couldn’t call my own telebanking to manage my bank account! I called Sprint several times, and they were unable to fix the problem or offer any sort of remedy. Basically, if I wanted to call telebanking, I had to drive 5-10 miles south, away from the South Carolina border!

    Shortly after my last complaint about the GA-SC problem, I exceeded the contract period with Sprint. About that time, my phone started losing signal. Then, one day, my phone stopped getting signal altogether. It wouldn’t pick up anything. I called Sprint and asked them to repair the phone, but they told me I would have to sign a new one-year contract to get my phone repaired, unless I wanted to pay a heavy repair fee. I told them that was out of the question because of the GA-SC problems, and so they told me that they couldn’t help. Keeping in mind the fact that I had typically overused my minutes to the tune of about $140/month over the previous 14-month, I think Sprint could have repaired my phone, or comped me on a new one, but they didn’t. My request-for-service call quickly turned into a cancel-my-service-immediately call, and I haven’t dealt with Sprint or any other cell phone provider again.

    If you don’t absolutely need a cell phone for your job, you should consider not having a cell phone altogether. Yeah, they are nice for emergency situations, but when is the last time you had an emergency situation where your cellphone saved your life? And did somebody else have a cell phone with them? Now, when was the last time you sat down at a restaurant with the one you love and had an entire meal without a single cell-phone interruption?

    For me, I like being out-of-contact sometimes. If you want to contact me, call my home and I will answer if I am available, or return your call when it is convenient for me. If I am at the beach, I want to enjoy the beach. If I am walking around downtown, I want to enjoy walking around downtown. If I am at a concert, I want to listen to the music. And if I am in my car, I want to safely arrive at my destination.

    I survive just fine without a cellphone, and I lead a much less interrupted life as a result. :)

    Thanks again!

    Mike

  3. Mike I know what was stated by office depot was wrong. personally I have to admit I work at office depot. and I know that the store that I work at our policy is that we will match our local compition. no matter what the store is as long as we can prove that their price is lower and they are our local compition we will match it. We however do not match online companies, unless they havea local store that you can buy it from. I know that their are places that office depot has tiger direct as a local competitor and they will do price matches in that case. I’m sorry to hear that you have had such a bad experience with your office depot and am glad that you stood up for what you saw fit. the office depot goal is to “Wow the customer” in order to keep bringing them back. I know that there are times that we are out of items and in that case if its something that will be coming back in that has not been discontinued we are not given the option to substitute a product. and every employee has the access to the database to find out if it is still coming or not. if it is discontinued. alot of the time the floor model can be sold to you at a discounted price. the other thing is that if any of the places do not get you your rebate, given that it had been purchased at office depot… it is true that office depot will get the money from the rebates for you. Personally I don’t have a problem with the stores but of course I work there. Every product that the company carries can be shown to the customer if we are out as far as when the product will be back in as long as the warehouse has it in. With some sales everything goes out but in that case majority of the time stores will do rain checks and give the item to you at the price it was. Yes its bending corperate rules, but we don’t want to have the customer leave thinking that we never have anything in stock we want to get that product for them because its not their fault that it sold out. the only time that it isn’t that way is when it says.. ” while supplies last or if in that case the rebates would be out of date by the time of replenishment. I know I oder most of my stuff online from any place because then it will come straight from the warehouse to me, hardly any worries about not getting it or the store being out of stock because I am going from their supplier then. also alot of the time I can find things cheaper on the net than I can in a store no matter what retailer it happens to be. But I know watching the sales at office depot has also paid off, just like the laptop I bought about 2 weeks about on sales… the CTO that had $400 in rebates so after rebates and my 10% discount I’m getting a $1200 for $671.21. its just like any place you just have to watch what you buy and when. once again I’m sorry to hear about your agrivating experience with office depot and I wish you were a consumer at my store for I believe we could change your view on Office depot, though we would have our work cut out for us I believe it would be possible.

    Evan

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