Office Depot’s Protection Racket

By  |  Wednesday, March 11, 2009 at 1:05 pm

Office Depot LogoRecently, I made a shopping trip to my local Office Depot (which is, incidentally, two storefronts down from the Circuit City I’ve been haunting). While I waited for the mysteriously absent manager to resurface (she was the only person with a key to the room where they stored the copy of TurboTax I was trying to buy), I noticed a sign neatly tacked up above each register, in plain view not only of the cashiers but of customers.

Office Depot Sign

This “Cashier Script” (which looks to me like it’s a slide from a PowerPoint presentation) is a good example of the basically poisonous nature of extended warranties and other protection plans. They’re so absurdly profitable that retailers can be tempted to go to extreme measures to push them on customers. In this case, the pressure to sell them is apparently so profound that store management wants every clerk to “recommend” them, every time. (Call it the Krusty the Clown “I heartily endorse this event or product” school of marketing.) And with the signs out in the open, all the artifice crumbles away–protection plans aren’t about providing informed advice to customers, they’re about closing sales.

So I was fascinated and disturbed–but not completely surprised–to read an investigative report at Laptop Magazine’s site that charges local Office Depot stores with telling employees to flat-out lie and say that in-stock notebooks are out of stock when shoppers try to buy them without agreeing to purchase extra services.  The theory is that this isn’t official Office Depot policy, but the unhealthy result of the lengths the chain will go to to browbeat its staffers into browbeating customers into agreeing to be upsold. Employees get commissions on service plans for laptops but not laptops themselves, and their jobs can slip into jeopardy if they fail to sell a sufficient number of plans.

Office Depot’s response to Laptop is, pretty much, a statement that it tries to provide good customer service and is looking into the situation. But it’s not a denial.

I hope that public embarrassment forces the company to crack down on funny business hard and fast, but I also wonder whether any business model that involves forcing clerks to peddle these plans is savable. Here’s one way the Depot could assure that its staffers wouldn’t lie to customers in cases like these: It could end commissions on service plans and stop penalizing employees who don’t sell enough of them. There might be a short-term hit to its bottom line. But won’t sales tactics that actively drive away customers do more harm in the long run?

 
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107 Comments For This Post

  1. Phil Says:

    Thanks for the valuable heads-up. Another reason that I will never step a foot inside an Office Depot anywhere on earth. May the demise of Circuit City haunt Office Depot next. We need less of these scum suckers.

  2. big tuna Says:

    well, anyone could do the same thing to a laptop. granted, the service plans that cover accidental damage are considerably more expensive, but if you're just getting it because you're going to break the product two or three years down the road, why not?

  3. Steven Fisher Says:

    I span on my heel and walked out of a store a few years ago when a sales rep lied to me about what the basic warranty didn’t cover and tried to upsell me. The item was $2,700, so I imagine that smarted a little.

  4. Harry McCracken Says:

    Years ago, I had an amazing experience at the late, unlamented Good Guys–a salesman spent so much time browbeating me into buying an extended warranty on a PC I was trying to purchase that I told him I’d walk out of the store if he brought it up again. Guess what he did, and how I responded?

    –Harry

  5. bob Says:

    this is crap we are more worried about the customer rather then our pocket books our goals are to take care of the customer we do offer extend warrenties to protect the customers investment not to gain profit. There are some people out in the world that cant by a laptop or desktop everyday like some people. Our modo is to deliver winning sloutions that inspire worklife and thats what we do we dont lie to the customer because they dont by a plan.

  6. Joe Says:

    I will say this, I work at Office Depot in the technology department, and yes, we are browbeaten into selling extended warranties. When we ask to get into the room he mentions to get laptops, computers, etc, we’re asked, “What are you selling? Are you getting a plan? You better get a plan.” Every Single Time. Then, after we sell something, we update an Excel file that we call the Market Basket. It NEEDS to be over 30%. If not, we get the yelling and the crying about how we aren’t doing our jobs. And, at my store, if you didn’t make your quota, you were written up. The manager has since rescinded this policy, as many of his best salesmen were ready to walk. Office Depot needs new corporate management. The CEO and the board all need to go. I have a feeling these stories are just the beginning.

  7. ecco6t9 Says:

    Toys R Us is just as worse when it comes to this. The horror stories I could tell you from working there.

  8. DZ Says:

    Maybe they need the cash from these service plans to escape bankruptcy and Circuit City’s fate…

  9. Dave Barnes Says:

    I always ask if I can buy the extended warranty on the ream of paper that I am buying.

    For some reason, the cashier always looks confused.

    I do that for every consumable (which all I ever buy at either Staples or Office Depot). Durable goods I purchase using the Tubes.

  10. Skudd Says:

    As DZ pointed out, they’re trying to stay afloat in times of economic turmoil. I’m not saying that I agree with ‘em, but I do understand where they’re coming from.

  11. Dave Says:

    “Bob”, above, is a perfect example of why the customer should be offended by such attempts to sell these extended warranties. If Office Depot’s employees are virtually illiterate, as Bob appears to be, and can’t even spell “motto” — what on earth makes them think we will trust Bob to push an extended warranty on us? Does anyone think Bob can comprehend all the fine print on one these agreements?

  12. Steve Says:

    Hey “bob”, maybe instead of defending your customer-screwing corporate overlords you can hit up a continuing education class and learn how to intelligently compose a sentence. Learn how to spell, punctuate, and form proper grammar before you want to be taken seriously.

  13. Steve Says:

    *high-fives Dave*

  14. Dave Says:

    “returns the high-five to Steve”

    It’s about as ridiculous as someone without legs trying to pressure you into buying a particular brand of running shoe. Bob should learn to read before he has any business pressuring people into service agreements with binding arbitration and several pages of limits, exclusions, and waivers. I think working on the company motto, and how to spell it, is the right project for Bob right now.

  15. nix Says:

    “charges local Office Depot stores with telling employees to flat-out lie and say that in-stock notebooks are out of stock when shoppers try to buy them without agreeing to purchase extra services”

    I have had the same experience at Office Depot; since then I have stopped shopping at Office Depot.

    Another experience from Circuit City and Office Depot:

    1) Sale paper advertises steep discount on laptops. I get in line early and I am the first to make a purchase on the laptop; only to be advised that they sold out. Excuse me, I am the first one here! Sorry we sold out.

    2) They cannot recommend another product because that would be “bait and switch”, which is a crime. In my opinion; that is false advertisements to get customers in the store.

    3) So, why shop at a store if potentially their advertised sales may or may not be legitimate. My time is worth money and making a trip because of a false advert, just to get me into the store is morally reprehensible.

    Circuit City and Office Depot have lost my business a long time ago; one is now bankrupt. What are the odds that pissing off the customer will turn them away; the odds are pretty good.

    All I can say is: Keep up the good work Office Depot, you’re on the road to Circuit City success.

  16. Sighing Says:

    Bob and Dave – does it make you feel better to denigrate other people? We all got it without either of you posting; if you can’t actually contribute to the discussion, why bother replying at all?

  17. Steve Says:

    “does it make you feel better to denigrate other people?”
    When they deserve it, yes.

    “if you can’t actually contribute to the discussion, why bother replying at all?”
    Possibly for the same reason you decided to reply.

  18. Eddie Says:

    I don’t understand why everyone is picking on Office Depot. This has been going on at every retail chain for a long time. I worked for Sears in the appliance department when Jobs and Gates were still in college. We had the same kind of pressure to sell the same kind of warranty from the same kind of corporate mentality.

    This is nothing new. There’s nothing to get upset about. If you don’t want the warranty, don’t buy it. If they don’t have what you want in stock, go somewhere else. It’s pretty simple.

  19. Harry McCracken Says:

    Extended warranties are nothing new, and neither are high-pressure sales tactics to sell them., or outright dishonesty. But that doesn’t mean they’re acceptable. Or that Office Depot doesn’t deserve to be deeply embarrassed in public if it indeed has store managers instructing staffers to lie to people who want to buy products.

    If every clerk in every retail establishment on the planet asked you once if you wanted a service plan, and “no thank you” was enough to end the conversation and conclude the sale, things would be easy. Too bad that your first “no thank you” is so often just the beginning of the conversation.

    –Harry

  20. You're Funny Says:

    “If they don’t have what you want in stock, go somewhere else. It’s pretty simple.”

    But they do have it in stock… if you want to buy a warranty. If you don’t want to buy a warranty, then it’s “not in stock.” That’s the enraging part. Basically, they’re saying, “warranties are required on our laptops; you can’t buy only the laptop.”

    Which would mean their sticker prices need to go up to reflect the actual price paid by the customer (not including tax, but you see my point).

  21. big tuna Says:

    Personally, i am of the opinion that “bob” would do well to go by “Robert,” as it would hopefully give others the impression of intelligence. Having never worked for Office Depot, but also working in retail, i also know the pressures of being a sales associate. However, the company i work for is more about ethics, rather than forcing a customer into buying a service plan on a laptop. We offer them, and if they decline, we sell the laptop anyway, knowing that if the customer has a good experience, they will be back, rather than going to another retailer. even being in the technology department, and knowing the cost, laptops are probably one of the few things that i would buy an extended warranty on, because the parts are so expensive.

  22. big tuna Says:

    also, in response to nix, some stores are actually sold out of an item by the time the ad hits. usually it’s because they’ve been on sale for several weeks before that, because they are trying to get rid of old stock before new models come in, etc. i recommend calling the store and checking stocks before going in. any store worth going to will at least hold one for you. also, please excuse me for not capitalizing, i never do. i prefer not to have any “bob-esque” repercussions.

  23. Nigel Johnson Says:

    I find it incredulous that this “pot of gold”has only just been discovered in the American market. I worked for Dixon’s PC World, in Europe’s biggest computer store, in 1993. We were under a lot of pressure to sell extended warranties because they were almost always 100% profit. The business model is that they are designed to expire before the expected life of the hardware, which is easily 5 years with modern reliability. Trading Standards had a big investigation into the practice and it was established that you could cancel the extended warranty at any time and get a full refund because the vendors knew they would lose a good thing if they didn’t do that!

    I was the top salesman in the store to the tune of at least £25,000 a week but I was way below my quota on selling extended warranties because I didn’t feel comfortable pushing it on people who were living at the poverty level and who felt pressured into buying a computer so their children would not be left behind in the computer age!

  24. Steven Fisher Says:

    The short short version is that life is too short to do business with assholes, including corporations that are assholes. When you recognize them, don’t do business with them.

  25. big tuna Says:

    agreed.

  26. big tuna Says:

    oh, and to dave barnes… i would definitely sell you an extended warranty on a ream of paper, for the cost of the ream. but one must realize that replacement of the item in question does fulfill the store’s end of the contract, thus voiding any further service requirements.

  27. Sum Yung Gai Says:

    Just buy your stuff somewhere else, folks! There are plenty–PLENTY–of other outfits who will gladly sell you a laptop without all this hi-pressure crap and lying.

    –SYG

  28. big tuna Says:

    excellent wayne’s world ref. kudos

  29. Alyson Says:

    I worked for some time at an Office Depot competitor, Office Max. We also had those protection plans. Yes they were awful, yes they sucked, and yes we figured out the only plan that was worth anything was for desk chairs. The plan was a two year extended warranty, so if something happened to it within the two year scope it would get replaced. Well our store had a full restocking of new merchandise every year, so all you had to do was wait 1.75 years and then break the chair, and we were required to give you a new one. That is of course if the receipts weren’t conveniently printed on thermal paper that degraded after 6 months.
    Am I condoning this, heck no. I just thought it was fun to think of ways to screw the system. I’m glad it was only a college job, I was out of there after I started grad school. Thank god for tech jobs.

  30. Efeffess Says:

    Corporations servicing customers as customers, rather than as resources, often find a higher return on their investment over the long run. Look at the recent panic from the PIFTS.EXE issue at Symantec. Customers received no information until a day after the outbreak began. There was no customer support throughout this escapade, and there is still no apology posted on Symantec’s site. (Search the web for “pifts.exe” for a good look at how to service your customers the wrong way.) Fortunately, I dropped Norton and Symantec ages ago, but I’m sure support got my email anyway. Hee hee.

    Corporations are often so focused on money they fail to not only service customers but also employ services lacking security (Winners et al.). Perhaps “customer resourcing” is a more effective term for these two-bit operations.

    Big Tuna: Customers must love you guys. Shame on you!

  31. big tuna Says:

    i don’t understand what you’re referring to…

  32. big tuna Says:

    shame on me for what? i do not work for office depot, nor has any of my management staff at any level recommended lying to a customer to boost sales performance. actually, the company that i work for is really big on ethics, and i can honestly say that i’m not ashamed to work for them.

  33. big tuna Says:

    yes we offer service plans, maybe even more than once, but we are often told that we are paid to hear no. but it’s part of our job to at least ask. considering the fact that efeffess has more than likely never worked in retail, it would be easy for you so say that sales associates are slimeballs, and i would agree with you most of the time, but not all of them are. some of them are just doing their jobs.

  34. big tuna Says:

    i am of the opinion that the fact that office depot associates work on commission is the problem. true, it would drive profits, but a company has to make sales to make profit. bonuses/commissions should be based on customer satisfaction. at least that would provide a sales associate with some incentive to sell a laptop to a customer, even if they don’t intend on getting anything with it.

  35. {eter Says:

    My wife works at Kmart in Stevensville, Maryland and she was told that if she did not put 5 protection plans a week she would be fired. They are a bunch of lying scumbags who will get what’s coming to them someday

  36. Free Marketeer Says:

    What’s wrong with the attacks on Office Depot? Office Depot has the right to bundle their extended warranties or protection service plans to their existing products as one product, and that’s not call cheating their customers! They’re doing the best they can to keep themselves profitable and keep the business operating in order to survive during the time of turmoil! As business, they have the right to sell or not sell anyone any products or services they want!

  37. sauer kraut Says:

    this is the kind of crap that led to fewer customers at circuit city. screw the management at office depot!

    unfortunately, they are not the only store utilizing this type of unfair sales tactic.

  38. Phil T Says:

    Who would actually buy a laptop or computer at Office Depot? I don’t buy paper and toner from Dell, Apple, or HP. I buy computers off the web or a computer store. If you are stupid or lazy enough to buy a computer at a paper store and pay retail, than you are just the person who needs to buy an extended warranty. Corporations are not moral entities. They exist to make a profit and not to give you the warm fuzzies. And by making a profit they keep all you whiners employed. You can always say no. If you can’t say no than its your own damn fault.

  39. Kent James Says:

    You folks, i’m sorry, all of you are idiots. All laptops are sold basically at a loss to the retailer. Stop your bitching! If you don’t want a warranty (which will cover anything besides intentional damage) don’t buy it bozo! Also, sorry about Turbotax being locked up, we pulled Them because average people like yourself were stealing them. You think it’s all this grand scheme to screw the customer, ACTUALLY we are just trying to pay our bills. Go ahead! Stop shopping us! We will just close so there will be less competition and higher prices all around! And the dude that said associates should be rewarded for customer satisfaction…that doesn’t pay the bills

  40. moshguy Says:

    “But won’t sales tactics that actively drive away customers do more harm in the long run?”

    Heck no. Just look at Circuit City. That was their business model and they’re running stronger than ever.

  41. Anonymous Says:

    I find this really funny. Only because this is nothing new to any retailer. Best Buy, Office Depot, Office Max, Staples, the late Circuit City, any other electronic sales store. The reason just so you all know is that they make very little on a computer, maybe 10%, 15% max. After carrying charges and paying a sales person and all other costs they are almost costing themselves money to sell you that $2700 computer.

    So to make money they offer warranties. It is just like game consoles or printers. Companies make there money on the add-ons, not on the retail unit.

    So stop being so upset, they do this to try and make money. Some people lie to you some are honest it may not make you happy but that is retail.

  42. exdepot Says:

    I used to work as a manager at office depot (over 5 years ago) so i have experience with this stuff. I just don’t see why people are complaining. So what! They have a text of what to say when you buy something covered by a plan. Do you complain when mcdonalds asks if you want to get a combo with your sandwich? Why is it bad to recommend something that people might not know exist? Some people find this as a value an purchase the ext warranty, most don’t.
    The market basket idea was actually a pretty good thing to get the sales people thinking about getting everything that people needed on their first visit to the store. How many people would buy a printer, only to discover that it didn’t come with a cable, or that they didn’t have any paper.. that was potentially lost sales for the retailer as
    well as an annoyance to the customer.

    And with the laptop not being sold without a warranty, although i highly doubt that this is really true or the whole story, it is most likely the brainchild of a misguided manager and not a corporate policy. The stores that i worked at would be happy to get a laptop sale, especially one that isn’t clearance. Most laptop sales ended up being discontinued models that would be at least 5-15% below cost(which would sometimes drag the margin for the day to negative numbers).

    People love to attack the “big bad corporate company”, but without the brink and mortar retailers that you all complain about, you would be waiting a week for you internet order to get delivered.. They can’t all survive with razon thin margins without having some profitable items..

    it is so easy to sit back and rip someone else for something so stupid, but if it was your business you would be attempting to sell the item that best suited the needs of the customer, as well as the most profitable for you… BTW the warranties were close to 60% markup if i remember correctly..

  43. Jim Says:

    A few years ago, my wife and I purchased an Office Depot brand crosscut paper shredder. We did purchase the extended warranty with it.

    Well, the crosscut blades ate themselves (and the cheap plastic spacers) after only a few months’ worth of use. We took it back, and Office Depot gave us another one, no charge.

    Cool deal.

    Until the *second* unit malfunctioned exactly the same way the first one did – and the return was refused. We were told that we had to have purchased an extended warranty on the *second* defective unit in order to have it replaced.

    In my experience, Office Depot sells shoddily-manufactured products that are almost certainly guaranteed to break just outside the warranty, and if you don’t have an extended service plan, well, you just wasted your money.

    Now whenever I get asked by *anyone* if I want an extended service plan, I ask them “what, you think this product is likely to be defective in a way not covered by the warranty?” – and yes, then I turn them down flat.

    I will grant, however, that the absolute worst place to go for upsells (not just for ESPs but also for anything) is Radio Shack. I’ve never been anywhere else that would try to sell you batteries or powerstrips for a *solar power* experiment lab, and then try to sell you a cell phone plan.

  44. Dave Says:

    I sell these for OfficeMax. 5 years experience. They are a good deal for most people who don’t understand how to fix problems with their electronic devices (such as laptops). Sorry you had a guy push it on you when you didn’t want it.

    They don’t give you an in stock laptop because they don’t make any money on laptop sales without add-ons. Our markup is typically $50 or less on advertised (sale price) laptops. That doesn’t even cover shipping the product to our store and having it sit on the shelves. We can make more money selling $5 DVDs where the laptops are if we sell them all without add-ons.

    I also order in laptops (ship direct) for people who only want a laptop, and save the in stock models for people who will purchase additional items in our stores. If you want the location service you have to pay for it.

    goofboi@hotmail.com

  45. trinarybit Says:

    Hi. I work at a Staples in New England.
    Dave Barnes: ask for the extended warranty on the shredder sheets, they are both consumable and according to the cashiers screen, we offer them.
    Nix: On the store level, the lack of advertised product is something we would like to avoid. With respect to the bait and switch implying they cannot suggest something similar, that seems odd. If A and B are comparable, that should be suggested. Also, the fact that people line up at the store amazes me.
    Harry McCracken: We are instructed to ask for the warranty twice, and the cashier usually does as well. Depending on the numbers, the MOD my come out and try to tweak the costs a bit.
    If you are looking for a salesperson, try to find a person that is active, rather than hanging out with others.
    If you want someones honest opinion, make sure you are out of earshot of the managers or main desk. It used to be that you could just ask, but currently, if a person consistently fails to meet quota, and it seems like they are not doing their job “correctly”, that person runs the risk of being “promoted to customer”.

  46. ambrosiac Says:

    “– Yeah, sure… Service plan. Bring it on”

    They trot out the laptop and start ringing it up.

    “– Hey, waitaminute… It doesn’t cover X. I’ve changed my mind,
    ring up just the laptop, I don’t want the plan”

    Voila! :)

  47. OminousDominus Says:

    A while back I tried to purchase an advertised special on a hard drive OfficeDepot had promoted online on the first day of seven days of availability. At first it showed up as available in the online cart, but when I processed my order it was out of stock. I called the support number and was told it was out of stock, but that they offered many drives which might meet my needs. I went through the logic that running out of an advertised special on the very first day of availability was poor customer service, to say the very least. After talking with the Customer Disservice Rep, I asked to speak to a manager and got the same response. At that point I asked if she was familiar with the consumer laws on such ads in my home state. She said she wasn’t. I asked if I would be charged sales tax on items shipped to my home and she said that I would be because there are brick and mortar stores here. At that point I observed that since my state law is enforced for taxation, I was sure that the regulations demanding reasonable quantities on hand for expected ad response would also come into play. I observed that the suggestions of other items available seemed to smell of bait and switch, which I would be more than willing to contact the state attorney general about. I was immediately offered any comparable drive of my choosing for the advertised price, an offer not made before my observation. As a result I scored 3 500GB external drives for $50 each, with free shipping.

    You have to be a savvy consumer. You have to be willing to press your point with logic and reason, in person or on the phone. You have to deal with a manager. You have to be willing to make enough noise that other customers will notice. You have be rational and calm. You have to ask for a reasonable accommodation. You always have to say THANK YOU when you get your way.

  48. CrazyKarl Says:

    I always buy the service plan man are they good I like service plans becuause they save me from worring about if it breaks or not. I like it alot.

  49. duplessis Says:

    This is complete crap maybe we wouldn’t push plan and services if customers
    stop coming a year later crying about there product breaking after the 14 day return policy. How come people come in and just don’t know what they are doing and want us to work on there notebook, or printer without paying us. I don’t know how many times I have spent hours working on a computer that was not covered because a customer broke there product. We don’t support or product after 14 days unless you buy a plan. That is why the manufacturer gives you a 1 year limited warranty.

    Yes we are pushed to sell services but I have never been told to lie to a customer. I have never been threaten to be written up because of lack of sale(my sales are usually in the top 10 in the for our area).

  50. Mark Says:

    This doesn’t surprise me in the least, nor is it really new. I worked at Sears back in the 80s when I was fresh out of High School. For many years I served as an Audit Clerk in the Cash Vault but was envious of the Commission Sales that many employees in the store were making. So, when the opportunity arose, I transferred to the Electronics Department to sell computers. At 12% commission on $4500 computers (remember when computers were that expensive!) I could make 6 months Salary in one day! Problem was that Sears pushed their Employees into the Hard Sell of Extended Warranties and expected a minimum of 20% sell rate. It didn’t matter that a Geek who had grown up with computers since the age of 9 could sell more computers than the rest of the entire Sales Staff combined, but since I grew up with being taught that “NO!” means “NO!” I wasn’t considered a “Team Player”. I was formally written up for not meeting the EWP Quota and pulled aside by my concerned co-workers who were making bank when I was on lunch/break/days-off from my leads and told “Do what we do…we ring up the Extended Warranty for every one who purchases with a Credit Card after they leave the store and staple the receipt for the EWP to the signed Sales Receipt. They might notice it on their Monthly Statement but by the time they cancel it, it’s too late to affect your Quota.” I was absolutely appalled and refused to be underhanded like that (but having been in the Audit Dept for years and seeing all those transactions on two receipts, only one of which was signed from every single Sales Employee there I knew this was the Status Quo). For my idealism in believing that this practice was wrong, it was but 30 days later that I was let go for not meeting EWP Quotas. So, I went back to being a Network Admin as I was during High School and never looked back at my brief foray into Retail again.

    On the rare occasions that I absolutely must go into a Retail Store, if someone mentions EWPs, I laugh…tell them they did their job but no thank you…and pay with cash.

  51. Kent James Says:

    By the way-the script was something that was created at the store level, our company hasn’t sent this out as official communication.

    We aren’t instructed to lie, ever.

    We need the sales just like the next guy, if a customer wants a computer, we will sell it, regardless if they buy any services. But if we don’t sell anything with it, we WILL lose money. Stop acting like it’s our mission to screw customers and make Office Depot out to be the bad guy, we try to find new ways to help our customers everyday.

  52. JZ Says:

    “We do not make our profit from selling the product, we obtain it from the sales of the extended warranties…”

    This is a quote from a [defunct] Circuit City Operations Manager. (I was working in the warehouse and wanted to transfer to the PC Dept)
    I was surprised when she told me this. And it gets me mad because they really sold it HARD to customers who obviously had little or no technical knowledge.

    Now I’m glad that I’m an IT guy. I AM the warranty. LOL

  53. Work @ Staples Says:

    I’ll bet you big money big tuna lives in R14. ;)

    It doesn’t matter where you work– negative margin is negative margin. There is absolutely nothing wrong with trying to make an honest buck if done ethically. You should never feel uncomfortable during a sales pitch, but you should be informed of the benefits of additional items to go with your purchase. So long as the flow of the sale is uninterrupted, it’s no different than the guy at TGI Fridays offering you an appetizer.

  54. deedee Says:

    everyone is shooting their mouths off about protection plans . well, the commission on these things suck. I, myself work retail because it puts food on my table and pays my bills. In every job there are policies
    and you working there have to follow the policies. having worked in retail for so many years, I find that the customer is dishonest and always want something for nothing. they figure if they make a little noise they will get what they want. anyone who hasn’t worked retail should try it for one day. who knows, the way the economy is that might be your next fate.

  55. Anonymous Says:

    Kent James – We’re better off without you…bad business practices are simply that. On the matter of locked up Turbotax. Give someone other than the manager the key so you can better service your customer…you know those guys…the ones that give you money.

    Isn’t the reason that only the “manager” has the key is to protect against theft by the store staff???

    Come on dude…we’re not all idiots.

  56. Stewart Says:

    I just bought an extended warranty on a netbook, and I don’t feel bad about doing so. I was planning on spending about $300, and the only netbook they had was one that someone named Theresa had already set up. Long story short, they gave me 10% off the netbook and I bought the extended warranty that covers accidental damage for $10 more than I was planning to pay in the first place. In just under a couple of years, when the netbook is damaged beyond all reasonable repair, I’ll get a new model. And if it survives, I still got a neat little computer for a decent price.

    Normally I wouldn’t buy a protection plan. Most of the time they simply aren’t worth it. But this one that covers accidental damage and the one I bought (from Circuit City, actually) for my projector that covers replacement bulbs for 4 years turned out to be a pretty good deal. I’ve had to replace the bulb on the projector twice now, so I figure I’m a good $350 ahead of the game. (We use the projector as our primary TV — it’s not a case of poor quality bulbs…)

  57. Mindy Says:

    First, as part of our commitment to providing office supply solutions to our customers, Office Depot offers numerous products and services, including service warranties and other complementary products and services for many technology products. These offerings are similar to other sellers of consumer electronics. Office Depot’s objective is to offer such products and services to our customers, without regard to whether a customer purchases or does not purchase service warranties or other complimentary products and services. Although we offer a variety of sales promotions, like most retailers, we sell customers only what they wish to purchase. We do not have, nor have we ever had, policies or strategies contrary to this objective, and we do not condone sales practices to the contrary.

    Accordingly, we do not have any policies or sales objectives to limit the sales of laptop computers to only those customers who agree to purchase service warranties. Office Depot has been recognized with numerous awards for our commitment to customer service, so please know that we take this issue very seriously and will take the necessary steps to ensure that we continue to enhance the customer experience and promote quality in our customer-related processes. We are currently in the process of reviewing this situation, and if any associates have deviated from our sales objectives and policies, then they may be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.

    Mindy Kramer
    Director of Public Relations
    Office Depot

  58. Chris Says:

    @Mindy PR Mouthpiece – That’s cute and a load of garbage. Any of us that have worked in retail know this. I worked at Best Buy for a time and during our training they repeatedly highlighted how the extended service plans were a shocking 90% pure profit for the company. It is without a doubt the single most profitable thing you sell because so few are ever actually used. We were pushed HARD to sell them. As a consumer it is really annoying when you know something is a rip off but the retailer pushes it like it’s eternal salvation. You’re selling a lot of technology products to a lot of educated individuals. Some of your customers may be morons but please don’t lump us in with the WalMart crowd.

  59. Works @ Staples Says:

    @Chris — I have a couple of things I would like to address in your post.

    The first would be how you write that service plans are a rip-off. Is it a rip-off when the customer comes back with the laptop in pieces and they’re handed a brand new one? Is it a rip-off when the backlight goes out and it doesn’t cost the customer the standard $599.99 for LCD replacement? Under a service plan at my store (which is actually through an insurance company called Assurant — https://w2.assurant.com/StaplesESPHome/) you’ll get parts and installation for free. At least 75% of the time a customer walks in with their computer, a problem, and the service plan, it would’ve cost them well over double the cost of the service plan for the parts and labor. Buying a service plan isn’t beneath an “educated individual.” Read the terms of the service plan; talk with the sales associate about different scenarios that could arise and what the solution would be under the plan.

    Lastly, please don’t go around quoting margin statistics when they can easily differ from store to store. I’m not going to say how much margin my store makes on a service plan, but it isn’t anywhere near 90%, 80%, 70%, or 60% for that matter. If you want to talk about high margin items, lets take about copying, faxing, and tech services. Point is, just because one company has a specific statistic doesn’t mean all companies share it.

    @Anonymous — I’m not sure you fully understand the concept of having a secure area to store merchandise.

    “Give someone other than the manager the key so you can better service your customer…you know those guys…the ones that give you money.

    Isn’t the reason that only the “manager” has the key is to protect against theft by the store staff???”

    I don’t understand what you’re driving at with these sentences. On one hand, you seem to present the idea of multiple key holders and on the other hand, you bring up the idea of internal theft. Aren’t those two things defeated by each other? On most days, there are at least two key holders available in my store during the busiest hours. Does this mean that there’s always going to be a key holder readily available at every single moment? Of course not. Am I going to potentially remedy that situation by giving most everyone a key to high-dollar merchandise that I want to keep close watch on? Of course not. If you want to get upset about something, get upset about the fact that it’s absolutely ridiculous that we live in a society where I have shrink (product loss) built into my budget. Take a second to think about that the next time you think all product should be readily available.

  60. Ron Says:

    Let me start by saying I previously worked at an Office Depot. I also worked for Staples for a long time as well. I think that it is basic business. These companies lose money when they sell you a laptop. Do customers ever buy computers at full price? No. At the most these retailers only make $80 when they sell a computer at full price. When they are on sale at $150 or more off they are losing money. Do you think they could stay in business for long if they were just saying here take $150 to every customer?

    The manufacturer will never cover what they know will break on any product. They will also never cover what the customer breaks on a product. I have seen it time and again in my 8 years of retail experiance. I have also seen time and again when a customer breaks the computer and comes in after having it for a year and expecting the store that sold them the laptop to replace it. Alot of response to pushing the warraties is to make money for the company I agree, however it is just as much a response to not wanting to being verbally abused and threatened by customers when a product breaks and they think someone else should pay for their mistakes.

    As for a policy to tell customers that they are “out of stock” when they don’t want a warrenty, I was never told that and any manager that tells their employee that should be fired. I have seen quite a few cases when I work for Staples and Office Depot of managers being terminated for that behavior.

    As for not having enough really cheap sales computers, they are not going to have alot when they are selling these computers for a $300 lose.

    I think as customers we need to use our heads more and not believe everything that the media feeds us because that one person happened on a bad experience. I have worked at both retailers and will continue to shop at both. And if I see any less than moral behavior I will be happy to talk to the store manager and if have no result from that talk to the district manager.

  61. observer Says:

    @ Steve’s : March 11th, 2009 at 3:00 pm comment

    I don’t understand how grammar would play a role in taking people’s opinion seriously. In that world I guess we would all *truly* believe our politicians and smart-*ss media commentators who more often that not tend to be biased. Remember, we are a democracy, and punctuation should not hold us back from expressing ourselves. Maybe, I need to get a PhD in literature to post in forums going by your standards.

    And, yes I do *not* agree with Bob’s comment.

  62. Lisa Says:

    I work at Office Depot, and have been for 2 years. I am a cashier. We are encouraged to use the “closing sales script.” I’m sure someone may have already said it, but it’s to help the customers know about our different services and what we offer for that certain product. Over our headsets, we call out what we need from “lock-up.” Our manager, usually asks if we have anything going with the item. The associate usually responds, saying what they have, and if they have nothing the manager tells us to try one more time to see if we can get the sale. They said in a meeting one time that, “They USUALLY will say yes, the 2nd or 3rd time we ask, if they need any of our services or any other required items” This was our district manager that said this.. We never lie, at least in our store about if we are out of stock on an item just because they won’t buy the Plan, or Tech Service or any other items they may need. That’s just wrong, and the store is losing big money on that, which is why I find that somewhat ridiculous. Yes, I can understand if a manager is pushing selling a warranty or tech service, because either the store is going in the hole, or the district manager is threating his job..but it still doesn’t give them the right to lie to a customer and refuse them an item. And, for future reference to customers, if we don’t have an item in the store.. ASK TO ORDER IT!!! They can ship it to the store, or ship it directly to you.. so, that way you can either catch a manger in a lie, or make them look again and “whoops the laptop magically appeared!!” Managers hate ordering stuff! =]

    Now, one thing we need to focus on is the crappy return policy they have going. Haha. If you HAVE bought a lap top there recently, you’ll notice that if you open it.. you’re stuck with it. You CANNOT return it and get your money back, only an exchange. We, the associates have even complained, because we hate being, excuse my language, but bitched at by the customers for this horrible return policy. I feel that after 14 days, yeah, you’re screwed you don’t get your money back.. but that’s where the plan comes in.. you can send it to the manufacture the first year.. but after that you’re covered. I just think of it as a 2 or 3 year return policy. You’re getting your money back..someway.

    There are alot of things I don’t agree with at Office Depot, but like others say, it brings me an income.

  63. logstar Says:

    I only read about half the comments, so I don’t know if anyone’s come up with this idea yet:

    The way to buy a laptop at these places is to go in acting as if you do want the extra protection and replacement plans, but at the cash register refuse them. You get great service from the salesperson, right up until that point, but by then you’re almost out the door with your purchase anyway.

    Ugh, this story makes me sympathetic for people who work in retail.

  64. Steve Says:

    “These companies lose money when they sell you a laptop.”

    Whose fault is that? Is that my fault as the customer? Should I have to put up with abrasive sales tactics because the company has a business model that involves selling merchandise at a loss? It makes zero sense – if you’re losing money on a sale, why would you agree to that sale? The main reason would be loyalty – if your customers realize they’re getting a good deal they may come back to buy something profitable. They aren’t going to be back if they felt like they weren’t treated fairly.

    If you want to sell a product that other people are selling for far less than you can make a profit on, here’s a novel solution: don’t sell that product.

  65. Steve Says:

    “Maybe, I need to get a PhD in literature to post in forums going by your standards.”

    It’s not one extreme or the other, the vast majority of writing here is perfectly understandable. When one is trying to make a point, at the very least it’s distracting when they can’t form sentences or spell words properly. At the most it ruins their credibility.

  66. Parse Says:

    Works @ Staples, the general idea behind a manufacturer’s warranty is that no matter what you do, some percentage of your product will go bad. Therefore, the price charged for the product to begin with takes into consideration the replacement costs of the bad products. Customers in general will feel a lot happier paying 1% extra with a replacement if it breaks through no fault of your own than saving that 1% – but having to pay a full 100% more if it breaks on them.

    Compare this to how the average customer sees your store’s extended warranty:
    First of all, they’re pretty expensive – about 10% of the purchase price. 10% is a fairly nontrivial amount to pay – especially when it’s not built into the cost up front (as a manufacturer’s warranty is). Yes, the majority of the time people using warranties get more than their money’s worth, but that’s the way warranties are designed – the few who need to use it are ‘subsidized’ by those who are hedging their bets against needing it.
    Secondly, they’re being sold ‘robotically,’ where the salesperson doesn’t have any interest in the customer’s interests. When I bought an extended warranty for my car, I was able to look at the cost benefit analysis – with numbers provided from both the dealership and my own research online. The typical salesperson can’t provide that info, mainly because they don’t have access to it to begin with. If I predict that I have a one-in-ten chance of needing to use the warranty, then I’ll be more willing to pay 10% extra. If I predict I’ll have a 2% chance of needing the warranty, and all it will do is replace the product, I’ll save my 10% – the benefit just isn’t there.
    Thirdly, the company will try to get out of honoring the warranty if it can. I had the screen break on a Toshiba laptop I bought from Circuit City. I hadn’t done any more than normal usage on it, and looking online, I saw other anecdotes of the exact same thing happening. Nevertheless, when I tried to have them replace the screen under warranty, they refused as they claimed all screen damage fell under ‘accidental’ damage and thus not covered. I was able to cancel the warranty I bought from them, and receive a refund of the ‘unused portion’, as I was told when I bought the laptop that such happenings would be covered. Nearly anyone you talk to either has firsthand anecdotes of this format, or has heard them from other people.

    To wrap this up, most retail workers don’t know enough about service plans to convince me to buy them – and with as expensive and as dubious as they are, I don’t see this changing any time soon.

  67. Works @ Staples Says:

    Parse, you are absolutely correct. Cost-benefit analysis (read: value) is one of the most important factors in making a purchase, next to customer service. I’ll be the first to say that service plans are meant to make the insurance company money, period. It is up to the consumer to decide of the value is right and/or the peace of mind is worth the cost. I just think it’s silly that some people claim that “all warranties and extended service plans are evil.”

  68. Ron Says:

    Parse, I know when I worked at Staples we had issues with that all the time. However, while at Office Depot if we ever had that issue with the company we would call them and they would take care of it. Sometimes even in the event that it wasn’t covered under the warrenty that they purchased. Also, I know in the district that I worked in that if the warrenty company wouldn’t cover it we as the store would.

  69. Harry McCracken Says:

    Just wanted to stop by and thank everyone who’s contributing to this discussion calmly and politely–shoppers and folks with a retail background alike. It’s fascinating reading…

    –Harry

  70. JImmy Says:

    It is a sign of the times that all of you who are complaining either have a job pushing papers or are geeks. I manage in the real world and the plans are offered at every retail compnay I have ever worked for and they all have scripts and they all require you to sell them. It is called free market enterprise. The people who can’t sell them or don’t want to are the ones who lie and say they are not in stock. If you can not stand expectations and responsibility then you need to move on. If a customers laptop breaks down and they are past the one year warranty are any of you losers going to help that customer with their issue.NO you won’t but with these plans we can and I agree they have issues but at least we can help the customer rather than say your out of luck. There are employees who hurt the rest of us but we are trying to do a good job and help our customers. Today’s economic climate is tough and that makes some associates/managers make rash decisions. For all of you who say you hope that Office Depot goes the way of Circuit City keep in mind all of the families who will have someone out of a job or not able to feed their families or pay their bills that means they will be filing unemployment and being a drag on society and then you will be footing the bill so next time you want a company to shut down because you are one sided think of all the people you are wishing harm to before you speak. You are the type of people that are hurting rather than helping this country.

  71. Buyer @ Retailer Says:

    There is a post above that says retailers make 10-15% on a computer…even the best electronics retailers lose on average $30-$100 on every computer sold.

    This story doesn’t surprise me, but why get so upset about it…these guys enable jobs right? I think that is what we all need right now.

    If you want to be pissed at someone…be pissed at Wal-Mart. Its because of Wal-Mart other retailers are where they are with pricing.

  72. Christina Says:

    Not only is pressure unbearbale to sell these plans but maybe the employees should tell the whole truth. I bought one an when my product gave out trying to get my money back was a nightmare. To make it worse i am employeed by office depot it makes each and every day harder for me to sell them because i’d hate for soomeone to experience what i did. there was no shock at all thsi story hit many things are going on its only a matter of time before we end up like circuit city.

  73. MP Says:

    Anyone that wishes for a company to goout of business is just ignorant. It does not just affect the upper management but every employee that works for the company. I would not wish my worst ememy to loose their job. About warrenties don’t buy them if you don’t wnat to but then don’t cry when your product breaks. Just buy a new one, that’s what you tell us.

  74. Bill Says:

    This is not exactly true, I have been at Office Depot for several years, I do enphasize on teh extended warranty due to its profitability and service protection to the customer. It is a daily conversation with my stores and the associates. we as a company put much pressure on them and in fact if sales are not met and the Market Basket is not attained it is concidered poor performance. No matter how hard or devoted the associate if they do not meet the company goal, they are concedered a needs improvement and should look elsewhere for work. Its not the best policy but it works, and performance threatening pay raises are based upon it. Sell it or it will reflect as a poor performance and you will be subject to dicipline.

  75. Moo Kahn Says:

    The “big box” is at the end of the line – between know-nothing idiot clerks and unethical policy like this – get ready for more big box failures, more online purchasing… and (happily) – a return to small-town mom-and-pop retail. Mark my words. The era of the big box is over.

  76. Jaque Shi'it Says:

    I did a tradeshow gig for CompUSA back in ’02. They were trying to get into the home automation biz. Yuh. They couldn’t handle selling CDs and floppy disks – forget about $100,000 home automation installations – they didn’t stand a chance of making that fly. The “managers” in the typical CompUSA were earnng $7/hr at that time. I met a lot of really good well-meaning kids who were not getting the training they needed to take care of customers.

    The chain was completely mis-managed, run by Mexican lunatics who thought good vendor relations meant pounding the last penny of profit out of every vendor, and then making them pay premiums for the priv of putting product in the store that, if it sold, they would lose money on.

    Moo Kahn is right on the money – if you go to a big box you had better know everything about the product you’re buying, as well as where it is in the physical store. if you don’t the clerks are not going to be able to help you at all. If you want good Saturday entertainment… go and listen in to what the “sales associates” tell buyers about the gear they’re considering. They don’t have the slightest clue what they’re selling. “Yeah the Linksys Router has more range because the hard drive is more powerful….” ?..WHAT THE F..? . Fryes in California has the right approach – make it a low-price warehouse where employees’ only job is to show you where stuff is. They don’t know anything about it and aren’t expected to.

    I agree with Moo – most big boxes will be bye bye by the end of the decade. Welcome back home town retailer-content expert – we’ve missed you.

  77. Jaque Shi'it Says:

    No STeWART – you won’t get a new Netbook in a couple years – you won’t get Jack Squat because they will figure out a way to NOT honor the warranty. And.. you’ll be inconvenienced having to take the broken unit to the store… you’ll pay for shipping (both diretions) and you’ll be without it for two or three months as you wait for them to “process” your claim. You probably will get the old machine back in pieces, not repaired, and not functional. Good luck. Bottom line my friend – you wasted your $10.

  78. Paul Robinson Says:

    One time I purchased a window air conditioner at Best Buy, and it was something like $99. For $7 more, they offered a 3-year warranty, if it ever broke or failed they’d either fix it, replace it, or give me my money back.

    In this sort of situation the difference was small enough that I figured, even if I ‘lost’ the bet, and never needed service, it would still be worth it for simple peace of mind, for 7 bucks I’d amortized the enchilada and would never have to worry about problems with having air conditioning for the next three years.

    I bought a laptop at Micro Center for my sister, and did NOT get the extended warranty, as it was something like close to 50% or more of the cost, and wouldn’t you know, we had it a day or two and my sister’s bird Aragon destroyed the keyboard on it in basically about as much time as it took for my sister to turn around to get something and fiddle with it for 30-40 seconds!

    The cost to repair the laptop was a fixed fee, and about as much as the laptop cost. So I gave my sister one of my spare keyboards, which helped for a while, then she decided to give in and buy a second one. And you can bet we *did* buy the extended warranty on it. And as it turned out, it needed repairs later on – and no, the bird never got near this one – so we did come out ahead on the warranty on the second machine.

    So in my sister’s case, anything we buy that’s more than chump change, we will buy the extended warranty. Between her dogs, cats, birds (and probably her fish tank too!) they can destroy just about anything electronic she’d buy!

  79. Efeffess Says:

    Big Tuna: I was being facetious. I really wanted to know who you worked for. . No offense intended, sir. The point for my inanity was that customers could be voting with their wallets more. In reality, many people would choose to shop where others shop regardless of the risks, and people choose not to remain informed about the underlying issues. People take the action they feel is appropriate, and often businesses will capitalise on this with methods already discussed in this comments resource.

  80. Anonymous Says:

    90% of you people are killing me on this topic. To all the haters going on and on about OD’s shoddy product, or how things break just outside of the mfg warranty…Why do you think mfg’s have an R& D dept that tells them when a certain % of their items will start to fail?
    Do you think that HP warranties their printers for a year (and even then it’s a “limited” warranty) because it’s a nice odd number??

    Have you ever even used OD’s replacement plan (ext. warranty to some of you)??? Well I have. I bought a $300 HP printer, mainly because it had everything I needed + it had $160 in mail in rebates (net cost $140).

    well about 3 months past HP’s warranty expired the printer died. I called OD’s 800 that was on my service contract, and after they troubleshot and couldn’t get it to work they mailed me a $300 gift card to buy a new printer. It was the most painless thing I ever had to do with something of this sort.

    The other thing I keep hearing is the Tech Service thing. Yes most of us/you on here have some sort of Tech knowledge and can do EVERYTHING they offer. yea right. anyway there is a whole other world out there that is not quite as savvy as you are and knowing that they will never install an anti-virus, or know how to adjust settings so that the ram hog that is Vista runs faster just might appreciate the help OD is offering.

    Knowledge is power people… go get some. Quit the hating people, life is to short.

  81. Anonymous Says:

    from:Paul Robinson

    I totally agree with you Paul! my son knocked a soda onto his new laptop which fried it, and because he bought the OD warranty they took care of it in less than 4 days.
    I don’t know about all this shoddy tactics nonsense but my store is always fair and does a GREAT job!!

  82. Jason Says:

    I have to say the complaints is long and I did not read through them all but I was recently written up for not selling enough of these plans. The sames plans that office depot has. Its from the same Company NEW. The write up was not worded as not selling enough but not following selling strategies. Which I was told would lead to these service plans. Enough of these write ups and I am fired. So If a customer does not want the service plan do I tell them that if they don’t buy it I could get fired?

    I am the most knowledgeable person in my work place and if I am going to get written up for something it better be my fault and not the fault of people wanting to hold on to as much money as they can. The biggest buch of Explicit is they say If I am not getting these service plans then I must not be asking. When will these people wake up?

    My pnly question is. Is this even legal?

  83. OD guy Says:

    oh, this was highly entertaining. So I thought I should post some of my experience here. It is nice that many of you do work retail, to those who don’t, we can tell. When confronted with the possibility of losing your job, people do some amazing things. To Public Relations, coroprate has no idea what it is like to work a day in a store, we are completely disconnected from you.

    I’m somewhat of a multifaceted associate, I work primarily as a cashier by choice and a tech/supplies/DPS associate when needed. Completely cross trained I know the in’s and out’s of laptops, desktops, printers, routers, HDs, you name it. To those of you that don’t buy warranties, I time has erased all sympathy I had for you, regardless of age, gender, or nationality. At least once every two weeks I get a customer with a broken laptop/desktop/monitor/printer/hard drive/whatever and its
    ‘only a year old!’
    my immediate response is
    ‘Do you have an extended warranty?’ (Product Protection Plan)
    ‘No.’
    ‘I am sorry there is nothing I can do for you today. Perhaps you can contact the manufacturer (Nowadays I dont even bother looking at the product to figure out who made it) to have it repaired either under warranty or by cost.’

    To many times I have seen this scenario play out. Basically warranties mean one thing, either you want the product to last X number of years, or you dont. Simple as that. If you are willing to pay the price for that guarantee then fine (btw many times I’ll pass the commissions on to other associates because it simply is not enough to matter) I am happy to set that up for you. If you don’t want the life span guarantee then thats cool too. Whatever. My principle concern is making sure you get a product that is best suited for your needs. HP printers are perfect examples. I offer the extra ink and cable just so you dont have to come back to the store, but what I know is that since the HP ink is pretty much locked down in price, your going to come back to the store to buy it time and time again, whether or not you buy the extra ink now is inconsequencial to that fact. Sure you could get those nice cheap refill kits or have someone else do it (Office Max or Staples? cant remember) but then you’ll come back in a few months later after being a cheapskate and tell me your printer is broken.

    ‘Do you have an extended warranty?’
    ‘No.’
    ‘I am sorry there is nothing I can do for you today. Perhaps you can contact the manufacturer to have it repaired either under warranty or by cost.’

    Where have we heard that before? oh well. See the printer cartriges are not designed to be used more than once, refill them 10 times and guess what? They pretty much explode all over the place. Office Depot warranties work fairly well I must say, 9/10 times they will take care of the customer and if the store was in the wrong, they bill us for it. Buy it or not I don’t care (I throw away the commissions anyway to keep myself off the ‘pressure heroin’) but when it breaks, and trust me it will break, because no manufacturer wants you to keep a product for 10 years nowadays. Do not, and I mean DO NOT come to me with your problems you didn’t want it, or you didn’t have the decency to listen to some sales associate some where when you bought that piece of crap China made hardware (its all friggen made in China now..)

  84. OD Customer Says:

    This story is very disturbing to me. I never knew that employees are put under this type of pressure. What is also distrubing to me is the employees like “OD Guy”, in the previous post, that seem like they are sarcastic to customers that don’t buy the warranty and need a little help.

    If I bought an electronic item that broke just outside the warranty period and if I went into Office Depot to see what to do. I would expect some respect because, as a customer, I chose to buy it from you! Customers have a choice these days. The internet, Staples, Office Max, Best Buy etc… If I had an employee tell me “No warranty??? Sorry about your luck!” I would just not shop there anymore! OD Guy, how do you know that a customer was even offered the warranty? I’ve noticed lately at my local Office Depot that there are hardly any associates to help me like they used to. Anymore, OD is just a self service store and no different from KMart.

  85. OD guy Says:

    I appologize for coming off as sarcastic to customers, that was not my intention. Rather, if you came in to a retail store with a broken item. You should realize that we specialize in selling product. That is the primary money source. The customers I am referring to, tend to think it is somehow Office Depot’s problem their part broke. It simply is not. Do you go to your mechanic to buy a car? Do you go to a (non warranty based service) car dealership for your check engine light? The latter is not so great of an example but states my point. Office Depot sells items that it believes are decently reliable and worth the price point. Office Depot does not fix everything just because you ask for it. And you are right, sometimes people do not get offered warranties. Is your personal knowledge your priority or mine? Offering does little more than remind (and often-times irritate) people of the service. Your personal knowledge is your concern.

    In short, if you need to know who to talk to, sure I’ll point you in the right direction. But if you (like so many others) want me to fix your product. No warranty = no deal. I feel no remorse for that policy.

  86. conster Says:

    I recently made a purchase at Office Depot using my debit card, I ended up taking the item back UNOPENED and with the receipt. I was told by the associate that, without given choice to recieve the cash back or have it post to my bank account, the full purchase price would be applied back to my debit card within 5-7 days….still waiting for that to happen. So, does that mean I can go into an Office Depot and select what I want to buy and let them know that I will pay for it within 5-7 days. It only takes a minute to post to my bank account, why so long to return my money? Please don’t reply the usual… well, it takes a while to process blah, blah, blah…financial transactions are processed and posted within seconds. Maybe, it could be my bank….BANK OF AMERICA…

  87. rybalaw Says:

    I am beginning to appreciate the lack of customer service at places like Wal-mart, Sam’s club and Frys and other big boxes that simply pay the sales associates min wage salaries or slightly above it. At least they dont peddle this warranty crap

  88. Justin Says:

    I work at Office Depot as well. Yes, we are pressured to upsell. But that is the same with any retail job. I must say that usually, the plans are not worth it. But the main thing I recommend plans for is a laptop. No manufacturer will cover your laptop screen in their warranty should it crack or get broken from dropping. Replacing it is usually aroun $400-$500. The protection plan is about 3/8 of that price. yes it is a lot of money at once. but it IS worth it if you need it to be there.

  89. Store Manager Says:

    OfficeMax does this very same thing. It is so bad that Managers are threatened with their jobs. We are told that if an associate doesn’t sell these that we are to cut their hours. We, of course, are not allowed to just tell the associate that we are going to cut their hours because they aren’t selling MaxAssurance – we are to “coach them” and explain that they need to sell thes plans – then when they don’t – we have a reason to cut their hours.

  90. Phil Says:

    Okay, people that have apparently never had retail jobs.
    Stores vary.
    Some stores in a company are run by insane people who will stop at nothing to make profit. They will do flat out illegal things to make their numbers look good, and some won’t.
    I doubt that there is a flat out answer as to what companies are honest and what companies aren’t.
    Experiences vary as well. From time to time, idiots get jobs. I’m sorry, but take it up with the people who gave birth to them, not the people who hired them.
    One cashier being a mouthbreather or one store you visit being consistently awful doesn’t say anything about the rest of the company.
    Office Depot has something like 50,000 employees, myself included, and we’re not all pond scum.
    Go to any major retail chain and you will have very similar scenarios as far as absurd pressure to sell. I used to work at Blockbuster and had my job threatened pretty regularly when I didn’t sell enough rewards kits daily.
    We don’t have the “cashier script” cards at my store, and as I stated earlier, store managers vary. They have far more freedom than is logically acceptable, and as such results will vary.
    If you have a problem with a specific employee or store, CALL CUSTOMER SUPPORT AND COMPLAIN, not doing that is your own fault.

  91. Brian Says:

    Phil, we are all well aware of working in retail. Read on. No-one has a problem with the employees so there is no need for us to complain about them. On the contrary, there is concern that the employees are browbeaten and pressured beyond reason. When there is such extreme pressure employees can be pushed to stretch the truth IE tell a customer that the product is out of stock; heartily “recommend” the plans, etc… measures to push the plans on the customers. From the consumer’s point, we feel let down because the sales clerk isn’t really recommending the plan. It isn’t about providing informed advice to customers, it’s about closing sales.

    It is sad to think that your job can slip into jeopardy if you fail to sell a sufficient number of plans. Hopefully you add much more value to the company than just pushing protection plans. No-one thinks the retail clerks are pond scum. There is a reason why Blockbuster cannot retain staff, including managers.

    What we’re looking for is the hope that public embarrassment will force the companies to change their business models. The companies need to stop forcing clerks to peddle the plans by ending commissions on the plans and to stop penalizing employees who don’t sell enough of them. While there might be a short-term hit to its bottom line, in the long run it will improve sales by not actively driving away customers as it is doing now. People shop more on-line, in part, to avoid the sales pressures face to face. Retailers need to develop relationships with customers, not chase them away.

  92. Chris Says:

    I am currently employed at an Office Depot. While I am asked to sell plans, I am not pressured by my store manager or any of my managers to do so.

    I am tired of hearing how these plans are a racket. One of my customers came in and thanked me last week for reccommending the plan to them because they dropped their laptop and the screen cracked. We sent them a $699 Office Depot card and they came back in when I was there and bought a new laptop and another plan.

    People, get a grip on yourselves. We are here to help, if you don’t want to buy the plan then don’t. Don’t get mad at us and don’t bad mouth us on the web just because you can hide behind anonimity.

  93. l Says:

    which retailer has the better plan? which has the better tech customer service… i see no recommendation about where to buy the product. all of the retailers are trashed here.. where should i buy a laptop?

  94. Tech Dept. Says:

    I will tell you this. I work in a western region Office Depot as a tech guy part time and yes, the market basket stuff and the “PPP” and now the “tech services” are ridiculous. I feel so sad and hurt inside mentioning those things to the customer, and I have been able to fix their problems verbally without a 50$ “service.” That service system is so inefficient I feel it isn’t worth the miniscule commission. AND, our store did do the “we don’t have a laptop thing” three times but quickly stopped. And, it drives me nuts to see all those little old people that come into our store and get scammed into a PPP for a laptop that will be sitting on their desk. I heard that Staples doesn’t give commission on warranties AND they don’t do this market basket ridiculousness AND their employees get paid more. I still work here only because of the benefits from Microsoft, Intel, and HP -which their new company policiy is now trying to take away. It is very sad to see where this company is going. AND the rewards card isn’t as bad as some people make it out to be, however, yes, you do need to spend a little more money than most average consumers for the gift card to eb worth something.

    So, I wonder, how is Staples doing is they don’t push their uncommissioned PPP’s like us, they don’t push their non existent market basket like us? And, their employees get paid more? And, their employees are allowed to “obtain items driectly from vendor’s whome the Company purchases from” which are basicaly the rewards from taking courses with HP, Intel, and Microsoft? Yup, if I were to do a short, I would definitely do Office Depot-their stock went as low as $2.60 barely two years ago, and now, they are going to kill off their customers with their strategies to continue regaining it.

  95. Tech Dept. Says:

    In response to I, I would say, buy it any place that is the cheapest, they are all the same. And you know what, pretend you have only enough money for the laptop, and they will not say a word. And you will get your laptop. I get so many sales from repeat customers, and, I do it by being honest, not by lying about our “fix it all” services and PPP’s. And my hours have been cut, all I hear is “we’re low on payroll” while the liars get the hours.

    SOOO, I hope this elaborates upon what is going on, and if you have any questions I would love to continue on… It sucks we are stuck with these huge corporations, and little businesses barely make it to that level any more… They just get bought out or rejected by big manufacturers.

  96. johnny Says:

    Well this is nothing new and many companies are following suite. Office depot has set a the standard in customer manipulation. Staples on the other hand is taking it to the next level. Each associate in a black shirt is required to deliver a minimum of an additional $200 on top of any computer sale. Thats no big deal. Margins on computer are small thats no secret and increasing the profit keeps the doors open and the light bills paid. I get that. The problem arises when the general managers district managers and regional vice presidents put so much pressure on these associates earning minimum wage to deliver these numbers. You better believe its the customer that is going suffer. The law of the land is simple. You better average a 200 dollar market basket or we will write you up every week you don't. In a month or less you will not have a job. So when faced with that what do you think that associate is gunna do. He has rent utilities possibly married with a kid who knows bottom line is he needs that paycheck and that job. He is going to pick and chose who gets a laptop., Right Im sure as hell not going to lose my job because your a broke ass or your cheap or whatever the case may be. So if you don't spend 200 dollars, that laptop in the back was just sold or its now damaged or who knows what happened to it. Don't blame that associate he is just a puppet. the greed starts at the top and works its way down. Look to the top people think big its the DMs and the RVPS and the stock holders and CEO and CFO that are creating these policies. Of course they do not condone unethical behavior but honestly when the pressure is that great what options are they leaving these part time minimum wage employees? I have seen it all. These companies know that if they leverage your lively hood against you that you will do whatever it takes to deliver a result and quite frankly it is immoral and criminal in my mind.

  97. johnny Says:

    Your wrong about staples. we have taken the depot business model and taken it to new and drastic levels. Our sales aren't commissioned based they are if were lucky based on an overall percentage over our goals and spread across the entire department. For instance if we meet our sales goal for a particular category we get a percentage of whatever we exceeded that goal by. So if we made ten dollar over that goal we get ten percent of that ten dollars and that dollar is divided up among all those in the department based on hours. ain't that a biscuit. I do believe in the plans I've seen them help a lot of people many people just don't know how to play the game. Staples instituted its very own market basket program however its not based on a percentage. It is based on a flat dollar amount. Average 200 a week per computer or you will be written up. Get for write ups and we will replace you with someone who can get 200 dollars. Needless to say its the consumer that loses in the end.

  98. Andreew Says:

    guess what? they don't care, as long as you don't buy the plan your, money is no good.

  99. Lynn Says:

    I am a "former" Office Depot employee. In 2005, I quit my 4-year, part-time job due to the management's change to over-emphasize to everyone the sell of extended warranties. As a cashier, I was told I had to sell a warranty on every shift. Office Depot offered warranties on back-packs to computers, etc. I believe there are circumstances where it is beneficial for a customer to purchase a warranty – i.e. a small business with multiple users on a machine. This might be offset as a tax deduction and dollars for a replacement purchase. Not all customers fit into these categories. The Technology Sales people are usually the first and obvious to offer the warranty. I sometimes asked my 'check-out' customers if they were interested in an extended warranty but they always said "No thank you, the salesman has already asked me." Because I did not "push" the warranties harder; negative comments were put on my job performance reviews.
    Originally when I was hired in 2002, the emphasis was on customer service and I was proud to win customers. The big changes came with a new CEO and the mighty push for warranty sales at about 100% profit. Our newest, young salesmen got trained under this "hype". I witnessed them taking advantage of a man shopping "under the influence". They pushed warranties on a chair and a $10 lamp. I told the man that we had lamps on sale every week and he did not need to buy the lamp warranty. I later asked these two bragging warranty salesmen, "So, when are they going to change the sign out front over the door?" They looked puzzled and said, "What do you mean?" I answered, "They need to change the name of the company to "Warranty Depot" ! This major company has strong benefits for it's employees. It does severely lack an H.R. based accountability check point on the managers. I suggest an exit interview with every terminating employee to counteract some manager's "free-wheeling" ability to abuse employees of their choosing in their own make-believe world of "my store"……yes, lack of customer care will close stores….and then even big companies……..may the truth settle things as they should become.

  100. Tfu Says:

    Ya that is not a OD SOP script its a store managers idea of a good training solution.. THe Replacement plans are the same ones sold at Office Max Best Buy Toys R Us BMW etc if you know how to use them they are worth the money if you don't then well learn to K.

  101. OF depot worker Says:

    As an Office Depot Associate I feel this article makes the protection plan look stupid and a waste of money which i beg to differ because of what I have seen. While I am told to add protection plans and market baskets I'm not yelled at. Our store does well we usually sell over $1000week in PPPs and services. We even allow people to use coupons on tech purchases and services even though it states it doesn't apply towards them. Even on computer repair services if it takes less than 15 mins it's free. All my managers are cool with that.

    Once a week we have at least 2 people come back usually with a laptop or printer because has some kind of problem. Yes, I ask "did you get the protection plan on it?"

    if No I usually tell them they have to take it up with manufacture. Some people just do not understand the electronics we sell are not an Office Depot brand and we simply refund or fix your laptop you bought 6 months ago. If you buy any electronics from office depot you will always be asked if your interested in the PPP. If you say "NO" you acknowledge you accept our 14 day return for tech items and will use the manufactures warranty. We are a company and we must produce profit in order for me and my team members to be paid. Just because you don't like the fact we follow our return policy that makes it ok for you to say office depot sucks?

    If Yes I will either exchange for the same item or whatever the customer wants or give them a refund in full in a store gift card. Simple as that you buy a cheap dual core laptop for $299.99 and get the premium replacement plant ($99.99) you are covered for 2 years for anything. You drop it, run it over, chop it in half, spill beverages on it, as long as you have the laptop pieces we will replace it or refund in a gift card. Not to mention you get a free Lithium battery replacement, just call the phone # on the PPP and they will send you a new one in 5 day or less. You can even use the PPP to upgrade to new faster computer in 2 years.

    Like I said while I am pressured to sell'em I'm not yelled at for not selling a $5 protection plan on a $8.99 flash drive because my boss understands it's not worth it.

    At office Depot the only warranties I recommend for a home consumers

    -Premium plans for PC/laptops especially if you lack computer knowledge. All premium plans give you a free shipped battery replacement when you call the # in 5 days or less.

    -Protection Plan for Cameras, Portable HDs, and GPSs, all have accidental damage built in to the standard plan. Ex.(buy a $99.99 camera, HD, GPS, 2 year replacement with accidental damage $11.99)

    -Protection plans for Printers Ex (buy a new printer for $99.99 2 year $12.99) or $30 for a printer kit which comes with the PPP, 10' USB gold platted cable, cable ties, and 250 sheets of paper and we can set up the printer for you at the store ( trust me you would not believe how many times times people come back the next day because they can't set it up or install the ink cartridge right).

    -Protection plan for chairs (usually only if you have pets or if use it a lot). Ex (buy a $149.99 chair and we will assemble it and give you 2 years protection for any type of damage and I mean any for $19.99 Best part you call the # they send you a new one, no charge shipping, and you can keep your old chair).

  102. Dan Says:

    Service plans like the one on a laptop that gives a FREE battery are a great idea as they pay for themselves over the life of the contract. In addition you have the peace of mind that when you do have any other problem that you have coverage. I have seen so many smug people like you regurgitate Howard Clark's words and then when they have a problem do everything from cry to lie that we did not offer them a plan or they did not understand or somehow it was our fault they listened to people like you. If you personally have the money to replace your item, fine, then take the chance but most of us do not have that unlimited amount of cash to replace our stuff when it breaks.

    It is pretty mean of you to misinform the public on this and then not be there to when they need help as opposed to the sales people who have to hear the complaints that we should have been more informative or more over we should now fix the thing they broke after they choose on YOUR advice to not protect.

    BE RESPONIBLE at least tell people the rate of repair and accidents on portable eletronics so they can make an informed choice.

  103. Former Customer Says:

    This was our experience: We bought a laptop for over $400 on sale. It "came with" the extended warranty 2 year protection plan and some "optimization plan" included as part of the advertised tag price. We asked if we could just buy the laptop, but no, we were told these plans came with it.

    They rung the plans up separately, with the cost of the computer on the receipt being $239. But for us, the entire cost of the computer was $400 something, so we asked why they rang up these things separately. We were assured that the plans had to show up separately on the receipt in order for the warranty company to acknowledge it, but that it was all part of the cost of the computer.

    So when our computer broke after only a year and a half of using it, I took it to our local office depot. (We've moved since buying it and can't take it to the store we bought it from). The store, of course, could not help us. We had to call the tech department, etc. So I did. The "tech department" does not actually belong to Office Depot; they are some other company. And they only deal with the computer up to what they consider to be the price of the computer itself ($239), not what it actually cost us (remember we were told that the extended warranty was all part of the price of the computer when we bought it). So they said they would send us a box within 3-5 business days to determine whether they could fix it for less than $239. If not, we would be refunded the $239. This really irritated me since for us the purchase price of the computer was over $400 as per the price tag and the "included" warranty upgrade, but the tech said so sorry but the warranty was not part of the price of the computer but a separate purchase and did not know why we were told that it was and that was an issue between us and Office Depot that they could not deal with.

    My husband used to work for HP's service department (it's an HP laptop) and said that what was wrong with it should not cost that much for them to fix at their cost for parts so it should be okay. He called the service department to specify what was wrong with it and they reiterated they'd send the box within 3-5 business days to take a look at it, etc.

    A week and a half later, he got a phone cal from the service department saying they had determined our computer was unfixable. My husband replied that we had still had the computer and that they hadn't looked at it yet. The person calling agreed to look into it and ask the service department to send the box. Yesterday (another week and a half later), we got a letter in the mail stating that our computer could not be fixed and including a $239 gift card for Office Depot.

    So be warned: even if you get the warranty, it could very well be worthless as it was in our case. (Unless you consider a gift card for half the purchase price of the product for a store that repeatedly lied to you to be worth something.) The warranty company is not even part of Office Depot, so they conveniently do not deal with anything the store told us when we purchased the computer, like being told that the warranty was included in the cost of the computer. And Office Depot conveniently does not deal with anything the warranty company said or did, such as not even looking at our computer as promised before they determined it could not be fixed. NO ONE said anything about a gift card; we were told the warranty plan ensured that our computer would be either fixed or replaced. The service tech said we'd get a refund, which I was cranky enough about since it was for about half of what we paid; a refund is not the same thing as a gift card. I do take responsibility for taking the sales clerk's word about the warranty rather than looking into it to find out about the gift card. However, the only other computers I've bought were from Costco, which is great about warranties, so it didn't occur to me that I would be lied to about how the warranty works and that the cost of the computer included the warranty and optimization plan rather than them being two separate purchases (that part I don't take responsibility for, they just flat out lied).

    Now we have a gift card for a store we never want to set foot in again AND a broken computer.

  104. LWT Says:

    Unfortunately some OD workers will straight out lie (sometimes out of ignorance sometimes not) about what the Warranty or PPP covers. I talk to people weekly who were given false promises that we could fix everything anything under the sun on their laptop (software and hardware) when the actual terms of the protection are clearly laid out in the documents they sign.

    As far as I see it there are two problems here:
    1. OD Associates lying or misinforming out of ignorance is completely unacceptable, however these people will never be fired because they make the company lots of money.

    2. Customers need to READ THE WHOLE AGREEMENT. I feel bad for people who believe what they are told, but only to a point. If you are going to spend that much money on a PPP or Warranty take the 10 minutes to read and understand exactly what it does and doesn't cover. Don't take someones word for it, end of story.

  105. Jeffery Moore Says:

    I don't agree with the "just go somewhere else, this is nothing new" mentality. When companies use shady techniques to make money, I don't care if 1 billion other companies do, or have done, the same thing. In the information age, folks should post their opinions online. If nothing else, so that people who have just been duped by such a scam can Google it and confirm their suspicions. I was talked into buying one of these plans by a salesman who kept saying he didn't work on commission; he just wanted me to be satisfied. After the purchase was made and the guy gave "his number" to the cashier ringing me up, I knew his positive attitude was fake and he had lied to me. Now I've confirmed this by reading this article and the responses to it. Thanks to the folks who have posted their opinions and not "just gone somewhere else". I won't be going back to OD now. No matter how many companies do this kind of thing, I won't endorse or patronize them if I know about it.

  106. JDD Says:

    Many of the posters are touting either their own personal experiences or the experiences that they have supposedly heard of but never experienced themselves, i.e. that the store has an item in stock when it truly does not. Don't generalize a whole chain of stores that employs tens of thousands of people because one single worker would rather lie than have a computer go out without an attachment. Talk about being narrow minded! "A brown dog bit me so all brown dogs bite people."

  107. concerned worker Says:

    As an employee at OD, we have goals we have to make in order to keep in business. Most OD stores do not have these signs up and we don't purposfully lie to any costomer. If we have notebooks that you want, we are not going to lose one sale just to try to make another. That would be idiotic. And about us selling out, we don't order our inventory. It automatically orders over our computer system when we run out. This means it may take a few days for something to come in if we ran out quickly, and it also means our systems are thrown off when people come into our stores and steal things. Customers are not always aware of everything that goes on in the background of stores. I have never pushed anyone to buy a plan. I ask one time and explain it in full and if they say no, then they say no. Most of us are not going to bug our customers about it.

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