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How Office Depot Pushes Service Plans On Customers

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the gently-with-a-chain-saw dept.

Businesses 417

Harry writes "I was amused, appalled, and angry — yes, all three — when I spotted signs above every register at my local Office Depot with handy scripts for clerks to use in 'recommending' that customers buy extra-cost, extremely profitable protection plans. And now Laptop Magazine has posted an eye-opening investigative report that charges local Office Depot stores with instructing staffers to lie and tell people who want to buy laptops without service plans that they're out of stock." Update: 03/13 00:53 GMT by T : An employee with Office Depot, somewhere in the southeastern US, wrote to respond to this story as a employee of the company, but in his off time and not in any official capacity: "I will only say that what is described in your article and the Laptop Mag article is not something that occurs across the entire company as sanctioned or ordered by the Corporate Higher Ups and is certainly nothing I have experienced as a 10-year employee of the company, we want sales. Yes, we want add-ons, but we will take the sales regardless."

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417 comments

The More You Read the Uglier It Gets (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158513)

I've seen these sheets and the further down you read the uglier it gets:

... if the customer somehow still refuses to purchase a warranty plan and can see the SKU on display, assess whether or not you could outrun the customer:

  • If YES, grab the company knife from underneath the counter and ask the customer to think of the extended warranty as "protection money."
  • If NO and you haven't already seen the victim ... er ... customer's credit card, grab the company camera under the counter and shoot photos as they leave the store. Be sure to get their license plate numbers clearly photographed and submit all photos in a dossier clearly marked "OPEN SEASON" to the Scientology division of Office Depot.

Remember, you're helping them by saving them the loss N years from now when it breaks and they didn't buy an N + 1 year warranty.

Re:The More You Read the Uglier It Gets (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159245)

Remember, you're helping them by saving them the loss N years from now when it breaks and they didn't buy an N + 1 year warranty.

I'm reminded of a certain really bad thriller starring Judd Nelson as a serial killer. He'd always inform his victims that he was there to "help" them.

Re:The More You Read the Uglier It Gets (3, Interesting)

vindimy (941049) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159345)

Everyone talks about Circuit City, and indeed, these news are nothing new... Every electronics outlet does that to stay competitive, no? If everyone steals, you either steal too, or go out of business.

Here's an account [consumerist.com] of a former Circuit City employee.

Better Question (5, Insightful)

moniker127 (1290002) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158515)

Why would you buy a computer at office depot?

Re:Better Question (5, Funny)

Narnie (1349029) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158627)

Why would you buy a computer at office depot?

Because you need something with enough mass to make it through the store window when you plan on returning it?

Because you don't feel satisfied with a computer purchase unless you know you've been ripped off?

Because Office Depot is the only place that will extend you credit because you put a months worth of hookers and blow on your creditcard?

I smell an ad campaign (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159581)

"I once threw a hooker who ripped me off through a store window. That's why I shop at Office Depot'

Re:Better Question (5, Insightful)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158635)

Why would you buy a computer at office depot?

Not so long ago you could have said the same thing about Best Buy - why would you buy a computer from them?

If you can find a better deal at Office Depot, why not?

Re:Better Question (0, Redundant)

The_Rook (136658) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159153)

a little while ago you could have said the same about circuit city. and now, oh...

I bought mine... at Circuit City (4, Interesting)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158907)

Believe it or not, I bought my current PC at Circuit City. I know, I know. But at the time, Circuit City had the same model HP Pavilion for as little or less than anyone online, with the additional advantage that I could jump on the bus and go buy one today, rather than having to wait around for UPS to deliver it. A week later, Amazon.com dropped the price by $50, so I went back to Circuit City and said, "Hey! I you guys ripped me off!" The nice kid at the cash register promptly credited $50 to my card. Total time without a working computer: 18 hours. Total money lost due to not shopping online: $0.

Am I sorry they're out of business?

I dunno. Not really.

Re:I bought mine... at Circuit City (2, Insightful)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159315)

Am I sorry they're out of business?

I dunno. Not really.

Good. You shouldn't be sorry. It's not your fault they're finished. It's everyone who didn't buy their computers from Circuit City, thereby denying Circuit City a profit from the consumer's money.

Re:I bought mine... at Circuit City (1)

sxltrex (198448) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159583)

Let me see if I've got this right. You found the best deal in town, made the purchase, a different retailer a week later lowers their price to $50 below what you paid, so you return to the place of your purchase to complain that you were ripped off? I don't think that phrase means what you think it means.

Re:I bought mine... at Circuit City (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159659)

Future Shop and Best Buy also offer a service like this, something along the lines of if what you bought can be found cheaper somewhere else for 30 days after you buy it you can get a refund for the difference. The only requirement was that you had to have a copy of the ad showing the lower price.

Re:Better Question (1)

dcooper_db9 (1044858) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159499)

Why not? I've noticed that prices at office supply store are sometimes deeply discounted. I suspect that people who pay for the warranties are subsidizing the rest of us.

My parents bought a computer from Dell many years ago. When it turned out to have a problem, Dell refused to honor the extended warranty. I haven't paid for a PC warranty since then (or bought from Dell). If I'm buying off the shelf it doesn't matter where I get it. It's all about price.

Re:Better Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159649)

I bought a printer (HP LaserJet 1320) from them, because they had the best price at the time. (And no, I didn't buy an extended warranty.)

Company or store policy? (5, Insightful)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158579)

Heh, that sounds about right.

I worked for OfficeMax a few years ago. Everybody who worked there received commissions for selling those overpriced plans to customers.

I'm wondering if the examples discussed in TFA are a companywide policy a la Best Buy with their seperate pricing for internet and intranet, or the brainchild of some greedy store manager. When I worked as a film-developer for a major drugstore chain, the store manager approached me about finding a way to cheat customers using standard processing for customers who turned in their film with premium envelopes(which means that customers who wanted offsite "premium" processing would instead have their stuff done in-house, saving us tons of cash and leaving us hoping that the customer wouldn't notice the lack of the extra features they wanted ^_^).

My biggest mistake in that job was mentioning the word "ethics" to my manager. I was never promoted ^_^

Re:Company or store policy? (4, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158911)

Office Depot does not pay commissions. Instead, they just threaten your job if you don't sell enough. Since the employees are easy replaceable, even at near-minimum-wage, they don't have to care.

Yes, I used to work there as a 'customer service representative' (or some stupid title) and I was told 'never lie', etc etc... And then told that if I didn't sell enough plans there would be problems.

I refused to lie and refused to even -try- to sell the plans to people who didn't want them. Most of the time, I didn't even mention them. The only way I survived was that I was the -only- employee with any actual computer knowledge. I could actually fix computers where others couldn't even name the parts if they weren't labeled. (Okay, there were a couple that could install RAM, if they -had- to.)

They don't just push those plans, though. They also push overpriced ink, paper, cords, power strips... Anything and everything to add money to that sale.

Obviously, the employees hate that shit as much as the customers do. I'm not surprised that they've resorted to lying directly from management to the customer to try to sell the extras.

The one article claims a really odd commission system... While it wasn't in effect when I was there, it was the kind of bullshit they'd pull, so it might be true. They're really, really cheap though, so I seriously doubt it's true.

Re:Company or store policy? (4, Interesting)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159197)

Obviously, the employees hate that shit as much as the customers do.

Yes! Laymen, please keep that in mind the next time you get that crap from one of us working that shit job. Also know that those bullshit policies are often enforced by secret shoppers. Secret shoppers are people who work for agencies who are paid by the company to monitor employee behavioral compliance.

OfficeMax didn't have them then, but the drugstore chain did. In that case, the random weekly visits measured for all of the employees working in the store(YMMV):

Did the employee greet you with a smile?
Did the employee ask you if you found everything you wanted?
Did the employee offer to take(or call somebody to take) you to the item?
Did the employee offer a friendly parting comment?


I never found out for sure, but I've heard that store managers receive bonuses for keeping payrolls low. My store manager was paid 63K a year while the understaffed underlings often work for minimum wages. Keep that in mind the next time you visit a drug or grocery store with 30 people in line being served by only 2 cashiers.

Re:Company or store policy? (3, Informative)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159517)

"I never found out for sure, but I've heard that store managers receive bonuses for keeping payrolls low. My store manager was paid 63K a year while the understaffed underlings often work for minimum wages. Keep that in mind the next time you visit a drug or grocery store with 30 people in line being served by only 2 cashiers."

Oh please. Everything up until that paragraph I would buy as plausible. But do you know WHY they pay their employees so little ? Because people are willing to take the jobs at those wages. Do you know why they only have 2 cashiers working ? Because people are willing to wait in line a little longer to pay cheaper prices (otherwise Walmart would not be in business, let alone so huge).

Do you know why the employer wants to pay as little for labour as possible ? Because labour is an operational cost, just like leasing office space, buying equipment and paying for advertising etc. EVERYONE, whether you're a business owner or not, always wants to sell high and buy low. That's not greed. It's common sense. However, what people really don't get about it is that by keeping operational costs down, the prices get kept down. So while people's wages may be lower, their costs of living is also lower. Raise the wages, raise the prices. We all make more money but not really because everything costs more.

As for managers, managers are not entrepreneurs. They are hired by the owners to oversee departments and divisions. Their wages are just as much an operational cost as any other employee's. Now, sure, of course they will do what they can to get a higher pay for doing less work, just like any employee will. But in the end the entrepreneur needs to keep ALL costs down in order to compete with other businesses. You know, to stay in business.

So if the owners are paying the managers ridiculously large wages while the people actually doing the "real work" are getting cheated then the entrepreneur will not be in business very long. It will only take ONE company to pay his manager just a little less (since apparently there's so much of an inflated salary to cut into right there), and pay his employees better (he'll take all the good employees and undermine his competitors on service) and presto, he's got the market share.

Re:Company or store policy? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159699)

no, he's right. I used to work at a Blockbuster and if the overall payroll for the week was lower (presumably there were a few set levels), the store manager got a cash bonus. i acknowledge that your free market bs about people taking the jobs and the consumers putting up with it is correct, but the bonus for low payroll is true. it's not illegal, it's not really immoral, it's just a shitty policy from a store that doesn't care about it's customers and is not surprisingly going under.

Re:Company or store policy? (3, Interesting)

sahonen (680948) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158951)

I worked for OfficeMax a few years ago. Everybody who worked there received commissions for selling those overpriced plans to customers.

OfficeMax was my shitty high school job, I had the same thing... I don't think I'll ever forget the poor customer who bought the protection plan on a $5 mouse because I was following the script and she didn't know how to say "no." I stopped following the script after that.

Re:Company or store policy? (0, Troll)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159597)

Yeah. Poor woman who can't think for herself. It's such a shame that people in general are such sheep. If only they'd realize that they're being brainwashed and have puppet strings. Free will is an illusion and we're all slaves to business who are somehow not really people or consumers like the masses. Thank heavens the customers after her got you or they'd have all been forced against their will to pay for something that they didn't want.

Could you be any more insulting to your species ?

Re:Company or store policy? (1, Insightful)

Jurily (900488) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159033)

My biggest mistake in that job was mentioning the word "ethics" to my manager. I was never promoted ^_^

Heh. I actually used the sentence "If you want to be ripped off that badly, I can get a colleague for you, but I won't sell you this" once. I was supposed to sell phone plans and horribly crappy and overpriced ADSL connections together. The phone part was good though.

I worked a total of four days there.

Re:Company or store policy? (5, Interesting)

Yeef (978352) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159609)

I used to work at the local Best Buy and, like most big retailers, they had us pushing the service plans and other stupid add-ons (magazine subscriptions, credit cards, etc). While they never told us to lie, they'd often tell us to omit mentioning any potential negatives unless the customer specifically asked about it.

Best Buy employees don't work on commission, true, but of course they gave more hours to the people that managed to get more customers to sign up for service plans. There's nothing wrong with that. Now, most of my co-workers were honest people; it wasn't uncommon to see some of them give the customers faulty information, but it was usually out of ignorance rather than trying to purposely be deceptive.

There was a handful of people, though, that would tell outright falsehoods to customers to get them to get a service plan or what have you. There was one employee in particular that would sign people up for the magazine subscriptions without even asking then (the 'free' trial that they charge you for after the 8th week if you don't cancel).

Of course, since I worked Customer Service I was the one who had to deal with all of the angry customers. Easily the most stressful job I've ever had. On the one side I had customers venting their frustrations at me. Then, with the way Best Buy's hierarchy is set up (there were about 12 managers, all with the same level of authority and conflicting sets of instructions) it was chaos trying to figure out exactly what they expected from me. So, I simply stuck to the official store policy and, of course, I got 'spoken to' (but not written up, because they really wouldn't have a leg to stand on) for accepting too many returns even though I was following company policy to the letter. After putting up with that shit for two years, I'd finally had enough and quit.

I suppose I'm going off on a tangent here, so let me get back on topic. I think that, with the exception of a few people, most retail employees loathe using lying to people, even if only through omission. Unfortunately, the way the system is setup, there isn't really much of a choice. I was fortunate enough that I could afford to quit a job that I hated (and that was back when the economy was still relatively good). But not everyone has that luxury. If you have a family to support or are a student paying your own tuition (as a lot of my co-workers were) it's not really an option. When I was working at Best Buy, the only people there that seemed to genuinely enjoy their job, other than the managers, were the people working in the warehouse (away from the customers). Most everyone else just sort of begrudgingly accepted that things could be worse and did their best to bear it.

Appalled? (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158587)

Wow, if you get appalled over scripts for cashiers, wait until you find out about telemarketers, what THEY have. I fear the day you learn about politician's speech writers. Oh, and did you know? Those bills that get passed through congress, often the congresspeople DON'T EVEN READ THEM.

OK I'll stop now to keep your rage meter from going overboard.

(This message brought to you from the 'please channel your anger towards things that actually matter dept').

Man, I must be feeling bitter today.

Things that matter? (1)

gknoy (899301) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158873)

> This message brought to you from the 'please channel your anger towards things that actually matter dept

I believe that when you say "things that actually matter", you really mean "things that you feel you can change". Politicians not reading bills is Very Bad -- but there's little one feels they can do about it.

Lieing or just dumb? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158605)

I bought a paper cutter (the kind with the circular blade you slide up and down) the other day from Office Depot. I asked if they sold replacement blades. The girl behind the counter swore up and down that if I bought the $10.49 replacement plan and the blade dulled I could bring the thing back and get a replacement of the entire paper cutter. This was on a $50 item.

I don't know if she was lieing or just dumb, but she swore up and down 3 times that was the policy. I laughed and refused to waste the money.

the slide shown (2, Insightful)

bugs2squash (1132591) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158609)

did not look that bad to me. It seemed to stick to the facts. They are supposed to make money

Re:the slide shown (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158941)

Not at all. The true reason the salesperson recommends the extended warranty is because they get commission. The reason given in the script is an unrelated fact, so by following the script the salesperson is lying.

Re:the slide shown (5, Insightful)

vux984 (928602) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159147)

Not at all. The true reason the salesperson recommends the extended warranty is because they get commission. The reason given in the script is an unrelated fact, so by following the script the salesperson is lying.

No. By following the script the sales person is giving you a true reason why you might want to buy it. It doesn't happen to be the reason he wants to sell it to you, but what has that got to do with anything?

The true reason the store exists at all is to extract money from customers. So if I walk in an ask to buy a single pen, and an employee suggests buying the 3 pack for twice the price 'because you get 2 for the price of 1' he isn't lying to me. Its the truth, and perhaps even a good reason to buy the 3 pack.

The fact that he makes more money from the sale this way is the reason he suggested it, but that doesn't make the rest of the conversation a lie.

Re:the slide shown (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159709)

From dictionary.com:

recommend

  1. to present as worthy of confidence, acceptance, use, etc.; commend; mention favorably: to recommend an applicant for a job; to recommend a book.
  2. to represent or urge as advisable or expedient: to recommend caution.
  3. to advise, as an alternative; suggest (a choice, course of action, etc.) as appropriate, beneficial, or the like: He recommended the blue-plate special. The doctor recommended special exercises for her.
  4. to make desirable or attractive: a plan that has very little to recommend it.

Common usage of "recommend" implies a benefit to the person being recommended to. In your example the salesperson can reasonably assume this to be true, as many people want more than one pen for cheap, but in the case of extended warranties the salesperson knows it is very unlikely to be beneficial to the customer. The intention is to trick the customer into buying something they don't need, so this is not using "recommend" as in common English usage.

Nothing new (1)

Slumdog (1460213) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158611)

America is the land of opportunity and innovation in science and business. All Office Depot has done is work out an innovative way to generate extra profit for their company. I'm sure they consulted their legal department to find out if federal and state laws allow this innovative method of training salesman to follow a sales flowchart.

There ought to be a patent on this technique! Infact, the only hurdle is used-car salesmen who might sue claiming prior art (but thats a minor inconvenience)

Re:Nothing new (1)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159207)

the only hurdle is used-car salesmen who might sue claiming prior art

I don't know why people slag off used-car salesmen. I've bought a lot of cars from used-car salesmen, and paid a price commensurate with the vehicle I was getting. Cheapest car was the absolutely immaculate Volvo 340 for £30 ("Get it off the lot before someone sees it, jeez, just get it out of here") that had to be towed away and repaired in the next street ;-) There's a refreshing honesty in "Warranty? Yes, it'll get at least as far as the gate, then it's all your problem. Lose the VAT for cash? Certainly, sir..."

Re:Nothing new (1)

icannotthinkofaname (1480543) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159419)

I don't know why people slag off used-car salesmen.

...um...wasn't that the car analogy for this thread? Seemed like it from where I was standing.

Am I the only one ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158649)

that read "How Office Depot Pushes..." as "Home Depot Pushes..." and wondered why you'd want a service plan for a screwdriver and a sheet of plywood?

Depot dumbness (4, Informative)

pilgrim23 (716938) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158651)

I bought a keyboard yesterday. I was asked if I wanted a warranty. I said "On a keyboard?" with a sardonic sound. It went right over her head. Then she put a tape over the edge of the box "Whats that?" I asked "our return policy" she said. "So if I break the tape I cannot return it? You do realize I need to open the box." " I'm sorry sir, that is the policy" she smartly replied. I left with my wallet, but not wits intact...

Re:Depot dumbness (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158811)

In the UK it helps if you know the trading laws. That won't prevent a cashier calling in help from the manager to try and BS you, but they do tend to recognise someone who knows what he's talking about.

Talking of laws, there is also a way to reverse the situation and take advantage of a shop. In the UK, credit agreements have a legal 30 day "change your mind" cooling off period, and if you return the goods (in decent state, of course), the shop has to roll back the credit as if it never happened (read: no charges apply). This means you could get yourself a free 30 day loan of a decent camera for whatever event you're trying to shoot, just make sure you buy it on credit - even if you have the cash..

Re:Depot dumbness (3, Insightful)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159681)

Meanwhile everyone has a higher cost of living because stores need to account for the higher costs of complying with such regulations (being out perfectly good inventory that comes back damaged, having to pay more for labour to deal with accepting returns and the turn-around etc.) which goes straight on to the prices.

If the majority thinks that the cost is worth it, then it doesn't matter. They're getting something for it. People just need to realize that those types of regulations don't purely help consumers and hurt businesses. They have a cost associated that everyone has to bear.

On the flip side, without those regulations you can always turn around and resell a product that you realize that you don't want. You might still take a loss, but then, you went out and bought a product you didn't really want. Personally I'd rather people who buy products that they don't want take the loss instead of everyone.

Well, that's one problem I won't have (1, Redundant)

istartedi (132515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159721)

I found one vintage keyboard model that I like, and I've stuck with it, accumulating them when they come up on eBay and various other places. The one I'm typing on now has dual English-Japanese key caps on it which, IMHO, is cool and different. I have to use an AT to PS2 converter, which I plug into a PS2 to USB converter. If anything supersedes USB (doesn't seem likely) it might get really ugly though. If it weren't for the fact that most old equipment uses more power than new equipment I'd probably get everything refurb. Yeah... guys like me killed the consumer driven economy. Sorry 'bout that, oops! My bad. Now, let's see if this gets attached to the proper thread. Somehow my original reply got attached to the next comment after yours...

Anonymous Coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158657)

Sounds like Office Depot has been busy hiring all the former Circuit City execs ...

Well, that's one problem I'll never have (2, Funny)

istartedi (132515) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159667)

I found one vintage keyboard model that I like, and I've stuck with it, accumulating them when they come up on eBay and various other places. The one I'm typing on now has dual English-Japanese key caps on it which, IMHO, is cool and different. I have to use an AT to PS2 converter, which I plug into a PS2 to USB converter. If anything supersedes USB (doesn't seem likely) it might get really ugly though.

Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (4, Interesting)

Doug52392 (1094585) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158665)

About a year ago, I walked into a local Best Buy, and was shocked, appalled, angry, but not surprised, to see anti-filesharing propaganda set up throughout the store.

I counted over 25 fliers hanging on walls, telling people "DOWNLOADING IS A CRIME!", and other propaganda. The most elaborate display they set up was in the MP3 Players section of the store. They mounted two flashing strobe lights on top of a display, designed to look like a police car's flashing lights. They then placed a large sign stating that "DOWNLOADING IS A CRIME. DON'T GO TO JAIL, DON'T DOWNLOAD".

So I asked one of the employees about the signs. They said it was an order by their upper management (as in, from their corporate offices). I then asked if they believed that downloading music is a criminal offense that can result in arrest, as they clearly try to say. They did not know. Some of them said "Yes", while others didn't answer the question.

Needless to say, I guess people complained, because the signs were gone after a while...

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (5, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158723)

"Sir, I saw you put those CDs in your pants. Are you stealing them?"
"Yes, well I wasn't going to download these, but then I saw your sign..."

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (5, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158775)

-wasn't
+was

Guess I should have bought an extended warranty on my original post.

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (3, Funny)

arekusu_ou (1344373) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159349)

Sir, you didn't purchase any music CDs today, so I must believe you have stolen CDs. Please strip naked and prepare for a cavity search. On another note, remember to have your handy RIAA Support badge worn for a low low purchase price of $100 to avoid being hassled on the way out of our store.

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (2, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158815)

Needless to say, I guess people complained, because the signs were gone after a while...

Actually, I think it's more likely that the [RI|MP]AA paid to advertise at Best Buy, the same way that technology companies can buy end-of-aisle display placement. When the money ran out, the ads came down.

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (1)

Locklin (1074657) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158833)

Funny... I bought a DVD player from BestBuy last boxing day. The employee told me he has the same model and it played every DivX file he has downloaded.

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159047)

Perhaps they were gone because they were "downloaded" to the back of someone's car. (using their definition of downloading)

The signs look real nice up on our wall next to the "shoplifting is a crime" signs :)

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (1)

dfsmith (960400) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159185)

They probably came down because of those nice, decent folks at iTunes or Amazon downloads. You know: the ones with lawyers.

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (0)

dedazo (737510) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159187)

I then asked if they believed that downloading music is a criminal offense that can result in arrest

I hope they answered "yes", because it is. Followed by "however, the copyright system is completely broken and you shouldn't go to jail or otherwise punished for that". Under current law however, you can be punished for it.

There's a difference between how you want the legal system to function and how it actually works.

Re:Best Buy tried this as well to "fight" piracy. (2, Funny)

PunditGuy (1073446) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159271)

Damn it! Aunt Mabel bought me this iTunes card, but since downloading is a crime...

The Script.. (4, Insightful)

$1uck (710826) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158679)

"This _____ is eligible for our replacement plan. I recommend it because if the product fails after the manufacturer's warranty, it will be replaced with an Office Depot Merchandise card for the full price you are paying today."
If this shocks, amazes, or angers you. Get a fucking life. How is this news at all? If they want to lose a sale b/c they're not selling a protection plan, well I would think they are just shooting themselves in the foot.

Re:The Script.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158985)

Whoa? Full purchase price? Not a replacement item? Not after they try to get it repaired? That actually might be worth doing...

My problem with those plans is that they always give you the run around when you try to make them honor them. "They don't make this anymore," or "we don't have stock on this item," or whatever lame excuse they give always slows things down. "That's not my problem" doesn't seem to register with them until I've said it a half dozen times.

Re:The Script.. (1)

Exawatt (1463719) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159701)

That's what we do at Staples with the office chairs. If we don't carry it and can't order it, we'll just give you the money back on a cash card. b We make a killing off furniture anyway, so you can replace that chair five times and we're still making a profit.

Re:The Script.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159225)

This is what they tell you but this is not what the replacement plan says when you read it. I am not teh lawyer, but in California anything /written/ in a contract trumps any (lies) the salesperson told you when you bough it.

I suppose if the company has a written policy to lie about the plan then you have a case. A generic statement like 'fails' is open to a lot of interpretation though. (USB hard drives can 'fail' if you drop them into the toilet...)

Re:The Script.. (1)

garett_spencley (193892) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159295)

Also, while people might not like the sales pitch, by selling protection plans the company is able to lower the prices of it's products to compete. It's competitors follow suit to remain competitive and, while we might have to listen to a slightly annoying 2 second sales pitch, we ALL pay less for hardware as a result.

Reminds me of OMAX.. (3, Informative)

mackinaw_apx (1444371) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158691)

I used to work for Office Max for over a year. These exact same employee "policies" were in place there too.. though our plans were called "Max Advantage". We'd be told to only help customers on the floor that were looking at or thinking of purchasing items that carried a service plan... and got "write ups" if we didn't sell X amt. of plans per month. And since the day I quit, I haven't worked retail again...

Re:Reminds me of OMAX.. (1)

Itninja (937614) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159065)

I started working for Office Max when they were still called Biz Mart. Then it was called 'Biz Advantage' and the manager would give daily pep talks over the intercom before we opened reminding us that Biz Advantage was 'pure profit'. They had contests to see who would sell the most, but they never wrote anyone up for not selling them. But that was back in the early 1990's so things may have gotten more cut throat since then. I too swore off retail after my experience in the office supply mega store industry. I went into IT and never looked back.

Re:Reminds me of OMAX.. (1)

vilain (127070) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159479)

I bought a bunch of _paper_ and office supplies, maybe about $50 worth or so. The sales associate kept insisting that I had to apply for a Office Max preferred customer card but I kept refusing. I said I rather buy the stuff elsewhere than give them my personal info. He finally shut up. I paid cash and walked out.

I get the same thing with Safeway whenever I pick up something there.

Yabbut... (4, Funny)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158703)

Wait till they get a patent on this method!

Re:Yabbut... (3, Funny)

Bromskloss (750445) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159247)

Wait till they get a patent on this method!

Exactly. We have the patent system so that new ideas do not become widely available to society, thereby confining the damage.

Pushing the hell out of service plans in retail... (1, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158819)

Really worked well for these guys [compusa.com], and of course these guys, too [circuitcity.com]. Sounds like a great idea to apply to more retailers. I wonder, can I buy an extended warranty on a case of pens from Office Depot as well? Damned things keep breaking on me.... And how about these? [officedepot.com] They might break, too.

Maybe they're lying (1)

joeflies (529536) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158839)

but I think it has to do more with poorly trained employees and managers who don't care about the top line revenue of the sale, and rather focused on driving just the attachment rate. I don't think this is limited to Office Depot because you can go to any car dealer and most electronic shops and get the same story.

Something about this story doesn't add up though. From the article "We were surprised by how aggressively the sales associate tried to convince us not to buy the system and then, when we said we still wanted it, how aggressively he tried to convince us to buy its corresponding tech services.". I thought the point the article is supposed to be making is that the rep will say it's out of stock AFTER they refuse the corresponding tech services, not before.

Now the people who call my cell phone warning me "This is the second notice that your car warranty has expired", well those people ARE lying.

I have -2 words- for Office Depot (1)

david.emery (127135) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158847)

"Circuit City".

Not that I'd buy tech there in any event (I'm one of those smarmy Mac guys), but this certainly means I'll minimize my purchases to only those staples (pun possibly intended) like paper and pencils.

Appalled and angry? Deal with it. (2, Informative)

Xaximus (1361711) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158849)

Why would anybody be appalled and angry at a store for trying to upsell a customer? That's business, and there's nothing inherently wrong about it. A store has no duty, legally or morally, to inform a customer as to whether or not a purchase is a "good deal." If you don't want to buy the extended warranty, then don't. Of course, I'm not talking about dishonesty here. If someone lies to you about what you're buying, that's a different matter completely.

Re:Appalled and angry? Deal with it. (1)

sgage (109086) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159407)

Yes, selling people stuff they don't need, because they don't know any better. Nothing wrong with that! It is fundamentally dishonest. It is deceit. Our system is (was) based on it. No more.

They generally sell the computers at a loss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27158861)

the warranties and services were the only way to make a profit.

I used to work at Circuit City. We weren't ever specifically told to not sell the computer without ESP (extended service plans), however, an employee could get fired for not selling at least 20% of their sales volume in extra services like warranties (or more of a ripoff, the anti-virus setup). A number of our sales team would turn away customers who would not purchase a computer without additional services just to keep their job.

Here is what I do (4, Insightful)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158919)

When I am to buy anything from stores like Office Depot, and happen to be coaxed into these service plans, I tell them:

"Look, this is a gift. If I must purchase a service plan before walking out with this product, then I will leave it. Now, can I have this product without a service plan or not?"

This script has worked remarkably well at all times. I have never been disappointed.

Re:Here is what I do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159105)

I just say.

"No."

Re:Here is what I do (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159477)

Or you could try my favorite.

Oh its out of stock? Damn thought you guys had a good service plan too. Guess I will go to insert other store here.

Magically in stock again? At register with item in hand. Service plan? What service plan? I didnt say I wanted one please take it off.

Bait and switch works BOTH ways.

An Old Adage and a Modern One (2, Funny)

sehlat (180760) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158989)

Since the days of the Romans, the adage has been "Caveat emptor." (Let the buyer beware.)

Now Modern Marketing has their own adage: "Carpe emptor!" (Seize the buyer.)

Let the Battle of the Adages Begin!

Certainly not new (3, Informative)

mschuyler (197441) | more than 5 years ago | (#27158995)

Selling up is hardly new with computer stores. Long time ago I bought a high-end VCR (Yup, THAT long ago) from a Silo store I had frequented. They always tried to sell the warranty, and this time I was damn sure I wasn't going to buy one. The sales lady rung up the order without asking, so I sarcastically asked, "Aren't you going to try to sell me one of those extended warranties?" "No," she said. "I can see it in your face that you aren't going to buy one." which I thought was pretty funny.

About the scripts: I worked retail for awhile and I gotta tell you, some of these 'sales associates' are so afraid of what to say that they demand scripts. They'll say, "What do I say?" so I'd say, 'Just talk to the customer and answer his questions.' "But what, exactly, am I supposed to say?" and it just goes on and on until you write them up a script to keep them quiet. This was especially true for customer complaints where no one wants to say the 'wrong' thing. As you know, once in awhile a customer can be kind of unreasonable, and there's this old aphorism that "the customer is always right." But as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't mean a front-line flak catcher has to take abuse. What the phrase means is, "The customer knows what he wants to buy, and if you don't have it, you screwed up." It doesn't mean if he starts yelling at tou that you have to stand there and just take it. Leave. get a manager. Whatever.

I did the same thing at Office Max (4, Informative)

slummy (887268) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159005)

When I was 17 I worked for Office Max.

The incentives that they gave the salesperson who sold the extended "warranty" on any electronic/furniture item far outweighed any moral obligation for me. I would push a $5.99 1-year replacement warranty on just about anything I could, selling someone a $29.99 inkjet printer with a warranty gave me an extra $12 bucks in my check. Some weeks my check gross amount just about doubled from the volume of extended replacement plans I sold.
I don't blame them.

A former employee (4, Interesting)

UnrealisticWhample (972663) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159011)

A few years ago I worked at Office Depot for about a month while I was looking for other work. I was hired on as a stocker, though they'd occasionally have me cover the computer department when we were short staffed. At our store, management set a quota for each employee for how many service plans we were supposed to sell each week with a required Saturday morning training session for any employee who did not reach their quota where we would do crap like train on these scripts and brainstorm incentive plans on how to motivate us to sell more.

I went to one of these stupid meetings and all I could say for myself is that since I worked as a stocker in office supplies, I didn't even sell anything that I could in theory have pushed a service plan on, even if I didn't think they were crap. They responded that I was mistaken because batteries were in my department and they qualified. WTF? How the hell are you supposed to sell a service plan on a pack of AA batteries? I quit before the next Saturday as I'd found another job, though I probably would have given them notice if it weren't for the crappy work environment.

wait a sec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159035)

Office Depot is still in business?

wtf?

Well, that won't last much longer, nobody worry.

Idea (0)

BCW2 (168187) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159039)

1. Get online printout of items in stock in that store.
2. Wear recording device.
3. Show print out of stock.
4. Offer to visit State Attorney General.
5. Get free laptop!

Re:Idea (1)

Walpurgiss (723989) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159325)

How do you prevent some other shopper from buying the items you wanted before you arrive there, or prove that such did not occur?

Also, how do you prove that their computerized inventory is infallible?

oh yeah (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159069)

office depot isnt the only place that pushes these.... i lost my job at k-mart years ago for openly opposing them (though the termination notice was full of lies about poor service).

at the time the statistics said only 5% of the smart plans were ever used, and nearly 100% of those used were within the time period when you could still return the product to the store, or get it repaired/replaced by the manufacturer. plus the service was provided by a third party, with a call center located in india. so they were difficult to deal with and k-mart had no liability.

from what i see of the marketplace now, the only time a service plan might be worth it is while perchasing $1000 plus products with service plans that only start AFTER the store and manufacturing warranty plans end... or provide crazy handy services, like pick up and delivery service during purchase/repair, and move-it-fr-you services when you move for the durration of the warranty (if you move a lot).

other than that in store plans mearly pad big corp's pockets and encourage the whole generations selling them to rely on lies and deceit to maintain basic employment; and just basic employment, since few companies share their profits with their employees.

How is this different? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159087)

How is it different from Barnes and Noble where a young teenager offers their *membership* everytime you check out? I only go their once a year anymore (as Amazon often has better prices than B&N membership prices). In fact, it was one of the motivating factors for me to stop walking in the store. They have been doing this for years. Perhaps this is the reason they are unable to keep employees.

Not just Office Depot (1)

bradgoodman (964302) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159155)

I've recently been to Sport's Authority, twice, and each time was solicited extended warranty plans for a pair of rollerblades, and (get this), a pair of freaking ski goggles. Anything for a buck...

reminds me of CompUSA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159157)

This reminds me of CompUSA, before they went out of business. I was trying to figure out why my broadband connection was so poor, so I thought I would buy a cable-modem, and if it didn't solve my problem I would return it. As I was checking out, I asked about the return policy. They said that it was subject to a 15% restocking fee. "In that case I don't want it," I said, and they proceded to charge back to my credit card 85% of the price. I complained to a manager, and had to be very forceful and confident that I was not going to pay 15% for the privilege of inquiring about their return policy. They eventually gave me a full refund, but tried to make me feel they were doing me a favor (if you don't count the 20 minutes it took). So I'm glad they're out of business. Serves them right with customer service like that.

Oh, wait, what were we taling about?

Scam (3, Insightful)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159159)

Just another scam. Why go through the hassle? I just bought a netbook for my wife from Amazon. Has as low a price as I could find for that particular product, no hassle, no muss, no fuss. The only hassle I can see is that I can't walk out of their establishment with my purchase that day. But I didn't have a sales clown in my face telling what I need, getting in my way, forcing me to smell his BO, etc... For this kind of service I can wait.

Appaling? (0, Troll)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159179)

That's a good word. I'd save it for racism or the holocaust, but hey!

Re:Appaling? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159237)

The Office Depot plans are a holocaust of people's money, and spurred by racism against human beings.

Re:Appaling? (1, Funny)

nsayer (86181) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159305)

That's a good word.

Actually, it's not. Appalling is a word, but not appaling.

I can't believe this is news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159227)

There is nothing new going on here, who doesn't know about this? This stuff has been popular amongst many major retailers for way over a decade. What's next, a slashdot submission that car salesman are going hard-sell?

CompUSA was the same way (1)

eyeota (686153) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159281)

When I worked at Compusa, we had similar quotas on our ESP (extended service plans) later renamed TSP (Technology Service Plans). The quota/goal was 3% of gross individual sales.

We didn't refuse sales, although, we would put sales out the door without going under our name in the system as to not affect our individual percentage.

Store managers were under the same type of pressure to maintain the overall TAP percentage and would basically do whatever was necessary to make it happen. One 'trick' was to 'negotiate' the sale of the TAP with the customer and discount the computer and record the reason as a 'price match'.

On the plus side, I do recall purchasing a couple 2 year Exchange Plans on cell phones there (when they sold them) in case my phone mysteriously died, I could get another phone of equal value [read newer/better] at that time. Strangely enough, both phones purchased failed around 18 months and I had to get an upgrade. Glad I had that instant exchange warranty on it. :)

Will they replace a candy bar under the plan? (2, Funny)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159291)

Will they replace a candy bar under the plan?

I can see it now.

Just buy a candy bar and they ask do you want a protection plan you say yes eat it right there and ask them How do I make a clam?

As for batteries will they give new ones for free when they go dead or does the plan cost more then the batteries?

Re:Will they replace a candy bar under the plan? (3, Funny)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159435)

clam

Get a mother clam, a father clam, and put them in a clamhouse.

Re:Will they replace a candy bar under the plan? (3, Informative)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159471)

*sigh* -1 ruined joke. what I meant to say is ...

How do I make a clam?

Get a mother clam, a father clam, and put them in a clamhouse.

Frys Beat Them to It (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159317)

Fry's (at least in Austin) has been doing this for a while.
I got to be on the receiving end of that scam. The sales drone confirmed it was in stock. Someone went to get it as the original drone typed in my info. After I declined the extended warranty, the original drone stops typing, initiates a call, mumbles something into the phone, hangs up, and then informs me that the laptop was out of stock.

I mean come on, at least make it look more convincing by having the second guy come back and say 'oops I could not find one'.

Re:Frys Beat Them to It (1)

AndrewNeo (979708) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159725)

I think a good way around this would to be to use two people.. after they do that to you, come back in a couple of hours with a friend. Split up, have your friend motion to get it with the service plan, then back out at the last second, just as you come up. "Oh, you -do- have them in stock!"

Its the employees (1)

dabbaking (843108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159341)

I work at an Office Depot store and we haven't had this said to us. It's not company policy and I don't personally do it, but we do get pissed when other stores send us customers who they know won't be getting a warranty. I've never had a manager tell me to lie to a customer about our stock unless we believed they were involved in some type of scam (rebate scams, etc). It's a moral decision made by the employee, not the company. Personally I never buy a plan on any of my electronics because I'm a geek and get bored of electronics after the first year anyways! Also, I never really cared much about the commission. We are always trained over and over on how to sell warranties, but never to the point that we stretched the truth. Like I said before, it's the employees fault for lying or trying to get a commission. Most electronics come with a one year manufacture which is enough for most people and it's not like the plans are worthless. I've seen quite a few people that purchased cameras 2 years ago, come in with an Office Depot gift card for the price they paid and walk out with a better camera all for the price of the original plan (like 29.99, which is pretty damn good for a new camera worth $300).

Re:Its the employees (1)

dabbaking (843108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159405)

Also, I don't know what type of TurboTax Harry McCracken was trying to buy, but most of the consumer versions are out on the shelf, not locked up.

Not News (3, Interesting)

hduff (570443) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159427)

When did we forget caveat emptor and expect the seller to be fair and do business in our favor all the time?
  • The idealism of consumer-focused selling always falls prey to reality.
  • We demand low prices that result in low profits, so a business needs to find some other means to generate profits.
  • "Selling what we have" will prevail over "Selling what's best for the customer" almost every time.
  • People lie and cheat to achieve their goals, especially when their goals are at contretemps to the other party and they'll lose their jobs if they aren't successful.
  • Buyers always have a choice; complain and/or vote with your pocketbook/feet.

I once worked at a bank that set high goals for the "sale" of credit life insurance on consumer loans. Without exception, credit life insurance obtained through the lender is a bad deal for the borrower and a great deal for the bank - DON'T EVER BUY CREDIT LIFE INSURANCE. If the borrower "asks" for it, the premium is not counted in the A.P.R. calculation; if it is required, it must be part of that calculation, vastly inflating the A.P.R. Guess how much credit life was sold as "asked for" and how much was sold as "required"?

We were instructed as to patently illegal and devious means to write it as "asked for" while the bank President stood in the room. The one fellow who questioned the practices was fired within the month. I left shortly thereafter.

It happens everywhere. That's the sad, harsh real world.

This is not news.

"Office Depot Provides Legitimate Extended Warranties At No Extra Cost" would be news.

Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#27159447)

So, I worked at an Office Depot for a while, and I can honestly say that this didn't happen there. We did not lie to our customers. We were not pushy salesmen. This was not in anything we got from corporate. I can honestly say that this is the fault of some greedy Store Manager, and that it was certainly not mandated by Office Depot. Hell, we didn't even get comission. We were encouraged to sell bundled things, but really, who isn't? Chalk it up to a bad apple, not to an entire company.

And if you're wondering, I don't work there anymore and have no stake in the company whatsoever. I just hate to see people fly off the handle at the wrong people. Besides, it sounds like everybody else's anecdotes would agree with this even if you didn't believe me.

Re:Wow (2, Informative)

dabbaking (843108) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159545)

Like I said in my earlier comment, it's one bad apple most likely. Getting PIP'd is an inside joke and it doesn't really mean much. I honestly care that people get the right stuff when they walk out. Like when someone gets a printer (not networked), I ask if they need a cable. It's not that I want to raise out Market Basket, it's that I don't want them coming back pissed wondering why it wasn't working (they didn't know to get the cable). Any replacement plan or repair plan for any store preys on people's distrust of the technology. It's also pretty much pure profit for the company. If they didn't make enough doing it, they wouldn't do it, but it's too lucrative.

I don't know why anyone is surprised by this (1)

kybur (1002682) | more than 5 years ago | (#27159559)

Every experience I've had with Office Depot customer service was abysmal.

Last thing I tried to buy from them was two file cabinets. I ordered them for delivery from a brick-and-mortar Office Depot They charged my card, gave me an expected ship date, and, later, notification that the cabinets had shipped. When over a week passed, and they hadn't arrived, I drove back to the store, and they told me that they had shipped already and that I should have them. An hours worth of phone calls later, I find out that they had not actually shipped them yet, and that they just tell everyone that the products have shipped without even looking it up.

When the cabinets did arrive (expensive, $400 two drawer cabinets), I opened both boxes before the truck left and found both of them damaged. The guy from the trucking company that Office Depot contracts in my area, told me that there are like 4 or 5 times more problems with Office Depot stuff than any other company that he delivers for.

I sent them back with the trucker and cancelled my order.

Ordered the same thing from Staples online, and had them two days later.

Dealing with Office Depot is always like this. The only reason to buy from them is if you been in a really good mood for weeks and can't think of any other way to shake it.

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