Uncategorized · June 15, 2011

Office Depot still insistent on getting rid of customers

I posted in May about a deceptive practice used by Office Depot – using product tags to represent stock in the store, when that stock isn’t actually available in the store.  In fact, a product tag may represent stock that can only be ordered from Corporate – and yet, this is not stated anywhere in the Office Depot product display.
If you read my May posting, you’ll see I got a bit upset at this practice.
So I complained to the BBB.
Office Depot sent me a reply on June 6.

Thank you for contacting Office Depot via the BBB. I opened this case file to address your complaint regarding the tags that were still out on display although the camera was out of stock. We value you as a customer and sincerely apologize for disappointing you, as that is never our intention.
I contacted both the Store Manager and the District Manager to address your complaint so I could find out the reasoning behind it. The reason the tags are left is to give our customers an opportunity to have the store place an order or attempt to contact a different store for a transfer. What was wrong however, was to ring up your sale before checking the stock. This is being addressed by our District and Store manager to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
I want to thank you for letting us know about this disappointing experience as it has enabled us to do something about it so it doesn’t happen again. As I stated, the real problem was not checking stock before ringing up your sale.
I appreciate having had the opportunity to address your complaint and hope that you will continue to place your trust and confidence in Office Depot. As a gesture of customer service, I’m sending you an Office Depot Gift Card valued at $25.00. You’ll receive the card in 7-10 business days and I hope you will accept it with my compliments. If you ever need help again, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Sincerely,
Vera Barber
Coordinator, Executive Customer Relations

My response:

Ms. Barber,
I’m sorry that Office Depot has seen fit to decline to change their practice of advertising products as if they were immediately available when the store does not have any in stock.
On the day I tried to purchase this camera, I went to the store to purchase something else. The camera was an impulse buy. I liked what I saw, and I made plans to use it when I got back to my place of employment.
In other words, I wanted to use the camera immediately.
Office Depot has a deceptive practice of using product tags as if they were immediately available in stock. There was no signage that stated that the products might not be available, that the store might have to call around to other stores, that the product might have to be ordered from corporate.
Your letter only serves to make me MORE upset. It is a “Not-pology”, an “I’m sorry you were disappointed, but we are not changing our store policy about deceptive practices”.
This is, of course, Office Depot BS, and I begin to understand why Office Depot stock has taken such a beating in the last couple of years.
Ms. Barber, I’ve written my story in several places on the Internet, I have told it to many of my co-workers, including the administrative assistants at the company I work for (2,000 employees at our location alone), and I have informed the BBB that I’m not satisfied with the lack of business change with your company.
I will continue to do so until Office Depot changes this policy of advertising products that are not immediately on hand, as if they were actually in the store. Tell me you have corrected that, and I’ll tell everyone that you have done so.
And I’ll return as a customer.
Mark Boyd
Fresno

And there was a second round of letters where Office Depot actually responded to my response! (And it’s no wonder – these letters are an echo of what is being posted at the BBB).

Dear Mr. Boyd:
I am sorry if my prior response gave you the impression that we did not care. I know it’s frustrating to spend time shopping, pull the ticket and wait for help only to find out that the item is not in stock. Regardless of whether or not it is actually considered illegal or deceptive, it certainly doesn’t represent good customer service and I want you to know that I am sharing your comments with our SVP of Store Operations as well as our VP of In-Store Customer Experience. Our intention is not to inconvenience you but to ensure that to communicate that the product is still available to be ordered.
I want you to know that I do see your point and that it is clear that we could do a better job of communicating this while also not giving our customers the impression that the item is available on hand to be purchased and taken home that day. I do appreciate your feedback and I’m really sorry that we disappointed you.
Office Depot needs your business a lot more than you need an Office Depot store nearby and I want to assure you that we will review this practice going forward.
Sincerely,
Vera Barber
Coordinator, Executive Customer Relations

My response:

Ms. Barber,
I will be happy to return as a customer when I know that Office Depot is no longer advertising products as if they were in stock.
I know it wouldn’t take much, like a sign that said, “This product may not be in stock, please ask a sales associate to verify.” However, I’d consider that to be questionable – why have twenty product tags advertised in a big floor display while at the same time saying that those tags don’t actually equate to a real product on hand?
Wouldn’t it actually save Office Depot some money in the long run to have a thinner cardboard poster-style display with just a few product cards in it? And perhaps some verbiage under the card that states that the item can be ordered if the customer still wants it?
It seems like the intent here is to get the customer to the cash register with the product tag, and then urge the customer to order the product from corporate, or from another store. Perhaps a little psychology is involved? An “out of stock” sign might make the customer move on, whereas getting the customer to the cash register with a product tag might make him more likely to buy?
I like Office Depot. It is right next to the company I work for, and I can walk over and pick up those things I need. Staples is a 10 minute drive away. But until I know this practice is changed, I’ll keep making that drive.
Mark

The BBB is waiting for Office Depot to respond again.  If they do not respond, or if they respond without changing this practice, then the BBB will grade them accordingly.
And I’ll keep this exchange online, until Office Depot decides to change their policy.