I used to like Office Depot - but now I can see why they've had to close some stores - and I certainly understand why their stock has been dropping.
Apparently Office Depot doesn't care about it's customers.
I went in to find a serial to USB adapter (I know - who uses serial anymore? But it was for a specialized device for my work.)
While shopping, I saw that Office Depot had this neat Kodak EasyShare C143 12.0-Megapixel Digital Camera on sale for only $49.00. And it was red too! They had a standing cardboard floor display, filled with these cardboard cards that the customer could grab and take to the register. The floor display had about 30 of these cards sitting in individual card slots on the display.
So I grabbed one, and took it to the register. The cashier rang me up while another cashier ran to grab the camera.
But they didn't have any cameras. None at all.
I blew up. "Why," I asked the cashier, "don't you have cameras? You're advertising that you have cameras!"
She quickly grabbed Chris, the store manager. Chris assured me that they could call around town and ask if another store had the camera, or he could order one for me.
"No. That's unacceptable. You are advertising that you have cameras in stock right now. Why are you doing that?" My language may have been a bit stronger than that.
Chris told me that it was a big display, and they couldn't take it down.
"I don't buy that. Come here." I dragged Chris over to the display. "Look, these are cards in the display - each card is equal to one camera."
I pulled a card out of the display and handed it to Chris.
"Do you have a camera for this card?"
"No." Chris admitted.
I pulled out another card and handed it to Chris.
"How about this one?" I pulled another card, "or this one? Or this? Or this?" I loaded Chris up with all the cards from the display.
"No. I think you know we don't have any cameras for these cards."
"How could I know that Chris? How? I'll tell you how..." I pointed to the cardboard camera display, now empty of pull cards for cameras. "See? No camera cards. That's how I know you're out of stock. I won't bother you about them, and your cashier won't be ringing me up for something you don't have!"
"But that's not what corporate wants. They want these on display. I'm just doing what I'm told."
I'm afraid I saw red then... and not the nice red of a new $50 camera...
"So you're telling me that if I walk back in here tomorrow, and walk over to this display, there will be pull cards for this camera in this display?"
"Yes." Chris had gone into robot mode - just waiting for me to leave.
"And you won't have any cameras in stock?"
"No. Probably not for another week."
"But that's a stupid way to run a business Chris! That's really fucked up! You're going to give me a refund on my purchase, and then I'm going to complain. Probably to the BBB, and to your corporate."
Chris stood there for a moment, then realizing that I wanted a refund, he scrambled to make that happen. Anything to get this loud, annoying and complaining customer (Me!) out of the store as fast as possible.
At the end of the refund I asked Chris if he thought what he was doing was good customer service.
"It's what I was told to do by corporate," he answered.
"Chris, the company I work for was built on customer service. If we treated customers the same way that Office Depot treats them, I would have been out of a job a long time ago."
One of the other cashiers, behind Chris, started laughing quietly and nodded her head in agreement. Apparently this has been a problem.
So here's the deal. Office Depot sucks. It is my understanding that they put "pull tags" on display for products that are not in stock. This is the first time this has happened to me, but in the last hour I've run into 3 other engineers in my company with similar stories. It would seem that their MO is to ring up the sale, then order the product to be delivered for pick up. This is bullshit of course. The reason why I wanted that camera was because it was a good deal, and I was ready for an impulse buy. The promise they offered - in stock cameras - was a lie. Is it "bait and switch"? I don't know, but it smells perilously close to me.
My future office supply business is with Staples from now on. And with the local mom & pop office supply stores. They can't afford to treat their customers like marks.
Update: 18 May
I've updated my twitter account, Facebook, the BBB, Reddit, and of course I sent a complaint to Office Depot about their dishonest policy.
Here's some links you might enjoy about how badly Office Depot sucks: