My last experience with Office Depot – the “Comcast” of Office Supply Stores

Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself.

-Lois McMaster Bujold

It’s too bad a certain office supply company isn’t aware of this. As you may have surmised, I have a running tally of companies on my, well, let’s face it – ‘shit list’, and Office Depot is the most recent award winner! Congrats guys, a membership card and welcome basket is in the mail!

It began about a week ago when I spotted a deal on Lifehacker, or was it Gizmodo? I’m not sure. Anyway, the deal was for a 3M dual arm/articulating monitor stand at Office Depot for $59.99 instead of the usual $332.99. What a fantastic deal! I had been considering re-doing my desk by purchasing a solid wood table top, some legs from IKEA, and mounting my monitors on an articulating stand for ergonomics and convenience. This huge price difference, $273 before tax, would enable me to do that and have minimal out of pocket expenses.

I ordered the stand on OfficeDepot.com without difficulty; I didn’t have to manipulate their system for it to allow me to check out, nor did I use a coupon code. Below is a screen shot of my order:

officedepotorder

After ordering, I felt good about the purchase! It was a good deal, and I love good deals! Little did I know, rain would decimate my parade just a few days later.

I thought nothing of this order until I received the following e-mail:

officedepotcancellation

Before I tell you how awful Office Depot’s customer service is, let’s analyze this e-mail.

  1. They’ve failed to hide the email address belonging to the individual responsible for giving customers the bad news. i.e. Maria Polgano’s email address is in clear text.
  2. “To: Undisclosed-recipients” – this is a sure sign of a batched e-mail. Presumably other customers who placed the same order for the same item, only to have it cancelled.
  3. “Dear Customer” – perhaps the most informal way to write a person who’s given you money or to provide bad news. Amazing they can send to “undisclosed recipients” and also get my order number in the e-mail, but not my name.

Upon receipt of this e-mail I was pretty upset. After all, I found it odd Office Depot wouldn’t honor their mistake. In this day and age where e-commerce reigns supreme, at least for convenience, it’s not uncommon for a web developer to miskey a price somewhere. It happens all the time with Amazon, Wal-Mart, Target, and even in the “meat-space” with grocery stores. And in my experience, they honor their mistakes.

Just a few days ago, Amazon had the Kindle Voyage on sale for $59.99 due to a pricing error, and left it that way for the entire day. The retail price on the Voyage is $199.00. Way to go Amazon…. another notch in the ‘best in class customer-centric company’ belt!

Doing what anyone would do, I phoned 1-800-GO-DEPOT to inquire about this and see if there was anything they could do. In my opinion, this wasn’t my fault, it was theirs. After all, I didn’t manipulate their system to allow the purchase, or “hack” it in anyway. My call was answered by a seemingly nice woman who informed me the reason the order was cancelled was due to inventory. Simply put, they didn’t have any. This is partially true…. the item in question isn’t stocked in the Office Depot warehouse, but is instead, ordered from the manufacturer – 3M. So, a quick stock check will show zero availble, but the system will also inform a properly trained (i.e. literate) representative it must be ordered from the maker. I countered back by informing her the details within the email (above), and she could only tell me what she sees. I asked for a manager. This is where my issues with their customer service really began. After saying “Sure sir, I’ll transfer you to my supervisor”, she committed call center suicide by hanging up on me.

Furious and in a blind rage, I phoned back and immediately asked for a supervisor. The gentleman on the phone initially refused to assist me, stating unless I gave him my order information he wouldn’t let me speak to a supervisor. This turned out to be a baseless threat. After he finally transferred me to his supervisor, she already had my name, phone number, address, and order information available. I suppose she used the caller ID and searched their CRM for my phone number, something he could easily have done. The supervisor apologizes for the way my calls have been handled and will be happy to contact corporate customer care to see if they can intervene in this situation. They’d call me tomorrow, she said.

Office Depot’s corporate offices are in Boca Raton, Florida. About 5.5 hours from me. If I had to, I’d drive down to get the answers I seek. However, sure enough, they did call me. If you ever find yourself in this situation, know they will record your phone call, so don’t say anything terrible.

I don’t remember the name of the individual I spoke with as she was about as usless as an appendix. However, she offered the following gems of wisdom:

She will be happy to pull the calls from the call center to ensure this doesn’t happen again, proper training, and such.
And they will not be honoring the price error on their website. It’s not their problem.
After informing her of my earlier comparison to companies like Target, Amazon, BestBuy, and the unholiest of unholy in retail – Wal-Mart, and their proclivities for honoring their pricing mistakes, she could only apologize and do what she could to get me off the phone.

About a year go, Office Depot purchased OfficeMax, in some sort of merger/acquisition. Now, Staples is buying Office Depot. This will effectively create a monopoly on office supplies in the USA and perhaps Canada, great news, since the new company will have customer service as deplorable and heinous as Comcast, staffed by people with the IQ of a tire iron.

It’s unfortunate Office Depot chose this path. After all, perhaps not as much here on the internet, but in my personal life, those close to me tend to remember my tales of horror and woe from retailers, and more often than not, find my reasons for no longer shopping with <company X>, justified. They tell their friends, and thus – the tree is poisoned. Everything that can be had at Staples or Office Depot can be had on Amazon or at your locally owned office supply store. Yes, you may pay more locally, but I’d stake a good wager you’ll also get better customer service.

To Office Depot, if you read this… here’s my advice:

I wasn’t the only one to order the monitor stand. Ergo, I’m not the only one who got “screwed” by your archaic and asinine policy. You need to honor your mistakes. A multi-billion dollar company (see 2013 SEC filings here) can afford to eat the difference in the name of good customer service.
The people I spoke to on the phone, save for the call center supervisor, should be fired. Not retrained. The penalty for hanging up on a customer is call center death – aka employment termination. And threatening to withhold a supervisor from a customer for information exchange isn’t “quid pro quo”….. that’s unprofessional, equally as bad as hanging up on someone.
When your customer care team calls customers from their Boca Raton offices, you should teach them to have a little empathy. If Hitler ran an electronics store, I can assure you he would have displayed a wider range of emotions and empathy than the lady who called me was seemingly capable of. In other words, I’d have a better, more intelligent, and more stimulating conversation with your average bar stool than the individual you employ to contact customers like myself.
Finally, as I told the lady on the phone – Office Depot has lost my business. I refuse to do business with companies who have shady business practices. Money is king in today’s economy and is the real vote. I will be taking mine somewhere else. Perhaps you do not care, now, but let this happen enough without mitigation, and you’ll find yourselves to be the K-Mart of office supply stores.

Last edited February 13 to correct minor grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Also added 2013 SEC filing information for interested parties. Additionally, created links for products I would be using on my DIY desk.