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Source: Office Depot Holds Back Laptop Stock if You Don’t Buy the Extra Goodies



od-exterior-i Our friends at Laptop Mag sent us a heads up on this report and boy, if this is true, it sure is depressing. Quoting some former Office Depot workers, it appears that floor associates would tell a customer that the Laptop they were interested in purchasing was out of stock, if that customer wasn’t interested in buying add-ons like extended warranties or tech services.  We all know how sales folk push these things, but there’s some interesting revelations from the responses to this.


““I have witnessed lying about the availability of a notebook, and have been told to do so myself,” Rich told us. ” Once I was talking to the customer and, while I am actually speaking, my manager comes on the radio and tells me to say it is out of stock if they aren’t getting anything with it.  I always ignore him and sell it anyway because lying to the customer is flat-out wrong.”

Apparently sales associates don’t get a commission on a laptop sale unless they manage to sell the add-ons and the performance grading suffers if a store doesn’t push the highly profitable services. To be fair, Avram Piltch, who wrote the Laptop Mag post, and his team, did some undercover work and came up with an opposite result in their one attempt, so there’s no proof that this is a company-wide infection. The implications are certainly not what you would call customer friendly. Read the entire report here.



  1. Sumocat

    03/11/2009 at 6:07 am

    So much for bird in hand. What I don’t get is why a manager would block a sale. Does Office Depot have so many laptop customers that they can afford to turn away a sale in anticipation of a bigger one, or is their stock so limited that they can’t afford to sell units at their listed prices?

  2. Xavier

    03/11/2009 at 11:57 am

    I talked to Avram from Laptop Magazine about this issue and he said that many of the advertised specials are very limited in terms of stock. Some Office Depot managers want to make the ‘most’ out of each discounted notebook. Their goals are also tied to the percentage of notebooks sold with extras.

  3. Tim

    03/11/2009 at 1:30 pm

    @Sumocat – Retail prices on big dollar technology items (Computers, Printers, Cameras, etc) have to priced very competitively. This means most items will never be more than a few % above cost. Some are even sold below cost at regular price, and when sales are included most machines net the store very little to absolutely no profit. So to answer your question: No retail company can afford to sell units at their listed prices alone.

    As an employee at Office Depot, I can say this is not a company-wide policy. We can’t refuse to sell something like that. The only case that comes close is a manager may end up lowering a price on a clearance machine more if you are willing to pay for the warranty/service/etc. Furthermore, EVERYONE in an Office Depot has the ability to check the stock of any item in the store by entering the SKU/UPC onto any of the store computers, customers included (Please bear in mind that machines on display will be counted as in stock even though they are not salable until end of life)

    That said, the money, both as an associate and for the store, is in selling the attachments. We don’t make commission on sales except for warranties and services. Thus, there’s no motivation to do more than the expected, especially the customers are that are rude, short, or just generally unfriendly (and there are plenty). So while I’ll go in the back and get the lone laptop and hurt store numbers if we have it, I may not go above and beyond that to get you your machine (ie checking all nearby stores, calling them up, and having one of the store employees transfer it).

    But this needs to be said: This is true of ANY retail store, because all follow the same business model.

  4. Avram

    03/11/2009 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Guys. I agree with Tim that this could be true at any retail store and that I’m sure it doesn’t happen at every Office Depot, perhaps not even most. I’m sure Office Deport corporate does not approve this practice. Why would they? It’s costing them money.

    We thought it was noteworthy to report because we heard the same story from different salespeople and because our primary source actually told his that he had been directed to lie by both a manager and a district manager (who we assume is responsible for multiple stores).

    What does this mean for consumers? Take Tim’s advice and use the in-store stock machines if you’re shopping at OD. And be an educated consumer who knows exactly what you want to buy before you walk into the store. If the employees try to sell you services you don’t want, just say no. If they tell you what you want is out of stock and try to sell you a notebook you weren’t planning to buy in the first place, politely decline.

  5. Tim

    03/11/2009 at 3:15 pm

    Just seems to me that if you’re agreeing with me, that the title of the article is a little bit harsh. Saying that 1.) Associates are lying is misleading and 2.) that it happens “routinely” is just overboard.

    The policies that are put forward as “standard” for Office Depot are by no means what goes on in my stores. My managers and district managers have never done that.

    The quotas and policies quoted by Rich may also not be nationwide. I haven’t been at work since late January, so the system may have changed again in my absence, but my store at least does not use strict quotas.

    This article makes WAY too broad of a claim from one incident and scattered reports that targets one chain of several businesses following the same model. To do so is unfair, and the language making it sound as though it is Office Depot’s policy is even more so.

    1/3 of the tips aren’t exactly great advice either. To encourage customers to lie is not helping the solution. All that does is foster unearned mistrust between customers and employees.

    And as for the best tip for a customer: Be friendly. An associate is much more likely to do absolutely everything to help you if you’re nice. Being relaxed, striking up friendly conversation/jokes while talking to an associate will make that associate more willing to explore every avenue to help you out.

  6. sbtablet

    03/11/2009 at 7:44 pm

    What these short-sighted managers seem to forget is that if they create a satisfied customer, then that customer will be back, and will buy high mark-up items like printer cartridges, etc. for life if they keep on feeling they are treated well. We have bought everything from laptops to school supplies to printers and software from our local Office Depot, because their prices are reasonable, their sales force seems knowledgeable (at least during the day) and they treat us right. One pushy person trying to sell us extended warranties we don’t want or need could change all that very quickly.

  7. odmanager

    03/12/2009 at 3:23 pm

    As an Office Depot Store Manager, this is disturbing that this happens anywhere. Having been with the company almost ten years I have heard of these things happening. I always train my associates to educate the customer about our products and services but to always be honest. The one thing that I hate more than anything is a customer getting home and realizing that they didn’t have a cable for their printer or six months after their purchase they drop and break their laptop not knowing that a protection plan could have replaced it. If a customer doesn’t buy the plan or service or even a bag with their laptop means nothing in the grand scheme of things. The customer still chose to shop at our store and we need to sell them the product. THE MOST DISTURBING THING ABOUT THIS IS THAT IN THE CURRENT ECONOMY EVERY SALE COUNTS TO KEEP STORES OPEN AND ALL OF US EMPLOYEED. SO FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT CURRENTLY MAKE THIS A PRACTICE, STOP AND THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE DOING! TURNING AWAY A SALE IN ORDER TO MAKE AN ATTACHMENT PERCENTAGE MIGHT JUST COME BACK TO BITE YOU IN THE ASS BY COSTING YOU YOUR JOB WHEN YOUR SALES ARE DOWN AND YOUR STORE CLOSES.

  8. Salidwyn

    03/13/2009 at 7:19 pm

    It’s funny that we’ve gotten 3 Office Depot employees on here already. I work at and Office Depot as well and have been at two other stores in different states aside from the one that I’m at now. This is by NO MEANS standard practice, but it does happen and is unfortunately becoming more common. For those of you who think that the higher ups would never approve of such a behavior… they are actually the ones causing the problem.

    Office Depot has already closed or is in the process of closing 112 stores across the country. In order for each store to stay open, there are numbers that have to be met, primarily in terms of protection plans and tech services because if we don’t make those numbers, our higher ups see the store as failing and are that closer to closing them down. At our store, people here don’t push them but point out the value of the services because there is value. I realized the value after waking up one morning to find my month-old tablet pc sitting in a pool of water on my desk after the roof had been leaking. I think everyone here has had some sort of tech horror story. That’s why we “push” (I use the term loosely) such a service on people who can truly benefit from it.

    Going back to quotas though, folks, these are tough times. Our stock is finally over $1 after being $.82 recently and they’ve already started closing stores. Office Depot laid off at least 2 managers for every store about two weeks ago to save money and are planning on getting rid of the full time positions if they need to cut more people, thinking that that will help the company. We’re all trying to save our jobs here. I don’t agree with telling customers something’s out of stock if they don’t buy the attachments (Office Depot is NOT the only one to do this… the Best Buy near us was notorious for it and the two places online I tried to buy a camera from pulled the same nonsense and were RUDE beyond belief about it), but keep in mind too that while there are numbers involved, it’s not just because we’re trying to screw you out of your hard-earned money. There actually might be a benefit to them. And did I mention we’re also trying to keep our jobs? At least hear the person out.

    I also highly second what Tim said: “And as for the best tip for a customer: Be friendly. An associate is much more likely to do absolutely everything to help you if you’re nice. Being relaxed, striking up friendly conversation/jokes while talking to an associate will make that associate more willing to explore every avenue to help you out.”

    Being friendly and being nice will get you SOOOO much farther than being rude about it. Please be nice to your salespeople and they can be really nice in return. We are people too.

  9. Bob

    03/23/2009 at 7:06 pm

    I don’t recommend being rude or lying the employees either. It’s not something done that’s condoned or policy for any of these companies. I have, as an employee of another similar retailer done this. Usually, because I knew that the customer was a no profit sale -and- they were rude to me in some shape or form. I’ve never done it with a customer that was nice and friendly with me. When I get that customer that waves me away when I offer help then comes up to me with: “Get me one of this one.” and then gives me a sour angry look when I attempt to -do my job- and explain our other services or protection plans. Alot of the time rudely cutting me off before I can finish a sentence.
    I really want to laugh in their face when they come in after return policy with a problem, expecting us to take care of it -for free-, then get angry and rude because we refer them to the manufacturer. (The same warranty that they said they’d be fine with when they rudely turned down the protection plan in the first place but now is too inconvenient for them to utilize.)

    I’ve had plenty of people who were friendly and turned down the extras that I had no problem with. (Unfortunately it contributes to management riding our asses about the numbers.) I’ve had plenty of people purchase those service plans and we bend over backwards to make sure they’re taken care of. They are worthwhile when you need them. Not so much when you don’t. Just like alot of other things in life.

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