Who needs to lie about inventory when you can inflate the price directly? LAPTOP has uncovered more dirty secrets of Office Depot employees being dishonest to customers, this time by altering price tags on clearance items to incorporate the cost of an extended service plan.
What we’ll do is that I’ll go to the copy and print center, get into Photoshop, take one price tag that was $599 from another item in the store, cut out that area of $599 and position it exactly where the $499 price is in the current tag and then run that price through some card stock and cut the paper out in the same exact size as what’s called a ‘fact tag’ in our stores. And now that’s the price. It’s legit.
The magazine spoke with an FTC official who confirmed that lying about inventory is illegal:
“When you’re selling a product, it’s illegal to lie,” said Lois C. Greisman, associate director of the FTC’s Division of Marketing Practices. “It’s illegal to make false claims about a product, such as ‘It’s out of stock’ when it’s not or that a clearance product has a certain markup. You can’t lie when you’re selling a product.”
So what about Office Depot’s internal memo last week that clearly stated the company doesn’t condone such practices—was that enough to protect Office Depot from responsibility? Maybe not:
Greisman also said that, even if a large retail chain has an official corporate policy which bans a sales practice, it can still be held responsible for employees who violate the written policy.
“Management is responsible and a corporate entity is responsible. If a company were under order and if it were to violate that order, it could be held in contempt,” she said. “Our experience is that a company that wants to adequately police its stores is able to do so.”
The employee who confessed to LAPTOP said the easiest way to confirm that the price you’re seeing on the tag is the real price is to look up the SKU on an in-store kiosk, but he also notes that his manager removes all signage around the kiosk that indicates it’s for customer use. If you’re in an Office Depot where the kiosk isn’t clearly indicated, or where an employee tells you it’s not for customer use, get out! It’s a trap!
So is any Office Depot safe? Sure—the employee who confesses this seems to have come up with the Photoshopping trick on his own, but he says his manager approved of it and told other managers with similarly stunted ethics. If you buy computers and other high-end electronics from Office Depot, you should read the full LAPTOP article for more details on their pricing tricks.