Office Depot Employee Claims He Photoshops Price Tags

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.

“More Office Depot Employees Report Lying to Customers, Changing Price Tags” [LAPTOP Mag]
“FTC: Lying About Notebook Inventory Violates Federal Law” [LAPTOP Mag]

RELATED
“Office Depot Employees Claim They’re Told To Lie About Stock If You’re Not Buying Extras”
“Office Depot To Employees: ‘Don’t Lie About Inventory'”
(Photo: ??)

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  1. katiat325 says:

    First of all, having worked at Office Depot a few years ago, I can tell you now that the employees are way too lazy to do that. Normal employees won’t do that…though some managers will. Here’s a tip, always have them check the availability of the item on the computer in front of you…you’ll see the price and the quantity on hand (although if it says 1, that’s the display).

    • metaled says:

      @katiat325: Doesn’t work, As I mentioned in the last story, i was buying 2 laptops for Christmas. The employee checked the computer and they even started to ring me up, but when I refused the service plan and extras (they were gifts, why would I buy them?). The employee went into the back (to make sure they had them, before taking my cash), the manager came out (who I hadn’t seen before this) and told me it was a computer glitch, they had none in stock, they had sold out. I had been there before the store opened, on the day that the advertised sale started to make sure I could get 2 of them. No one had bought any of them! The ad stated a minimum of 4 per store! I knew exactly what was going on with the hard sell of the extended service plan and the looks on there faces when I repeatedly refused them. The manager coming out just confirmed my suspicions. And of course no rain-checks being a sale item, no calling other stores, they just wanted me gone!
      I got the computers by going to 2 other location and agreeing to the service plan, but acted like I didn’t have the money after the computer was at the register. Both times they were really POed that I had lied, they knew I had lied, but I got them!!!
      These were $1100 gateway laptops for $500 each, not discontinued, a NEW sale item to get you in the door and buy tons of other item. I bought them for the kids, they still got them after 2+ years, perfect condition.
      You want to see them get really angry, try to buy something that is marked wrong on the shelves, I followed them to check the price, they confirmed it was the wrong price, tried to tell me it was a different scan code (even when we both read it at the same time!), pocketed the shelf tag and tried to make me pay the REAL price of almost double. I fought tooth and nail, yelling and all. i thought they were trying to rip me off, I checked the price when I got home and it was double! But I made them give it to me for the marked price because I thought it was the real price. I was legally right in any case, but I was real happy when I walked out the door, beating those “thieves” even if I ma not welcome back in again. Normally I wouldn’t have gone with him to check the price, but I had just read a CONSUMERIST story about Best buy changing the price tags during a price check while the customer (and brother) waited in line! I am sure they would have too!

      • katiat325 says:

        @metaled: that does suck. But as I said, if the computer says they have over 1 item in stock, that means there is at least 1 more that is in the store (may currently be up at the register). It just sucks that the systems updates once a day. But yeah, I did that too about the wrong price being marked…you just need to stand your ground, and they’d rather sell the item than not, so eventually they’ll honor it. Thankfully, there are really nice managers at most stores, so I never really had to go through all the hassle (as much)

  2. nakedscience says:

    Moral of this story: Don’t shop at Office Depot. Screw that noise.

  3. katiat325 says:

    Also, OD will price match their own website, so you can actually go online and check it in the store (usually by going to copy and print and have them pull up the internet there). They will also pricematch other similar stores (staples, Office Max) but not outlets or online stores (except staples, OM, Best Buy). Also, the in-store kiosks aren’t really there for customers, just a faster way for employees to access info, however, almost all the employees will look up the info on it and will usually show the customer if the customer is right there (if they won’t do that, just leave, another store in the area will gladly accept your business).

  4. Yossarian says:

    I can’t tell for sure, but it doesn’t sound like anyone was rounding up customers at gunpoint and forcing them to pay $599 for the computer.

  5. Brawndo_The_Thirst_Mutliator says:

    Hey Circuit City, looks like you’ll soon have company.

  6. octopede says:

    Why would an employee do that? I mean, I’m not doubting the story’s veracity but, seriously…what is the incentive for a retail-level employee to bilk customers? I don’t see how the employee directly benefits, unless s/he just enjoys screwing people and being evil…or maybe they just love Office Depot that much, galdarnit. I don’t get it.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Staples does something similar. I was there last week and there were signs all over the place saying “Install service included with all open box and price reduced items ($80)”. Now, I’m pretty sure “included with” doesn’t mean “You have to pay the extra $80 on top of the listed price”, but it apparently is. I spoke to the manager and he refused to sell me the notebook because they had 1 “pre-installed” and 1 “display model” and both had this “service” done to it. Apparently it takes 5 hours to turn on a netbook (the OS is pre-installed on them actually, so I’m not sure
    what the service includes (he couldn’t tell me either)). I already had the exact same model and know there’s nothing to install and said as much to the manager, at which point he was willing to drop the price for the service to $40. I still refused because I just wanted to buy the netbook for the advertised price and not be forced to pay an extra $80 (which coincidentally was about the “discount” price on every item on sale). He said it wasn’t possible, but I could go to another store, but they wouldn’t hold the item if they had one that wasn’t already “pre-installed”. I suggested that I would buy it elsewhere and keep in mind how this all went.

    However, it was too frigging cold outside, so I got motivated and annoyed. So I called corporate and basically made it clear that 1) they had it in stock 2) I didn’t want the service, so why force it on me? I suggested they wipe the OS undoing whatever “service” they performed. Corporate called the manager and then he walked back up to me and said “give us 1 hour to reinstall the OS and it’s yours”. I asked him to just wipe the OS and I would re-install it myself (using the restore discs that came with the unit). They did that and 10 minutes later I was out the store with the unit without paying the extra stupid fee. Here’s my question though: why would he offer to “reinstall the OS”, if that is exactly what the “install service” is ?!

    Anyhow, I did feel a bit like a dick for calling corporate and forcing his hand… but how many people pay this fee for something that’s already done by the manufacturer? Worst, nobody could tell me exactly what the service was… well, beyond “to make it ready to be used right away?”.

    • christopherscott says:

      @ShyamasriPera:

      Actually, to be fair to Staples, I think they were partially right in what they were telling you.

      Open Box & Reduced price usually means they are “Returned Items” that have been previously purchased by other consumers and owned by them for a limited time. If that is true, then it is usually company policy to wipe the computer’s O/S and reinstall back to factory, in order to remove any personal information that may have been left on the computer by the previous customer. The actual restore operation varies greatly, and can take anywhere between 10 minutes to 5 hours, depending on the brand and model of the computer. Retail stores usually have their own internal technicians or employees to perform this kind of “servicing”, but it still costs them money, and the store still needs to offset these costs.

      There is usually a corporate-wide system in place for recording profit loss, or “shrinkage” due to returned and discounted merchandise. These losses are usually documented and deductible against a store’s overall losses. However, I don’t think the time/effort of “servicing” these computers is counted as deductible, since the time/effort used to service these computers have no actual cash value unless they are purchased.

      I’m assuming this particular Staples store does not enjoy eating the cost of servicing and restoring their own returned merchandise, so they decided to pass that cost onto the consumer. A business has every right to recoup its own operating costs, and I don’t see this particular incident as being “unfair” to the consumer. However, since this individual store was acting outside of corporate policy, a swift call to their corporate office was enough to have them revoke the “fee.” :-)

      • ShyamasriPera2 says:

        @christopherscott:

        Ah, but here’s the thing though :) It wasn’t an open box item; just an item on sale/lowered pricing.

        Either way, I think they should just work the pricing into the open box deals then…. silly thing is though, I have bought open box stuff there and it still had other people’s stuff on it (some of it quite interesting! ;) ).

        Either way, the netbook works great and the os-install from scratch was 45 minutes… including me adjusting the colours to my liking! :D

        And corporate initially said “The store sets their policies”, but apparently calmly stating one’s points really does have effect.

    • Trick says:

      @ShyamasriPera:

      Why would you be a dick for expecting to buy something at the advertised price? The only dick here was the manager trying to rip you off.

  8. Jakuub says:

    @octopede: The snippet mentions “altering price tags on clearance items to incorporate the cost of an extended service plan.” – there’s probably an incentive plan for selling said extended service plan, so by conning consumers into “buying” them, the employee gets to cash in on the incentives.

    When in hells is reply going to work again?

  9. eckre says:

    People actually buy electronics @ a retail location? Why? They like paying more?

    • Corporate-Shill says:

      @eckre:

      Immediate access, easier returns, acceptance of cash, no hidden charges and no freight charges.

      Oh, and for some products, there is no way an online price is going to cheaper. This is especially true for oversized and high weight products which can be easily shipped.

  10. Shadowman615 says:

    @octopede: (sorry reply is still broken)

    I think the incentive is they can ring up the *real* laptop price + the price of the service plan, which equals the price on the ‘shopped tag. Then the employee can claim an add-on sale to meet his goal.

  11. Shadowman615 says:

    This is really a case of a company relying too heavily on sales metrics and numbers games at the expense of the big picture. They’ve created a system where employees and in-store management are simply going to find ways to game the system to everyone’s detriment.

  12. PLATTWORX says:

    I hope the Attorney Generals and Consumer Protection departments in states Office Depot runs stores in are taking note of this and other stories about Office Depot’s underhanded tactics on this site lately.

    This is scary!

    • SynMonger says:

      @PLATTWORX: What’s scary about it? Do your homework, don’t let your guard down, and you won’t get burned. Caveat Emptor and all that.

      Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Most important to me (and hardest for me to do when I think I have to have something), don’t be afraid to walk away.

  13. rydel says:

    We did this at Circuit City all the time. Instead of adding just a warranty, we would also add in-home setup (the hardest service to sell). We also added in-home setup on wireless router tags.

  14. Michael Salmons says:

    And they probably still wonder why their business is so bad.

  15. oregongal says:

    Unfortunately stories like this is what makes headlines. Rather like all the crappy ones we hear about Comcast, Verizon, etc, ad.nauseum. When in reality most, not all, but most stores and employees are honest, hard-working folks. Yes I’m biased, my hubby works for OD BUT I can say without hesitation that most of the stories I’ve read here about other companies are ones that I’ve done business with and have never had issues with. Rogue managers, employees, whatever always get the headlines.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know where this person works but where I work, we have to worry about Weights and Measures. We are scanning the whole store to make sure our prices are accurate. If the price is off on one item, you get fined anywhere from a couple thousand to i think $20000. That’s definitely not worth trying to sell one more protection plan. Although, the bonus system does really suck!

  17. sspeedracer says:

    Who is stupid enough to buy “computers and other high-end electronics from Office Depot” and smart enough to visit this website? Post a story about Amazon or NewEgg and I’m all ears.

  18. katiat325 says:

    Hmm, I do think that the customer has 14 days to “return” the protection plan. So if you’re pressured to buy it, in order to get the item then and there, and you have enough money, then do so. Once that transaction has been completed, say you now want to return the protection plan. It’s not illegal, and it’s “not used” so yeah.

  19. Zagroseckt says:

    Why would an employ do this… simple manager berates you for 20 minutes brings up the words let go your not preforming and we can get any one to work here.

    suddenly you have a worker who will lie cheat and steel to keep there job.

  20. Acolyte says:

    Some people just like to be able to buy what they can see. That’s why such stores are going to be around for a while :(.

  21. KCChiefsFan says:

    I avoid this with my Iphone. You can tell me something is one price, but if I’ve seen it online at home for X amount of dollars, and I can pull that exact page up again on the spot, no employee has a chance.

    I can’t wait till our cellphones get barcode scanners on top of that so we can scan things in a store and have our phone go “Beep boop, Amazon has this for 100 dollars less, with free shipping and installation, Boooop”. It would make them change their business practices pretty quick.