"Will I Ever Get My Office Depot Refund?"

Reader Marshall writes in to ask if we think he’s going to get his Office Depot (technically, Ativa) refund by the end of the month. Currently, the company’s excuse for not sending him his money is that they’re “out of gift cards.”

In January 2006, I purchased a shredder from Office Depot with the brand name Ativa, which apparently is a company Office Depot owns. It has a seven year warranty. In July 2007, about a year and a half later, the thing breaks. I call my local Office Depot. They say there’s nothing they can do, call the national Office Depot 800 number. I call the national number, it it takes my four tries (each time the representative giving me the wrong number, including one for Sony Customer service) to actually get the correct number for Ativa Technical Support, which is: 877-777-4357. I call that number, and the person who answers asks me to explain the problem.

Upon my explaining the problem, the Ativa representative says, “How often did you add shredder lubricant?” I said maybe two or three times. She said, “I’m sorry, shredders need to be lubricated at least once a month. The fact that you did not lubricate the shredder invalidates your warranty.”

I respond, “Where does it state in the owner’s manual that I need to oil the shredder?” This results in a 20 minute conversation which basically entails me reading my copy of the owner’s manual to her, after which we agree that the only reference to oiling it is, “Never use any oil or lubricants not clearly specified for shredder use in or around the machine as some oils can combust causing serious injury.”

After this, she agrees that I will be issued a refund, in the form of a gift card that can be used at any Office Depot store.

Here’s the problem: they won’t actually send the credit. At the time (late August, 2007) it was supposed to arrive in 4 to 6 weeks. When I called in November having not received it, they said it would arrive at the end of the month. When it didn’t arrive, I called in December. They said it would arrive just after Christmas.

I called them on Friday (1/18/08), and they said that they were short on staff to send out the cards and didn’t actually have enough of the cards in stock to send.

But I should have it at the end of January, the supervisor promises. Somehow I find that very hard to believe. How about a Consumerist poll in the comments: will I get my gift card by the end of January? A yes or no vote should do it.


Ask and you shall receive.

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Edit Your Comment

  1. cde says:

    Small Claims court, naturally.

    Or, contact your local Office Depot store’s manager (Or district manager) and tell him your story, that you want to be compensated, and that Small Claims is your next stop, as Ativa is owned by O.D.

  2. DallasDMD says:

    I bet he didn’t oil his shredder once. Is it normal to be told to oil your shredder? News to me.

  3. usflaurenbull says:

    If you contact an Office Depot store, they should be able to take care of his at the store level. Of course, it depends on what manager you get a hold of, but since Ativa is an Office Depot brand, they’re able to take care of the warranty at their discretion. Same thing with a lot of the office chairs and anything Foray brand…

  4. Ayo says:

    Wow, I made a claim on an extended warranty on my computer chair ($200). And it only took me 4 business days to receive my gift card. So yeah, thats BS on the gift card business. Thats a shame that they are giving you the run around on something less than 100 bucks probably.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Never heard of oiling a shredder… Anyone see this month’s Wired article about the East German Secret Police files? They didn’t oil their shredders either and they have thousands of bags of hand torn records.

    I hope you’re not in that spot, Marshall – maybe 50 bags of hand torn records or less I hope?

    Good luck on your claim with O.D. “Out of gift cards,” that’s a good one. Maybe that one works with someone who’s just fallen off the turnip truck…

  6. backbroken says:

    I’m oiling my shredder right now.

  7. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Why are they sending a gift card? Are they the same company as Office Depot? If not, and are just associated with it, I would think they’d either replace the product itself (send it to the guy, don’t make him drive to a store to replace it!) or send him back a check.

  8. Starfury says:

    I think you have to oil the cross cut shredders, that’s the kind I
    have and the manual does say to oil it at least 1 time a month. It also
    says to not run it more than 30 min at one time. So far I haven’t had
    any issues with the shredder and it’s way better than my old stip
    cutting kind.

    And yes, I am one of those odd people that does RTFM (Read the Fine Manual) when I get something new.

  9. IrisMR says:

    Small claims. That’s the best you can do.

  10. Parting says:

    After appearing on Consumerist, he will get his money back :)

    However, I would ”chargeback” already, I don’t have this type of patience.

  11. DojiStar says:

    I read somewhere that you could take these big companies to small claims court and win.

    I just wish I could remember where I read that.

    I think you should do that.

  12. jurisenpai says:

    We oil our shredder at work a few times a month, as it gets used fairly often. A bottle of shredder oil is only a couple of bucks and really does improve the performance of the unit.

  13. goller321 says:

    @chouchou: Can’t chargeback from that far back…

    I oil my shredder after reading an article on it. I siply pour some olive oil on a sheet of paper and feed it through, and it should be done for ALL shredders.

    I’d take in everything to a local Office Depot and speak to a manager. I’d take in all the info you have, and show him. If that doesn’t work, small claims the store. and name the store manager (or even better regional manager) as the defendant proxy. They’ll most likely give you your money to simply skip the suit.

  14. Ayo says:

    Wait till your gift card comes… and hten return the shredder without a receipt… (dont know OD return policy) Then you have your reimbursement for your time.

  15. BrentNewland says:

    This is the first time that Office Depot has appeared on the Consumerist website (other than deals). Salespersons are supposed to recommend shredder lubricant (and, for some odd reason, a flashlight) with every shredder purchase. The lubricant is pretty important, we get returns about once a month where lack of lubrication was the cause. Might have been best to pay the $14 to add another year of coverage – if your shredder broke early, the company would probably take care of it directly instead of making you deal with Ativa.

    Here’s what I have on file from last month’s search (Symantec refused to honor a properly filled out rebate from a customer, thought I might have to call their corporate office):

    Office Depot Corporate Support Center
    2200 Old Germantown Road
    Delray Beach, FL 33445
    (561) 438-4800
    Steve Odland > Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer
    Patricia A. McKay > Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President
    Charles E. Brown > President, International
    Carl Rubin > President, North American Retail
    Steven M. Schmidt > President – North American Business Solutions Division
    C Elisa D. Garcia > Executive Vice President, General Counsel
    Daisy L. Vanderlinde > Executive Vice President – Human Resources
    David C. Fannin > Executive Vice President – Global Compliance Matters
    Monica Luechtefeld > Executive Vice President – Business Development, Information Technology and Supply Chain
    Jennifer Moline > Senior Vice President, Controller

  16. strathmeyer says:

    I come from a long line of professional shredder oilers and I’m really getting a kick out of all of these replies.

  17. hills says:

    What kind of credit card do you have that will let you do a charge back on a year & a half old item? I want it!

    So, if Office Depot is saying they’re out of gift cards does that mean they’re not selling the cards in their stores? Yeah right – what a lame excuse!

    This guy deserves his ca$h back, not a gift card….

  18. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    I finally got a rebate from them, after I called them on it. I had all the info, including the email response from them and went to the rebate checker, then I called and talked to “Bill”

  19. StevieD says:

    oiling shredders is common. So is oiling pruning shears.

    But MONTHLY? Oh get real. Oiling of metal upon metal cutting products is done at the beginning and end of the usage season. For pruning shears that is twice per year.

    I oil (actually clean and oil) my big arse warehouse shredder once per year. I bet the boys in the warehouse actually lie about the cleaning it, but as long as the sucker works, what do I really care…. the shredder is 35 years old.

  20. levenhopper says:

    @aayo3: Yay fraud!

  21. algormortis says:

    i strongly expect better from office depot…they’re usually really on the ball.

    plus, i generally way prefer their store brand stuff to staples or officemax.

  22. fmulder21 says:

    You only have 14 days to “return” a product. The “5 or 7” year warranty is on the blades only. The motor is covered for 90days. He doesn’t deserve “Cash back” because he is past the return period! Period. People need to read there receipts. I had a lady “Can you make an exception!?” “No, The return policy is on the back of the receipt” i said. She claims and challenged me cause “she didn’t read it” Yeah Ativa is Office Depot BUT they are not handled in the store Customer Service wise. Also there are certain skus for gift cards. You can’t use them for certain issues/situations. He’ll probably get a merchendise card.

  23. Jamie Beckland says:

    I have been having a similar problem with Office Depot (Ativa brand). Purchased a mouse at the end of November, it stopped working mid-December.

    Office Depot’s return window is 14 days!

    So, off to the Ativa website, then a call to support. This was a *very* routine call for the agent. Processed everything promptly, and knew exactly what the problem was (I guess quality is not Ativa’s strong suit).

    I called yesterday to check on the status of my gift card (not an ideal solution, I know, but it was not expensive in the first place), and she told me 8-10 weeks! They are “trying to catch up with all the refunds they have to do”.

    After reading this post, I just went ahead and processed a chargeback with the credit card company. Painless!

  24. apautz says:

    I actually work at Office Depot. We recommend shredder oil or these nifty shredder sheets that you feed in the shredder just like a normal piece of paper with every shredder we sell. You don’t expect your car to run without any oil, why would you expect your shredder to run. Besides, every piece of paper you put in there, takes a little bit of the oil with it. A happy shredder is an oiled shredder. Anyway, the company doesn’t send “gift cards” for broken products. They send “merchandise cards”. And it is reasonable to think that they might be out of them because they get a lot of products returned after the holiday season.

    I say that you should go back to the store (or a different one if you are close enough so they don’t know you) and be very nice about it, but say that it is broken, you don’t have your receipt anymore, and you just want to exchange it for a new one. A big factor in the employee taking the return is how nice you are to them. The manger will probably have to get involved because of the price (usually $100), so be nice to them too, and they will probably take care of you. You treat the employees/manager like crap, then you get treated like crap. Cycle of life.

  25. fmulder21 says:

    Let me tell you guys a “secret” If the item is STILL in stock and not clearance, Speak to a manager and get it exchanged. Most ativa stuff that comes back get’s thrown in the dumpster…

  26. biblio26 says:

    @Starfury: “And yes, I am one of those odd people that does RTFM (Read the Fine Manual) when I get something new” Me too! My husband always makes fun of me for doing that until I explain some feature of a product that he didn’t know existed.

  27. KeithRG48 says:

    I am currently dealing with ativa, as my shredder quit working 2 days ago. No one answered the phone on Martin Luther King day, so I guess the lucky swines had the day off.

    First, they tried to tell me my shredder only had a one year warranty. When I told them the manual said three years, I was put on hold. When they came back on the line they said I was correct.

    Then they asked how often I oiled the shredder. I replied that I never did. Their reply was that the plastic (yes, I said plastic) blades were broken and that the warranty was void. I tried to argue the fact that the blades are actually made of metal but she wouldn’t budge.

    So, in frustration, I hung up. Then I filed a complaint with the BBB of South Florida.

    I only find in the manual “For Optimal Performance” to run oiled sheets through the shredder. Nothing that says if this is not done that the warranty is voided. If the shredder was indeed broken as they say, then I guess the REVERSE setting wouldn’t be working either…but it does. So, now I guess the shredder is still useable, I just have to turn it upsidedown. Wow, I can clear a paper jam and shred paper at the same time!

    In the Limited Warranty it does say “at its opinion” so I guess, right or wrong, its their opinion that really matters.

    They could still give me an RMA, I send in the shredder, and then they could still say something else is wrong thats not covered under warranty…and on…and on…and on….

    The best thing I can see doing is not buy their product again and leave complaints online so others will avoid the product too.

  28. KeithRG48 says:

    Update: I got my shredder working again. I fugured what good is a warranty if the company isn’t going to stand by it, so I openned the darn thing up myself.

    After some toying with stuff, moving back and forth the circuit board, I figured out that one of the wires comming from the switch (I think it was the green one) was loose at the conenction to the circuit board. So, I replaced both the Red and Green wires, tested, and put everything back together. It is humming along again!

    Since there was a bunch of shredded paper inside the housing, my guess is so much paper got inside that it got a wire loose. Not so obvious that I could tell, but just enough to break the circuit.

    And the cutting blades are deffinately made of metal.

  29. BrentNewland says:

    As stated, go into a store and talk to a manager. If they won’t solve your REASONABLE problem (we won’t repair your computer, or return a product that we can determine has not been carried in a long time) then post here and one of many OD employees that reads Consumerist can help.

    For reference, the most recommended plans at OD are the replacement plans for chairs, printers, cameras, and (apparently) shredders. A replacement plan gives you back the original purchase price in an OD gift card to purchase whatever item you like – it’s basically paying for the device, then leasing whatever you bought. As long as you keep getting the plan, you won’t have to pay full retail.

  30. KeithRG48 says:

    Never was offered a replacement plan. But, as I said, my shredder is working now (sort of sometimes) At least more than it was. My complaint to the BBB in Florida got forwarded to OD so am waiting for a reply again.

  31. KeithRG48 says:

    The shredder has bit the dust. Ativa sucks.

  32. KeithRG48 says:

    Well, to be fair, I want everyone to know that a representative from Office Depot just called me as a result of my complaint to the Better Business Bureau filed on January 21, 2008. It sounds like I may get a credit of $80 toward a new shredder even though I paid $77.02 for the previous shredder.

    They were looking for a receipt, I told her I haven’t been able to find it but knew of the purchase date from my check book records. She then wanted my debit card number to look it up but the problem was I’ve had a new debit card since the purchase and the last 4 numbers didn’t match.

    The lady was very nice, gave me a case number, and is going to file the paperwork.

    I would still recommend Marshall contact the BBB in South Florida if he fails to get his rebate.

  33. brandyfelix says:

    @levenhopper: fraud? HAHAHA!! haha! ha. fraud.

  34. Jamie Beckland says:

    @apautz: Your suggestions make me chuckle.

    I have done everything you suggest (including being nice) to no avail. These people are getting pressure not to take things back after the return window is closed. That is fine with me, I guess that is what chargebacks are for.

    And if you think that running out of stock of ‘merchandise cards’ is reasonable for a company, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

  35. Jamie Beckland says:

    Update: *Yesterday* I received my merchandise refund card!

    Two months after I processed a chargeback on this purchase.

    CCs FTW!