Office Max Apologizes, Actually Apologizes, For Snooty Manager

The condescending store-manager, irked that your request for them to fulfill their contractual agreement has forced them away from a high-scoring session of Snood. Long have consumers suffered under his reign of caprice and indifference. No longer. A weakness has been discovered. The EECB, a modern version of “taking it to the top.” Jim used it and got not only the rare and magnificent personal apology, but a $30 gift card and he was allowed to make the return he wanted to do in the first place. His story follows.

This is the executive email carpet bomb Jim wrote on 8/30/08.

“Office Max Management Team:

I am writing to inform you of business practices that will be costing you our business permanently. My wife and I have given Office Max tens of thousands of dollars in business over the last few years, and due to very unsavory events that transpired this evening our contributions to your eight-tenths of a percent stock increase today ceases. Perhaps if you were to reign your store managers a little more tightly you wouldn’t have a nearly 7% loss on sales as compared to last year’s quarterlies. However, I’m just a consumer. What could I possibly know?

My wife purchased a Brother color inkjet printer via your online store a week or so ago. The merchandise arrived this afternoon; after a set up and test revealed that we were not pleased with the product, we followed your company policy on returning merchandise and took the printer to our local Office Max location. This specific make and model of printer is carried in your store location at 7980 W Alameda Avenue in Lakewood, CO, and was on the shelf when we returned to the store. If I may, please allow me to cite your returns policy, where I have taken the liberty of bolding text relevant to this email:

If you are not satisfied with your online OfficeMax purchase, simply return it to us in the complete and original packaging (together with all accessories and manuals) with your original sales receipt within 30 days of the date of purchase. We will gladly replace or repair the item, or return your money. Max Choice furniture and any assembled furniture cannot be returned. Electronics items, software, digital cameras, computers, PDA’s and business machines must be returned within 14 days of purchase. Computers, PDA’s, digital cameras, monitors, projectors or software can be returned for a complete refund if the item is in the original, unopened package. Defective items can be exchanged for an identical item only.

We returned the printer to the store, all accessories and packing intact as required, and reached the returns counter where we encountered “Lindze,” a cashier, who informed us that we had to take the printer out of the store again and call the number on the bill of lading so someone could come to our house to pick up the printer. Lindze wouldn’t budge on this, and the printer is in a very large package, so I asked for her manager. It didn’t make sense that we had to return home so someone could pick the printer up there. The store manager of the aforementioned location, named “David,” was dispatched at my request after an obviously off-put Lindze refused to help us with our return. I handed David the bill of lading from the package, informed him of our dissatisfaction of the product, and he stated that this was a “special return” that they didn’t carry in the store. We informed David of the product’s location on the shelf, and he returned after checking our information. David then stated, in an overly condescending tone in front of other customers, “I’ll let you return it this time. This is why we don’t buy things over the internet. You can’t touch them.”

At this point, my wife and I were appalled, offended, and quite shocked that we were just publicly condescended by your store manager. My wife and I have four degrees between the two of us, and frankly, if we wanted to be treated like unintelligent criminal garbage, we’d be pouring the tens of thousands of dollars we have provided for Office Max into Wal-Mart.

After a few minutes of Lindze attempting to enter in our information, she tried to give us store credit for the printer. Neither my wife or myself has any plans on ever giving Office Max our patronage again after being treated like stupid people who are trying to pull a fast one over on Office Max. I informed Lindze that we didn’t want the printer or their store credit, and that we wanted our money back. We were then informed that a “no receipt return” only warranted store credit. But with both of our iPhones displaying the receipt and the bill of lading in the store manager’s hands, we couldn’t understand why we can’t return the item. David then told us “well, if you want your money back, you need to go home and call the number listed on the receipt.” David pretty much passed us off at this point, so we collected our merchandise and left the store. Now we have two more problems – a store manager who recognizes we had a receipt but will still not relent to our request, and the inconvenience of having to waste a half hour of our time travelling to the store, a half hour dealing with David and Lindze, and the three hours in research and writing that went into finding your very elusive email addresses and informing you of this incident.

My wife and I used to shop at Office Max because your stores were relatively convenient to us; we often surpassed more convenient selections of Staples and Target to visit your stores. We’ve been so pleased with Office Max in the past that we have overlooked your inflated prices to shop there. We also both bill several hundreds of dollars for our time, which was wasted by your practices, management, and low level employees. We want this solved right away, and no excuses will be accepted. We have a printer in our possession that does not meet our expectations, no way to return this printer due to the rudeness and blatant disregard for customer concerns that David expressed, and our money in your possession that we want returned to us post haste. I have included all pertinent information as a PDF attached to this email and copied it at the bottom; you might also recognize that even though our printer was delivered and we tried to return it, the shipping status still says “pending.” That confused us very much as well. Let’s hope we don’t receive two of these or get double charged. That will only lead to an immediate BBB complaint and as much consumer advocacy press that I can possibly generate. My wife and I are both heavily involved in online consumer advocacy. We’re beyond appalled by this colossal waste of our time and resources.

I want a call from your executive customer service department promptly and immediately. After that call, which needs to include an explanation of your manager’s actions, rude behavior, why he thought it would be a good idea to publicly condescend us and deny us your own policy, I want to be given specific instructions on when and where this printer will be taken from us and our money refunded. I am copying the online consumer advocacy group The Consumerist as well on this post, and formulating our Better Business Bureau complaint. I will hold off for 48 hours from Tuesday morning at 8am before filing my complaint and contacting every one of our friends at various regional and national consumer advocacy groups across the country about the details of this incident. I refuse to be treated like this by anyone, especially by a company that has been given as much money and time as we’ve given Office Max.

We are patiently awaiting your response. Please don’t waste your time trying to run us in circles; you’ve wasted enough of our time already with this ordeal.”

This is the letter Jim wrote me on 9/07/08:

“Well, I was right. Office Max’s policy is exactly what they wrote on their website, and this was all confirmed. Store 1192 was wrong when they wouldn’t process the online return.

After sending Office Max the EECB, I received an email from the district manager, Kevin, who asked that I call him. A day went by, and I received another email from the district manager asking if he would hear from me that day. I called him the following morning.

Kevin was extremely apologetic, said he was dumbfounded and sorry that this had happened, and that he was having a personal meeting with the “store” manager (whom we later found out was not in fact the store manager). Kevin said he could not believe that the manager and cashier wouldn’t process my return, he was sorry for my trouble, and said that we experienced some “training problems” with a manager who was pretty new in his job. He then asked me what this was all worth to me, and as all I wanted was an apology, I said that I would leave it up to him. He said that he was going to send a $30 gift card for our troubles, and that he was extremely sorry for the whole thing.

Sure enough, I got a $30 gift card, and a hand signed apology from Store 1192’s management. It reads:

Dear {redacted],
My sincerest apologies for your bad experiences at our store. my managers did have a training issue with what to do for online returns. They have been well informed and when the situation arises again we will not make the same mistake. I hope this experience does not completely turn you off from Office Max altogether. We at store 1192 try to pride ourselves with great customer service, but we are only human and do make mistakes and our goal is to learn from them and never make the same mistake twice. My understanding is you are getting the credit back from the printer and here is a $30 gift card for your gas and time spent at our store.

Respectfully yours,

Office Max
Store 1192

Score one for the EECB. Thanks Ben.”

(Photo: Maulleigh)