Staples: Give Us $80, We've Already "Set Up" All The Laptops In Stock…

Here’s a “set up fee” or “optimization” complaint we’re seeing more and more involving a wide range of retailers.

A customer will try to buy a computer — only to be told that they can’t have the sale price because all the computers have already been “set up” or “optimized” and there is a fee for this “service.”

Here’s a sad tale from our inbox:

My mom offered to buy me the HP tablet laptop I have been oggling for Christmas. After I told her the model number and where she could find it, she was off to Staples, the only chain in town to carry it in stock, to purchase it for me.

When she got there, the salesman told her it was going to be on sale starting tomorrow in their flyer, and that she should come back to get the sale price. He also informed her that they had 5 in stock, the display model, and four others in the back that were already “Set up”. She asked what “Set up” meant, and he explained it was a service that meant the laptop would be set up and run optimally and perfectly with Windows and everything she would need.

My mom is in her fifties, her first language isn’t English, and my hunch as she explained this to me, was that the “Set up” was some kind of scam. My husband called another store to get clarification and find out if they had any in stock that weren’t “Set up” or display models.

He found out the “Set up” service costs $80. It entails providing you with a CD that has a backup of the operating system on it, and doing all of the Windows updates. That’s it. He asked the clerk if it was usual to “Set up” all of the laptops that were in stock and going on sale. The sales clerk said “No… we don’t do that” but then was corrected by a manager apparently because he then said “Oh wait, my manager just said we do…”.

Needless to say I had no interest in getting a “Set up” laptop, so we called another Staples and found one that wasn’t “Set up”. At that store the clerk did try to offer the “Set up” service, but it was declined and that was that.

It seems really shady, to perform this questionably useful service to the entire inventory of an item that is going on sale, without really mentioning it to the customer that it costs $80 extra and doesn’t entail much. I would guess there were probably some people who bought that laptop, even if they didn’t want the “Set up” service, because there wasn’t anywhere else in town with it in stock and they were stuck. The sale price was $100 off, so even with the $80 service fee, it was still cheaper, but it’s the lack of choice and lack of information as to what “Set up” even is that I find horrid.

We think this is shady. Customers should be able to purchase items for the amount advertised without any extra fees that are not disclosed in the ad. You should report it to your local attorney general and see if they agree with us.

(Photo: soul motor )

Want more consumer news? Visit our parent organization, Consumer Reports, for the latest on scams, recalls, and other consumer issues.