Confessions Of A Staples Employee

It’s been more than three years since we received any confessions from an employee at Staples. Thankfully, Staples vet Dave decided to write us with the insights he gleaned from his time at the office supply superstore.

1) The managers have a ton of power, the front line employees have very little. If you want to negotiate, get an exception, have a question, or were told one thing and are now being told something else, just ask for a manager. Managers can make pretty much anything happen and are extremely sensitive to customer complaints.

2) Tech work is the lowest priority. Everything else comes first even if it’s something as time insensitive as putting out stock. The reason is that everything else is evaluated in some kind of metric, tech work being finished in a timely manner is not (or at least it’s never enough of a priority to let front line employees know). This may not seem like a big deal, you wait a few extra hours maybe a day or two, but it exponentially increases the likelihood of error because the tech doing the work is constantly being pulled away from the task at hand, making it far easier to forget what needs to be done, what had been done, and other details of the work at hand.

3) Price matching is pretty much an absolute sure thing so long as it’s from a bricks and mortar store. Just bring in some evidence in the form of a flyer, photo, or even have them call to confirm. This is especially useful when combined with…

4) Online coupons are all over the place. Google around on a weekly basis and many times you’ll be able to find coupons for 15% off an entire order, sometimes they’ll go as high as 25% off. They’re not tied to a specific person, or account, and they’ll be good over and over again until they expire. If you’re shopping for a specific item wait till a brick and mortar competitor puts it on sale, price match it and use the coupon.

5) Staples makes almost nothing, and sometimes loses money, on PCs, especially laptops. As a result, Staples focuses very strongly on selling you a bunch of crap with the PCs. Crap they make a lot more money on. This is why if you try to dash in, buy a laptop and dash out you won’t be dashing anywhere. Staples has set up a system to eat up at least 20 minutes of your time, in an attempt to sell you extended service plans, tech services, accessories, and anything else. Most of the metrics Staples uses and pays attention to are focused in this area (the biggest of these is called Market Basket and is essentially the cost of everything bought except the PC that is sold in each transaction with a PC). If a sales associate is letting laptops fly out the door without attaching any other sales to it he won’t be there long. As a result it can be difficult to buy just a PC. You’ll be hammered with how you need to buy extended warranties for a good bit of it, you’ll be asked for lots of information so they can record it for their records (this is mostly an attempt to slow you down so you can’t make a quick purchase), you’ll be told any number of things to drive up the market basket number. A sales associate would far rather you not buy at all than buy just a laptop, so expect roadblocks to be thrown up if you make your intentions obvious. One associate in a nearby store was notorious for telling customers they were out of stock and would send them to another store to avoid an accessory-free sale.

6) The Up Front Agreement is Staples’ attempt to get low-paid, high turnover employees to sell more. There’s nothing really to know here except that Staples explicitly touts this as a way to make the customer feel as if they are in charge when really the sales associate is in charge. Not a shock that’s what they intend, but a bit more honest than I expected.

7) You get to be an Expert or manager by selling, not by being competent. So if you’re dealing with an EasyTech Expert they may know what they’re talking about when it comes to fixing your PC, but they definitely know how to sell.

8) Sales end on Saturday night and new ones begin on Sunday. If you find an old tag that’s expired they will still honor it so long as you point it out. I once saw an expired tag honored that was out of date by over a year.

9) The Copy and Print Center is by far their most profitable area. As a result they will make it right if you complain, they will re-do the order to correct issues even to the point of if they screw it up enough times giving you your corrected order and your money back. About the only thing they won’t do is actual design work, so you’ll need to bring in your order already ready to go. If you do need design work done they can send it out to be done, it’s a little expensive but I never saw a complaint. Also, you will be upsold here to nicer paper, its not much more and does make a big difference if it’s a project you want to impress with. I wouldn’t have believed that before I worked in the CPC, but it does.

Thanks to Dave for sending this in. If you have some insider info about the store you work at (or used to work at), send us your confessions at with “confessions” in the subject.

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