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Businesses The Almighty Buck Hardware IT

How Office Depot Pushes Service Plans On Customers 417

Posted by timothy
from the gently-with-a-chain-saw dept.
Harry writes "I was amused, appalled, and angry — yes, all three — when I spotted signs above every register at my local Office Depot with handy scripts for clerks to use in 'recommending' that customers buy extra-cost, extremely profitable protection plans. And now Laptop Magazine has posted an eye-opening investigative report that charges local Office Depot stores with instructing staffers to lie and tell people who want to buy laptops without service plans that they're out of stock." Update: 03/13 00:53 GMT by T : An employee with Office Depot, somewhere in the southeastern US, wrote to respond to this story as a employee of the company, but in his off time and not in any official capacity: "I will only say that what is described in your article and the Laptop Mag article is not something that occurs across the entire company as sanctioned or ordered by the Corporate Higher Ups and is certainly nothing I have experienced as a 10-year employee of the company, we want sales. Yes, we want add-ons, but we will take the sales regardless."
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How Office Depot Pushes Service Plans On Customers

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:41PM (#27158513) Journal
    I've seen these sheets and the further down you read the uglier it gets:

    ... if the customer somehow still refuses to purchase a warranty plan and can see the SKU on display, assess whether or not you could outrun the customer:

    • If YES, grab the company knife from underneath the counter and ask the customer to think of the extended warranty as "protection money."
    • If NO and you haven't already seen the victim ... er ... customer's credit card, grab the company camera under the counter and shoot photos as they leave the store. Be sure to get their license plate numbers clearly photographed and submit all photos in a dossier clearly marked "OPEN SEASON" to the Scientology division of Office Depot.

    Remember, you're helping them by saving them the loss N years from now when it breaks and they didn't buy an N + 1 year warranty.

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Remember, you're helping them by saving them the loss N years from now when it breaks and they didn't buy an N + 1 year warranty.

      I'm reminded of a certain really bad thriller starring Judd Nelson as a serial killer. He'd always inform his victims that he was there to "help" them.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vindimy (941049)
      Everyone talks about Circuit City, and indeed, these news are nothing new... Every electronics outlet does that to stay competitive, no? If everyone steals, you either steal too, or go out of business.

      Here's an account [consumerist.com] of a former Circuit City employee.
      • by commodore64_love (1445365) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @07:24AM (#27164949) Journal

        When I worked at Sears they made us push their "protection plans" which supposedly were better than extended warranties because a technician would clean your refrigerator or dryer or whatever once a year. Well, I can clean my own unit thank you, and so too can my customer.

        I quit that job as quickly as I could. I don't like lying to customers. Fact is: You Do Not Need an extended warranty. Most items die during the first few months, and that repair is provided FREE by the manufacturer. If an item survives its infancy, it will last a long long time.

        And when it finally dies 10-15 years later, it's cheaper to just buy a new unit than to pay that ~$50/year ($500 per decade) extended warranty fee.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          P.S.

          What really annoyed me about Sears is, if you don't sell their extended warranties, they take you off the floor & make you sit in the break room watching videos. All day. You can't earn a commission if they force you off the floor. I can't believe such tactics are legal.

  • Better Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moniker127 (1290002) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:41PM (#27158515)
    Why would you buy a computer at office depot?
    • by Narnie (1349029) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:48PM (#27158627)

      Why would you buy a computer at office depot?

      Because you need something with enough mass to make it through the store window when you plan on returning it?

      Because you don't feel satisfied with a computer purchase unless you know you've been ripped off?

      Because Office Depot is the only place that will extend you credit because you put a months worth of hookers and blow on your creditcard?

    • Re:Better Question (Score:5, Insightful)

      by IANAAC (692242) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:49PM (#27158635)

      Why would you buy a computer at office depot?

      Not so long ago you could have said the same thing about Best Buy - why would you buy a computer from them?

      If you can find a better deal at Office Depot, why not?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by moniker127 (1290002)
        Id still say the same thing about best buy.
      • I still say the same thing about Best Buy. What was your point again? ;P

      • Re:Better Question (Score:4, Informative)

        by cob666 (656740) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:17PM (#27159885) Homepage
        I recently purchased an HP laptop at Best Buy that ended up being a few dollars cheaper than what it would have cost to buy direct from HP once you added in the shipping costs and the sales tax.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sgt_doom (655561)

        Because, douchebag, you are sowing the seeds of your own demise.

        Buy from a national chain, and the money flows outward, probably never to return to your region/city/neighborhood.

        For every $100 spent at a national book chain, only an infinitesimal amount remains locally (something like $10 or so). Buy from a local book store, and at least $45 remains in your neighborhood.

        Which means more employment, etc., etc. Dig????

        And in the present economy - which will take from 10 to 20 years to rebound from, if they

        • Re:Better Question (Score:5, Interesting)

          by IANAAC (692242) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:03PM (#27161531)

          Buy from a national chain, and the money flows outward, probably never to return to your region/city/neighborhood. For every $100 spent at a national book chain, only an infinitesimal amount remains locally (something like $10 or so). Buy from a local book store, and at least $45 remains in your neighborhood. Which means more employment, etc., etc. Dig????

          Great! Point me to a local, non-national chain store to buy a netbook or MID (or laptop, for that matter) and I'm totally there (oh, and I should add at an attractive price, since that's usually what takes people to national chains).

          Look, electronics and books are two very different industries and you just can't compare them. Books can be and are sometimes published and produced locally. I don't know of any local, US-based place that produces the electronics I would use. Dig?

          • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @01:43AM (#27162999)

            Great! Point me to a local, non-national chain store to buy a netbook or MID (or laptop, for that matter) and I'm totally there.

            Do you happen to live in Richfield, Minnesota? Because if that non-national part isn't a sticker, there's this company there called Best Buy you should look into.

            If not, I'm 100% out of ideas.

    • by PCM2 (4486) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:06PM (#27158907) Homepage

      Believe it or not, I bought my current PC at Circuit City. I know, I know. But at the time, Circuit City had the same model HP Pavilion for as little or less than anyone online, with the additional advantage that I could jump on the bus and go buy one today, rather than having to wait around for UPS to deliver it. A week later, Amazon.com dropped the price by $50, so I went back to Circuit City and said, "Hey! I you guys ripped me off!" The nice kid at the cash register promptly credited $50 to my card. Total time without a working computer: 18 hours. Total money lost due to not shopping online: $0.

      Am I sorry they're out of business?

      I dunno. Not really.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        Am I sorry they're out of business?

        I dunno. Not really.

        Good. You shouldn't be sorry. It's not your fault they're finished. It's everyone who didn't buy their computers from Circuit City, thereby denying Circuit City a profit from the consumer's money.

    • Office Despot (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:22PM (#27159965) Homepage
      I've avoided buying anything at Office Despot since I walked into one years ago and they had a sign boasting that they test their employees for drugs. Even aside from the fact that I find that invasion of employees' privacy troublesome on principle, why would I - as a customer - care whether the guy ringing up my sale smokes a little weed once in a while, or even if the girl restocking the shelves does a line of coke every night? What kind of business brags about how worker-unfriendly an employer they are?
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        I suppose that's one way to think about it. Another is that since those drugs are illegal, they tend to be supplied by large drug-smuggling operations. You buy something, some of that money goes into the salesperson's pocket, and some of that goes into the illegal drug trade.
        • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @01:44AM (#27163003)

          I suppose that's one way to think about it. Another is that since those drugs are illegal, they tend to be supplied by large drug-smuggling operations.

          I run a mom-and-pop drug smuggling operation, you insensitive clod!

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lumpy (12016)

      Same reason I bought my new dell laptop at Staples..

      it was $350.00 cheaper than I could get the exact same thing with my partner pricing from dell.com.

      I saved a crapload of cash and got it right now instead of waiting a week and paying for shipping.

      for some reason these office supply stores have insane deals that the manufacturers cant touch. Funny part is that I was able to buy a dell extended warranty for it when I got to work at dell.com for 1/2 the price of their special staples care package.

  • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:45PM (#27158579) Homepage Journal
    Heh, that sounds about right.

    I worked for OfficeMax a few years ago. Everybody who worked there received commissions for selling those overpriced plans to customers.

    I'm wondering if the examples discussed in TFA are a companywide policy a la Best Buy with their seperate pricing for internet and intranet, or the brainchild of some greedy store manager. When I worked as a film-developer for a major drugstore chain, the store manager approached me about finding a way to cheat customers using standard processing for customers who turned in their film with premium envelopes(which means that customers who wanted offsite "premium" processing would instead have their stuff done in-house, saving us tons of cash and leaving us hoping that the customer wouldn't notice the lack of the extra features they wanted ^_^).

    My biggest mistake in that job was mentioning the word "ethics" to my manager. I was never promoted ^_^
    • by Aladrin (926209) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:06PM (#27158911)

      Office Depot does not pay commissions. Instead, they just threaten your job if you don't sell enough. Since the employees are easy replaceable, even at near-minimum-wage, they don't have to care.

      Yes, I used to work there as a 'customer service representative' (or some stupid title) and I was told 'never lie', etc etc... And then told that if I didn't sell enough plans there would be problems.

      I refused to lie and refused to even -try- to sell the plans to people who didn't want them. Most of the time, I didn't even mention them. The only way I survived was that I was the -only- employee with any actual computer knowledge. I could actually fix computers where others couldn't even name the parts if they weren't labeled. (Okay, there were a couple that could install RAM, if they -had- to.)

      They don't just push those plans, though. They also push overpriced ink, paper, cords, power strips... Anything and everything to add money to that sale.

      Obviously, the employees hate that shit as much as the customers do. I'm not surprised that they've resorted to lying directly from management to the customer to try to sell the extras.

      The one article claims a really odd commission system... While it wasn't in effect when I was there, it was the kind of bullshit they'd pull, so it might be true. They're really, really cheap though, so I seriously doubt it's true.

      • by Ethanol-fueled (1125189) * on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:25PM (#27159197) Homepage Journal

        Obviously, the employees hate that shit as much as the customers do.

        Yes! Laymen, please keep that in mind the next time you get that crap from one of us working that shit job. Also know that those bullshit policies are often enforced by secret shoppers. Secret shoppers are people who work for agencies who are paid by the company to monitor employee behavioral compliance.

        OfficeMax didn't have them then, but the drugstore chain did. In that case, the random weekly visits measured for all of the employees working in the store(YMMV):

        Did the employee greet you with a smile?
        Did the employee ask you if you found everything you wanted?
        Did the employee offer to take(or call somebody to take) you to the item?
        Did the employee offer a friendly parting comment?


        I never found out for sure, but I've heard that store managers receive bonuses for keeping payrolls low. My store manager was paid 63K a year while the understaffed underlings often work for minimum wages. Keep that in mind the next time you visit a drug or grocery store with 30 people in line being served by only 2 cashiers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          "I never found out for sure, but I've heard that store managers receive bonuses for keeping payrolls low. My store manager was paid 63K a year while the understaffed underlings often work for minimum wages. Keep that in mind the next time you visit a drug or grocery store with 30 people in line being served by only 2 cashiers."

          Oh please. Everything up until that paragraph I would buy as plausible. But do you know WHY they pay their employees so little ? Because people are willing to take the jobs at those w

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            That's the stupidest bit of free-market fundamentalism I've heard today.

            Due to all kinds of factors like economies of scale, customer loyalty, established physical presence, detailed infrastructure, etc. an existing company has so many competitive advantages over an upstart that to pretend some entrepreneur could (for God knows what reason) start up a consumer electronics store to take on, say Best Buy, is just absurd.

            Somehow this perfect entrepreneur would have to know that (for example) Best Buy was
          • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @10:02PM (#27161521) Journal

            So if the owners are paying the managers ridiculously large wages while the people actually doing the "real work" are getting cheated then the entrepreneur will not be in business very long.

            Is that why CEOs are paid so many million whether or not the company is failing? Everything up until that paragraph was BS, but that really clinched it.

            Here in Australia we have a scandal going on where an iconic Australian clothing company called Pacific Brands is firing thousands of local staff to move their operations offshore. Anyone that quits early loses their redundancy payouts. Meanwhile the CEO doubled her salary. This is possible because company executives have all the power and are able to decide where to make cuts first. Meanwhile they also pat each other on the back and increase their own wages if company performance improves as a result. Their money doesn't come from the money fairy. The employees and the share holders all lose out as the company is sold out from under them.

    • by sahonen (680948) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:08PM (#27158951) Homepage Journal
      I worked for OfficeMax a few years ago. Everybody who worked there received commissions for selling those overpriced plans to customers.

      OfficeMax was my shitty high school job, I had the same thing... I don't think I'll ever forget the poor customer who bought the protection plan on a $5 mouse because I was following the script and she didn't know how to say "no." I stopped following the script after that.
      • I can top that... (Score:5, Informative)

        by TiggertheMad (556308) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @08:36PM (#27160761) Homepage Journal
        I worked at ChimpUSA in college (same shit, different company), and once of my co-workers with less than stellar morals managed to sell some lady a 1 year warranty on printer ink.

        When the boss found out, he yelled at the guy, not for being a total slimeball, but because the woman could have probably come back and got free replacements for her 'defective' (re:empty) ink cartridges for the next year...
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MistrBlank (1183469)

          A clever manager would be able to point to the clause that states normal wear through proper usage is not covered.

          He probably wasn't clever enough for that though.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Jurily (900488)

      My biggest mistake in that job was mentioning the word "ethics" to my manager. I was never promoted ^_^

      Heh. I actually used the sentence "If you want to be ripped off that badly, I can get a colleague for you, but I won't sell you this" once. I was supposed to sell phone plans and horribly crappy and overpriced ADSL connections together. The phone part was good though.

      I worked a total of four days there.

    • by Yeef (978352) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:54PM (#27159609) Homepage
      I used to work at the local Best Buy and, like most big retailers, they had us pushing the service plans and other stupid add-ons (magazine subscriptions, credit cards, etc). While they never told us to lie, they'd often tell us to omit mentioning any potential negatives unless the customer specifically asked about it.

      Best Buy employees don't work on commission, true, but of course they gave more hours to the people that managed to get more customers to sign up for service plans. There's nothing wrong with that. Now, most of my co-workers were honest people; it wasn't uncommon to see some of them give the customers faulty information, but it was usually out of ignorance rather than trying to purposely be deceptive.

      There was a handful of people, though, that would tell outright falsehoods to customers to get them to get a service plan or what have you. There was one employee in particular that would sign people up for the magazine subscriptions without even asking then (the 'free' trial that they charge you for after the 8th week if you don't cancel).

      Of course, since I worked Customer Service I was the one who had to deal with all of the angry customers. Easily the most stressful job I've ever had. On the one side I had customers venting their frustrations at me. Then, with the way Best Buy's hierarchy is set up (there were about 12 managers, all with the same level of authority and conflicting sets of instructions) it was chaos trying to figure out exactly what they expected from me. So, I simply stuck to the official store policy and, of course, I got 'spoken to' (but not written up, because they really wouldn't have a leg to stand on) for accepting too many returns even though I was following company policy to the letter. After putting up with that shit for two years, I'd finally had enough and quit.

      I suppose I'm going off on a tangent here, so let me get back on topic. I think that, with the exception of a few people, most retail employees loathe using lying to people, even if only through omission. Unfortunately, the way the system is setup, there isn't really much of a choice. I was fortunate enough that I could afford to quit a job that I hated (and that was back when the economy was still relatively good). But not everyone has that luxury. If you have a family to support or are a student paying your own tuition (as a lot of my co-workers were) it's not really an option. When I was working at Best Buy, the only people there that seemed to genuinely enjoy their job, other than the managers, were the people working in the warehouse (away from the customers). Most everyone else just sort of begrudgingly accepted that things could be worse and did their best to bear it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mkiwi (585287)

        I worked at CompUSA, and our management was constantly trying to get us to sign people up with *AOL*. The whole thing was so ridiculous that even the department managers didn't fire us for lack of sales.

        The people who made a lot of money on commissions were the hardware guys selling compete systems. I never got to see a big benefit from selling the plans, other than I got to keep my job.

  • Appalled? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:46PM (#27158587) Journal
    Wow, if you get appalled over scripts for cashiers, wait until you find out about telemarketers, what THEY have. I fear the day you learn about politician's speech writers. Oh, and did you know? Those bills that get passed through congress, often the congresspeople DON'T EVEN READ THEM.

    OK I'll stop now to keep your rage meter from going overboard.

    (This message brought to you from the 'please channel your anger towards things that actually matter dept').

    Man, I must be feeling bitter today.
    • > This message brought to you from the 'please channel your anger towards things that actually matter dept

      I believe that when you say "things that actually matter", you really mean "things that you feel you can change". Politicians not reading bills is Very Bad -- but there's little one feels they can do about it.

  • the slide shown (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bugs2squash (1132591) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:47PM (#27158609)
    did not look that bad to me. It seemed to stick to the facts. They are supposed to make money
    • by Mprx (82435)
      Not at all. The true reason the salesperson recommends the extended warranty is because they get commission. The reason given in the script is an unrelated fact, so by following the script the salesperson is lying.
      • by vux984 (928602) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:22PM (#27159147)

        Not at all. The true reason the salesperson recommends the extended warranty is because they get commission. The reason given in the script is an unrelated fact, so by following the script the salesperson is lying.

        No. By following the script the sales person is giving you a true reason why you might want to buy it. It doesn't happen to be the reason he wants to sell it to you, but what has that got to do with anything?

        The true reason the store exists at all is to extract money from customers. So if I walk in an ask to buy a single pen, and an employee suggests buying the 3 pack for twice the price 'because you get 2 for the price of 1' he isn't lying to me. Its the truth, and perhaps even a good reason to buy the 3 pack.

        The fact that he makes more money from the sale this way is the reason he suggested it, but that doesn't make the rest of the conversation a lie.

  • Depot dumbness (Score:5, Informative)

    by pilgrim23 (716938) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:49PM (#27158651)
    I bought a keyboard yesterday. I was asked if I wanted a warranty. I said "On a keyboard?" with a sardonic sound. It went right over her head. Then she put a tape over the edge of the box "Whats that?" I asked "our return policy" she said. "So if I break the tape I cannot return it? You do realize I need to open the box." " I'm sorry sir, that is the policy" she smartly replied. I left with my wallet, but not wits intact...
  • by Doug52392 (1094585) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:50PM (#27158665)

    About a year ago, I walked into a local Best Buy, and was shocked, appalled, angry, but not surprised, to see anti-filesharing propaganda set up throughout the store.

    I counted over 25 fliers hanging on walls, telling people "DOWNLOADING IS A CRIME!", and other propaganda. The most elaborate display they set up was in the MP3 Players section of the store. They mounted two flashing strobe lights on top of a display, designed to look like a police car's flashing lights. They then placed a large sign stating that "DOWNLOADING IS A CRIME. DON'T GO TO JAIL, DON'T DOWNLOAD".

    So I asked one of the employees about the signs. They said it was an order by their upper management (as in, from their corporate offices). I then asked if they believed that downloading music is a criminal offense that can result in arrest, as they clearly try to say. They did not know. Some of them said "Yes", while others didn't answer the question.

    Needless to say, I guess people complained, because the signs were gone after a while...

    • by MrEricSir (398214) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:55PM (#27158723) Homepage

      "Sir, I saw you put those CDs in your pants. Are you stealing them?"
      "Yes, well I wasn't going to download these, but then I saw your sign..."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PCM2 (4486)

      Needless to say, I guess people complained, because the signs were gone after a while...

      Actually, I think it's more likely that the [RI|MP]AA paid to advertise at Best Buy, the same way that technology companies can buy end-of-aisle display placement. When the money ran out, the ads came down.

    • by Locklin (1074657)

      Funny... I bought a DVD player from BestBuy last boxing day. The employee told me he has the same model and it played every DivX file he has downloaded.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by PunditGuy (1073446)
      Damn it! Aunt Mabel bought me this iTunes card, but since downloading is a crime...
  • The Script.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by $1uck (710826) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:52PM (#27158679)
    "This _____ is eligible for our replacement plan. I recommend it because if the product fails after the manufacturer's warranty, it will be replaced with an Office Depot Merchandise card for the full price you are paying today."
    If this shocks, amazes, or angers you. Get a fucking life. How is this news at all? If they want to lose a sale b/c they're not selling a protection plan, well I would think they are just shooting themselves in the foot.
    • Also, while people might not like the sales pitch, by selling protection plans the company is able to lower the prices of it's products to compete. It's competitors follow suit to remain competitive and, while we might have to listen to a slightly annoying 2 second sales pitch, we ALL pay less for hardware as a result.

  • by mackinaw_apx (1444371) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:53PM (#27158691)
    I used to work for Office Max for over a year. These exact same employee "policies" were in place there too.. though our plans were called "Max Advantage". We'd be told to only help customers on the floor that were looking at or thinking of purchasing items that carried a service plan... and got "write ups" if we didn't sell X amt. of plans per month. And since the day I quit, I haven't worked retail again...
    • by Itninja (937614)
      I started working for Office Max when they were still called Biz Mart. Then it was called 'Biz Advantage' and the manager would give daily pep talks over the intercom before we opened reminding us that Biz Advantage was 'pure profit'. They had contests to see who would sell the most, but they never wrote anyone up for not selling them. But that was back in the early 1990's so things may have gotten more cut throat since then. I too swore off retail after my experience in the office supply mega store indust
  • Yabbut... (Score:5, Funny)

    by cptdondo (59460) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @05:53PM (#27158703) Journal

    Wait till they get a patent on this method!

  • Really worked well for these guys [compusa.com], and of course these guys, too [circuitcity.com]. Sounds like a great idea to apply to more retailers. I wonder, can I buy an extended warranty on a case of pens from Office Depot as well? Damned things keep breaking on me.... And how about these? [officedepot.com] They might break, too.
  • "Circuit City".

    Not that I'd buy tech there in any event (I'm one of those smarmy Mac guys), but this certainly means I'll minimize my purchases to only those staples (pun possibly intended) like paper and pencils.

  • Here is what I do (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga (793279) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:07PM (#27158919)

    When I am to buy anything from stores like Office Depot, and happen to be coaxed into these service plans, I tell them:

    "Look, this is a gift. If I must purchase a service plan before walking out with this product, then I will leave it. Now, can I have this product without a service plan or not?"

    This script has worked remarkably well at all times. I have never been disappointed.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:46PM (#27159477)

      Or you could try my favorite.

      Oh its out of stock? Damn thought you guys had a good service plan too. Guess I will go to insert other store here.

      Magically in stock again? At register with item in hand. Service plan? What service plan? I didnt say I wanted one please take it off.

      Bait and switch works BOTH ways.

  • Since the days of the Romans, the adage has been "Caveat emptor." (Let the buyer beware.)

    Now Modern Marketing has their own adage: "Carpe emptor!" (Seize the buyer.)

    Let the Battle of the Adages Begin!

  • Certainly not new (Score:4, Informative)

    by mschuyler (197441) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:11PM (#27158995) Homepage Journal

    Selling up is hardly new with computer stores. Long time ago I bought a high-end VCR (Yup, THAT long ago) from a Silo store I had frequented. They always tried to sell the warranty, and this time I was damn sure I wasn't going to buy one. The sales lady rung up the order without asking, so I sarcastically asked, "Aren't you going to try to sell me one of those extended warranties?" "No," she said. "I can see it in your face that you aren't going to buy one." which I thought was pretty funny.

    About the scripts: I worked retail for awhile and I gotta tell you, some of these 'sales associates' are so afraid of what to say that they demand scripts. They'll say, "What do I say?" so I'd say, 'Just talk to the customer and answer his questions.' "But what, exactly, am I supposed to say?" and it just goes on and on until you write them up a script to keep them quiet. This was especially true for customer complaints where no one wants to say the 'wrong' thing. As you know, once in awhile a customer can be kind of unreasonable, and there's this old aphorism that "the customer is always right." But as far as I'm concerned, that doesn't mean a front-line flak catcher has to take abuse. What the phrase means is, "The customer knows what he wants to buy, and if you don't have it, you screwed up." It doesn't mean if he starts yelling at tou that you have to stand there and just take it. Leave. get a manager. Whatever.

  • by slummy (887268) <shawnuthNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:11PM (#27159005) Homepage
    When I was 17 I worked for Office Max.

    The incentives that they gave the salesperson who sold the extended "warranty" on any electronic/furniture item far outweighed any moral obligation for me. I would push a $5.99 1-year replacement warranty on just about anything I could, selling someone a $29.99 inkjet printer with a warranty gave me an extra $12 bucks in my check. Some weeks my check gross amount just about doubled from the volume of extended replacement plans I sold.
    I don't blame them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hansamurai (907719)

      Yep, did the same at Staples during high school. I remember one particular Sunday morning where I had sold a bunch of plans by noon, basically tripling my pay check for those sorry few hours, "$19 an hour! WOW!"

      I don't regret selling the plans, some of them were nice, like the laptop screen repair. I never followed scripts, you can read people pretty easily after a while of selling electronics, I don't think I bothered asking even 50% of the time. I was only a top seller like once, but it didn't bother m

  • A former employee (Score:4, Interesting)

    by UnrealisticWhample (972663) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:12PM (#27159011)
    A few years ago I worked at Office Depot for about a month while I was looking for other work. I was hired on as a stocker, though they'd occasionally have me cover the computer department when we were short staffed. At our store, management set a quota for each employee for how many service plans we were supposed to sell each week with a required Saturday morning training session for any employee who did not reach their quota where we would do crap like train on these scripts and brainstorm incentive plans on how to motivate us to sell more.

    I went to one of these stupid meetings and all I could say for myself is that since I worked as a stocker in office supplies, I didn't even sell anything that I could in theory have pushed a service plan on, even if I didn't think they were crap. They responded that I was mistaken because batteries were in my department and they qualified. WTF? How the hell are you supposed to sell a service plan on a pack of AA batteries? I quit before the next Saturday as I'd found another job, though I probably would have given them notice if it weren't for the crappy work environment.
    • Re:A former employee (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Akili (1497645) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @03:30AM (#27163583)
      About a decade ago I worked for Staples, in their business center.

      I witnessed, firsthand, a 'model' employee taking a printer out of a customer's cart when the customer revealed that they weren't going to buy the money pit of an extended warranty plan! Subsequently telling that same customer that the entire wall of boxed printers was on hold for 'a school' was the icing on that particular cake.

      Our store had the best rankings in the district because 'we' flat-out refused to let warranty-able items go out the door without a warranty being purchased. While the official store policy was never to use those sorts of tactics, there was a sheet that was distributed to each store in a given district, posted prominently in the break room, ranking each store by how well they did selling those warranty plans, and the best store got awards and the like. Kind of a we don't condone this behavior, but if it gets results, we'll pretend not to notice arrangement, it seemed.

      I got in some hot water for not pushing those warranties - I sold perhaps one a month, usually because the customer wanted it - but I had other good employee qualities that they apparently decided were worth keeping me for.

      Anyway. I have no idea if they still do such a thing, but it's not a new idea.
  • by Locke2005 (849178) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:17PM (#27159079)
    "Nice little laptop you got here... shame if anything happened to it!"
  • I've recently been to Sport's Authority, twice, and each time was solicited extended warranty plans for a pair of rollerblades, and (get this), a pair of freaking ski goggles. Anything for a buck...
  • Scam (Score:3, Insightful)

    by interval1066 (668936) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:23PM (#27159159) Homepage Journal
    Just another scam. Why go through the hassle? I just bought a netbook for my wife from Amazon. Has as low a price as I could find for that particular product, no hassle, no muss, no fuss. The only hassle I can see is that I can't walk out of their establishment with my purchase that day. But I didn't have a sales clown in my face telling what I need, getting in my way, forcing me to smell his BO, etc... For this kind of service I can wait.
  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:33PM (#27159291)

    Will they replace a candy bar under the plan?

    I can see it now.

    Just buy a candy bar and they ask do you want a protection plan you say yes eat it right there and ask them How do I make a clam?

    As for batteries will they give new ones for free when they go dead or does the plan cost more then the batteries?

  • Not News (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hduff (570443) <hoytduffNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @06:43PM (#27159427) Homepage Journal
    When did we forget caveat emptor and expect the seller to be fair and do business in our favor all the time?
    • The idealism of consumer-focused selling always falls prey to reality.
    • We demand low prices that result in low profits, so a business needs to find some other means to generate profits.
    • "Selling what we have" will prevail over "Selling what's best for the customer" almost every time.
    • People lie and cheat to achieve their goals, especially when their goals are at contretemps to the other party and they'll lose their jobs if they aren't successful.
    • Buyers always have a choice; complain and/or vote with your pocketbook/feet.

    I once worked at a bank that set high goals for the "sale" of credit life insurance on consumer loans. Without exception, credit life insurance obtained through the lender is a bad deal for the borrower and a great deal for the bank - DON'T EVER BUY CREDIT LIFE INSURANCE. If the borrower "asks" for it, the premium is not counted in the A.P.R. calculation; if it is required, it must be part of that calculation, vastly inflating the A.P.R. Guess how much credit life was sold as "asked for" and how much was sold as "required"?

    We were instructed as to patently illegal and devious means to write it as "asked for" while the bank President stood in the room. The one fellow who questioned the practices was fired within the month. I left shortly thereafter.

    It happens everywhere. That's the sad, harsh real world.

    This is not news.

    "Office Depot Provides Legitimate Extended Warranties At No Extra Cost" would be news.

  • Lie? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PPH (736903) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @07:28PM (#27160055)

    instructing staffers to lie and tell people who want to buy laptops without service plans that they're out of stock.

    I don't get how this would work. Generally, extended service plans are pushed at the end of the sales transaction, when you are standing at the cash register.* They might be good, but I've yet to meet a sales person that can convince me that the laptop I'm holding is out of stock** and must be a figment of my imagination.

    *Any earlier and the issue of product reliability becomes an issue. "What! I need a service plan? Does this thing break down a lot?"

    **Generally, when I walk in to a store to buy something, the first thing I do (before aking about all of the expensive accessories) is to see if they actually have one in stock. Yes? Well, bring it out and let me take a look at it. The continuation of the transaction is predecated upon them actually producting the item in person.

  • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Wednesday March 11, 2009 @09:25PM (#27161239)

    While this is an annoying policy on paper, there are several ways I could see this actually playing out, and none of them really seem to work.

    Scenario 1

    Customer: "Hi, I want to buy this laptop"
    Clerk: "You wanna buy an extended warranty?"
    Customer: "No thanks"
    Clerk: "We don't have any in stock"
    Customer: "Uh... then yes I do?"
    Clerk: "We just got some in right now!"
    Customer: "Then I'll take one without the warranty."
    Clerk: "Aw, what a shame, we just sold out."

    Scenario 2

    Clerk: "Hey, you seem interested in that there laptop, you want to buy one?"
    Customer: "Sure."
    Clerk: "Extended warranty?"
    Customer: "No thanks"
    Clerk: "Sorry, I just checked, we're out of stock"
    Customer: "But... you didn't go anywhere, you didn't even act like you were looking in the stock room"
    Clerk: "Uh... Telepathy!"

    Scenario 3:

    Customer: "I want this laptop."
    Clerk: "You want extend waranty."
    Customer: "No"
    Clerk: "No computer in stock"
    Customer: "Yes you do, this box right here, in my hand, I want to buy it."
    Clerk: "Me ring up"
    Customer: "Okay here"
    (Customer hands computer to Clerk, Clerk smashes the computer with a primitive club)
    Clerk: "No computer in stock."

    Then again, I haven't worked in retail for a long time, maybe my "Lying to strangers" skills are rusty.

  • by fulldecent (598482) on Thursday March 12, 2009 @09:52AM (#27166947) Homepage

    Everyone here knows not to buy these warranties. People who do buy the warranties subsidize the cheaper purchases that YOU make. This is how they offer the good deals on priceline (except on priceline stores, they call it "accessories").

    By bringing attention to the matter, you are making it harder for us in-the-knows to buy things for subsidized prices.

If a 6600 used paper tape instead of core memory, it would use up tape at about 30 miles/second. -- Grishman, Assembly Language Programming

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