Posted July 15, 2008 11:05 am by with 30 comments

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UPDATE (July 15th): More than a week after my bad experience with Office Depot, there are signs that someone in the company understands the importance of transparent customer relations. I just received the following email, so it seems only fair that I share it, so you can see how it ended.

Here’s what’s right with the email.

  • Admitting that I received poor service.
  • A sincere apology.
  • Reassurance that this is not the norm.
  • Transparency in what went wrong and what’s being changed.
  • A refund of the purchase–not asked for, but certainly a nice gesture.
  • Thanking me for bringing to their attention.
  • The big one. She didn’t ask me to update this post, but her email was sufficient that I wanted to.

Like I always say. When you screw up, remember these three words. Sincerity, Transparency, Consistency. I’ll likely order from Office Depot again. When I do, let’s hope this same issue is not repeated.


Dear Mr. Beal:

I have been made aware of your extremely poor experience ordering a Toshiba Hard Drive for delivery from Office Depot. Please accept my sincere apology for the poor service and poor communication that you have received. What you have described does not reflect the way that we intend to do business.

The email response that you received does not reflect the way that we desire to interact with our customers. Our correspondence should have been more personal and should have reflected a much better understanding of the problem that you reported.  Our Customer Service manager is reviewing this with the CSR as it is our intention to respond much more effectively when called upon for help.

Additionally, I’m sharing your comments regarding the delivery delays and lack of notification with the appropriate members of the Management Team at our Distribution Center in Charlotte, NC. It is our intention to deliver your order on the date that we say we will, but sometimes a problem can occur despite our best efforts. In those rare cases it is our policy to provide you with immediate notification and to keep you informed of any subsequent developments. I recognize that this is not the level of service that you received and I want to assure you that we are conducting a detailed review of this matter so that we can address the points of failure.  We are also working to improve the ability of our customers to obtain enhanced real time tracking of their orders as well as updated status notifications. We intend to deploy these enhancements in the immediate near future.

Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts in such a candid way, as it is comments like yours that help us identify where the actual level of service falls short of expectations. I realize that I cannot change what has happened, but I hope to make up for it at least in a small way. In that regard I have issued a full credit for $64.04 so that you may keep the hard drive with our compliments. You should see the credit on one of your next two billing statements.

I hope that my response provides you with the reassurance that customer service is our top priority, and that your concerns were indeed taken seriously once they were fully understood.  I do hope that you will allow us another opportunity in the future to earn your business so that we may provide you with the great service that you deserve. Thank you again for being kind enough to allow us to view your comments.


[Name removed by Andy]

Senior Customer Relations Manager

Executive Customer Relations


It is with a heavy heart that I bring news that Office Depot has entered the Reputation Deadpool.

How did it happen? Let’s do a Wayne’s World flashback shall we?

July 7th – The Deal

I saw that Office Depot was offering a Toshiba portable hard drive at a fantastic price. I normally order through Staples but decided to give Office Depot a shot. After all, Office Depot was offering free next day delivery–sweet!

July 7th – 2 minutes later

OK, so Office Depot can’t offer me next day shipping on this product, only 3 day shipping. Keep in mind, this is coming from a local delivery center. Oh well, I can wait 3 days. Ordered.

July 10th – No sign of Office Depot

Not only did I not get my order from Office Depot, but I didn’t hear from anyone either.

July 11th – The Optimistic Call

OK, this is promising. Someone from the local delivery center calls.

They couldn’t deliver my order yesterday, because they were too busy! Yep, apparently the delivery guys had decided that my order was less important than all the others. Huh?

My order will be delivered today.

July 11th – 8pm

You guessed it. No sign of the Office Depot guys. They didn’t call, didn’t write, nothing! I checked my order status online. You’ll never guess what it said. My order was delivered on July 10th! What? Either the delivery guys are trying to avoid letting their boss know that they didn’t deliver ontime, or, worse, they’re currently backing-up their music collection to MY harddrive!

July 11th – 8:05pm

I sent the following email to Office Depot’s customer service:

I received a call this morning saying that my order was not delivered on
July 10th, because they ran out of time. How is that fair on me?

They said it would be delivered today. It is 8pm and it still has not
been delivered.

Tracking shows the order was delivered on the 10th, which is clearly not
the case.

Please advise on my order status and explain why I should trust Office
Depot over Staples for future orders?

Surely the mere mention of Staples would be enough to get its attention and a resolution?

Maybe not…

July 13th – The Reply

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for contacting Office Depot. We have forwarded a Customer
Resolution Form to your local Distribution Center and you will be
contacted within 24 hours.

Should you require any additional customer service assistance, please
contact our Distribution Center at 1-800-GO-DEPOT (1-800-463-3768).

Thank you for choosing Office Depot!

E – Commerce Technical Support.

What’s missing?

  • Where’s the apology?
  • Where’s the transparency?
  • Where’s the responsibility for the snafu?
  • Where’s the personalized response?

July 14th – 9:30 am and waiting…

No call (yet) from Office Depot’s “local Distribution Center” and no sign of the delivery truck either.

I’ve not dealt with Office Depot before. Do you think I’m going to order from it again?

The moral of the story?

Customers sometimes get bad experiences–even they understand that. However, when something goes wrong, the company has an opportunity to show that it cares about the customer and wants their repeat business. In our Radically Transparent world, Office Depot should treat situations like this, as if the customer is a popular blogger, with the audience (and Google juice) to hurt its reputation. Making that assumption with ALL customers, would hold Office Depot (and any company) in good stead.

When you fail your customers, treat them the way you’d want to be treated in the situation. Otherwise, the next customer you annoy, might just publish his complaint on the web. 😉

UPDATE: At 10am, the local delivery guy for Office Depot shows up at my door. I didn’t want to grill him–he’s just the van driver–but I did ask, “why the delay?” His response? They were backed up from July 4th.

July 4th?!?

That was ten days ago! Last time I checked, July 4th was not much of a “buy and send stuff” holiday like Christmas or Valentine’s day. I had ordered only a portable harddrive, what if I had been waiting on office furniture for 20 new employees?

  • I love the idea of treating everyone as if they were a popular blogger. The issue is most people in PR still think of blogging as “non-traditional” media and therefore don’t worry about it until it’s exploded in their face.

    I’m doing a presentation (possibly the first in my area) on these issues this week for 60+ traditional advertisers/PR/bizleaders. I’m hoping to move the needle a bit and give them all a bit of a heads up.

    The bottom line, if your product/service is broken, it’s no longer “the squeeky wheel gets the grease” it’s “the squeeky wheel makes everyone look”

    Good luck on this.

  • I saw in the news that their second quarter profitability was lower than forecast, and sales were down nearly 10% at existing North American stores.

    But this probably comes as no surprise to you. 😉

    Unfortunately, good customer service seems to often be the first thing to go when a company is facing hard times — when IMHO it should be the one thing they try hardest to beef up. Sometimes the only thing that can distinguish a company from its competition is the quality and “personal touch” it brings to its customer interactions.

    Looks as though Office Depot has forgotten this (assuming they ever knew in the first place, that is).

    Diane Aull’s last blog post..Social Networking: Apparently It’s a Woman Thing

  • @Scott – “the squeeky wheel makes everyone look” is very true.

    @Diane – you’d think that customer service would be placed more highly. When the economy is down, you’d think you’d be able to calculate the lifetime value of the customers you already have–not alienate them.

  • In my book, I call customers like you “power customers” because they are well connected and can trash your “brand” in a hurry. Your very popular blog would probably earn you a “super” in front of your power customer moniker in my book.

    This was an opportunity for Office Depot to win a customer. They ‘fished’ for you using a low price. They obviously aren’t making a lot of profit on you with THIS transaction… so they must be counting on you to become a life long customer.

    Instead of earning a lifetime customer, they earned an lifetime enemy.

    It’s after 10:00 AM on the East Coast and in keeping with your previous experience with them, there’s not one comment from anyone there to “defend” their reputation here.

    I drive by their under construction “world headquarters” every so often down in Boca Raton and with a post like this, I’ve got to wonder if they’ll be in business long enough to complete construction.

    If I owned stock in Office Depot, I’d be selling now.

    There’s no amount of advertising time they can buy to undo the damage that’s been done here… at a VERY popular blog. Tsk Tsk.

    Wisdom is learning from other people’s mistakes. I’m learning from yours!!!

    Kathy’s last blog post..Social Marketing is Like Showing Up Naked to a Cocktail Party

  • I think the best part is the end of their response to your complaint e-mail, “Thank you fro choosing Office Depot!” That’s like a frustrated in-store customer saying, “This place sucks and I’m never shopping here again,” and your response is, “Thank you for choosing our store, and come again!” Talk about obtuse, irresponsible, and reputation damaging.

    Go to Joseph Jaffe had a similar experience with Delta Airlines.

    Joshua’s last blog post..Ad Waste

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  • @Andy, one would think so. Unfortunately, as I can attest from a former life as a customer service manager, customer service is often one of the first to get cut when the going gets tough. Very short sighted IMO, but very common.

    Diane Aull’s last blog post..Social Networking: Apparently It’s a Woman Thing

  • It’s impossible for Office Depot to have 100% happy customers so that’s why it’s essential to monitor your brand and conversation online. Trackur’s great for that.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..Advanced Keyword Research for SEO

  • @Utah – well said! 🙂

  • Office Depot, note to self. Never tick off a popular blogger. Bad things usually come as a result.

    Paul Chaney’s last blog post..Learn word of mouth marketing from Andy Sernovitz

  • PS3

    I think in general terms, it’s a sad sign of the times Andy. We have all got too used to the pile it high, sell it cheap and then throw it away and to be able to achieve that corners get cut. Unfortunately, the first thing to go is usually customer support, even more so when a lot more is done via e-mail/online.

    Let’s go back to the good old days when your local storekeeper knew your name and gave you the service you deserved.

    (Takes rose tinted glasses back off…)

  • @PS3, that is not so far fetched, but the trouble is that the Wal-marts of the world have utterly changed the expectations of consumers. The web, in particular Amazon, and its scary-fast service has done even more.

    Last week I saw a woman screaming (I mean really yelling) at a random employee at Target because they only had one model of Sonicare toothbrush. Her energies would have been far better used as a blogger, or by rating target on their website. If the employee had a small card to hand her she might have directed her to a place online or via 800 number to vent her frustrations.

    In the days of shopkeep and “come back now, y’all” people were far more flexible, patient, etc. It was a more personal experience, and we had far less “shoppers rage.” Didn’t have the size you wanted? Nevermind, I’ll check back next week. It was a lot healthier for the soul, if not the pocketbook.

    Occasionally, I’ll get a taste of this botique-level service in Kentucky when I venture out into the countryside. Family owned stores exist in places where populations are too small to support the big chains, and I often make a point to stop and buy some little something just for the experience. As a break from large city un-service, it’s quite refreshing, even if I paid an extra 15%.

    Scott Clark’s last blog post..A Damage Control Ballet – Deconstructing a Reputation Management Event

  • It is pretty interesting to see that a popular SEO blogger has the ability to assist in someone’s reputation (by fixing it or writing a good review about a product or service) or totally influencing it the other way by reporting their bad experience…thus ranking high. Glad to see they admitted to their wrong doings and are trying their best to rectify the situation.

  • Dean

    ohhhh I feel my cynical side coming on…..

    If you read between the lines of the email it says something like this…

    Dear Mr. Beal,

    We can’t really say we’re sorry about your poor service because it happens everyday, and while we talk a good customer service game, it is really not a priority with us.

    Normally we wouldn’t give a crap, but in your case, it came to our attention that you’re the author a relatively popular blog and could possibly tarnish our reputation with a larger audience. As such we’d like to suck up to you personally by offering a full refund on your purchase and allow you to keep the hard drive with our compliments.

    Our delayed response was because we couldn’t use the standard template we send to most angry customers (you know, the one we originally sent you) and had to create a disingenous one that appeared personal, caring, and customer-focused. We all agreed it was pretty good considering it was the first one we ever did.

    We insincerely apologize for your experience and hope you’ll continue to come to us for all your business product needs. We also hope you’ll write a nice fluffy update to your posting talking about how great we responded to your issue (after all we did give you a free hard drive, wink, wink).

    Continued success with your blog, we are all big fans of that search engine marketing thingy stuff you are writing about.


    [Name removed by Andy]

    Senior Customer Relations Manager

    Executive Customer Relations

    PS> As we will continue to offer lousy customer service we would ask that you do not order anything over $100 from us in the future. Budgets are tight and we are limited in the free stuff that we can give people who might spill the beans about this “committed to customer service” stuff we talk about.

  • Andy, I’m sooo tempated to join Dean in expressing my cynicism. Instead, let me just express my hope that Office Depot learned a valuable lesson.

    Paul Chaney’s last blog post..links for 2008-07-15

  • @Dean – LOL, you nailed it! When I replied to the email, my response included this:

    “I hope that Office Depot truly does care about the service received by all of its customers–and is not just responding because I happen to have some authority in this arena.”

    I also offered my services. 😉

  • Dean – You are PRICELESS.

  • Great seeing a precedent like this being set! Bad service needs to be highlighted and exterminated, and companies have to be kept on their toes.

    Dean, your interpretation of their mail is a gem!

  • I believe that promotion efforts like the one that started off this entire story, and the recent launch of iPhone suffer from inadequate planning and anticipation of possible larger than estimated demand. When this happens, everything collapses and poor service is experienced. I believe that the attempt to make amends is indeed genuine and that they have learned from this experience. That your post is a popular blog is just the vehicle to handle this problem and the response.

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..Discounted Pet Products

  • It look like the sincerity of the email won over your heart.

    Travel Point’s last blog post..The Samba of Brazil

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  • I hooked into a great deal at Office and had it shipped to local store so I could save on the shipping. I received an email saying all was well but I had to pick up product in 48 hours. I called next day to ask if product was in. I was told that my order had been cancelled and I would have to come to the store and re-order.
    Not at the markdown price. Now I realize the price was too good but they accepted the coupon and accepted all my paperwork. I also have confirmation that it was accepted but not happening. Another Office Depot disappointment.

  • So glad to hear of this outcome for you.

    I’m sorry to say that your experience is what used to be my norm. Your timeline is exactly what I encountered (twice in a row!) when ordering from Office Depot online. And it wasn’t even the 4th of July. 🙂

    Two times in a row is not an anomaly! That’s why I quit using Office Depot a couple years ago. Staples has superb delivery service and the product arrives as promised.

  • Ken Lee

    I also have a story to share about OD. Long story short, I ordered a chair online at a great price ($9.99 plus tax). But they only delivered the other item that I bought on the same order. The driver first said I refused it (bogus). Then after calling his boss, he said there was a safety issue (also bogus) and could not give it to me (the chair was actually in the van!). Then I called OD and was told that someone from the resolution department would call me back in 4 hours. In the mean time, I chatted with an agent on OD’s web site and was told that there was a pricing error (valid). Two hours later, I got a call from the dispatch department (not the resolution department) saying there was a recall by the merchandiser of the chair (again bogus). So I decided to look up the email addresses of people in their headquaters and I ended up emailing their CEO, president, a few VP’s, the PR manager, and E-Commerce tech support about my problem and calling it fraudulent practice because of the lies that I heard. Here is the response that I got so far:

    Dear Mr. Lee,

    Thank you for your e-mail. What you have described is treated very seriously by our company and I want to ensure that this is resolved appropriately. For this reason I have forwarded your e-mail to the Office of Executive Customer Relations, where I am confident that it can be addressed. A Senior Case Manager will be assigned to your case, and will be in direct contact with you.

    Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with us.


    E-Commerce Technical Support
    Office Depot

    So I guess I’ll wait to see what happen next…

  • @Ken – yikes, please do keep us updated on this.

  • Nan

    I should have researched more before ordering something from Office Depot. I actually went to their local store to order furniture which has to be shipped. They told me it should be at my house on Tuesday. I had my family waiting for them to arrive all day, but no sign of the officedepot truck. I hope they don’t arrive later than this week since I’m need that piece of furniture for remodeling. Thanks for sharing your story (found it on google).

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  • Anonymous

    I beleive this company is in very bad shape.
    The customer service is terrible.
    Staples is by far ten times better than Office Depot.
    You deserve waht you get if you buy anything from them!

  • Anonymous


  • Yeah.. I had a terrible experience with Office Depot today. The department manager treated me like trash, asked if I actually own a business… She blamed me for not knowing the price on something being faxed and didn't let me know how much the fax was until AFTER she faxed it… when I asked her about it she said, “How come you didn't ask?” in this really mean tone.

    I told her, “It's not my responsibility to ask. It's your responsibility as a business to inform the potential customer of your services and costs before you render them… especially when it's a $60 fax!”

    If you have a bad experience join my conversation over here at

    Let's see if their marketing department is actually listening. Oh and Maureen I hope you get fired at the Federal Way, WA store as a department manager. You are a terrible department manager who is extremely rude and you humiliated my pregnant wife making her cry.

    Yes I would even go so far to say that Maureen you are one rude piece of work! I have other words, but I'm not into lowering myself to your level Maureen.

    Hey CMO of marketing… would you like to get off your chair and respond to this comment or are you going to stay silent and not say a thing.

    Btw I have over 16 followers in 1 hour. At this rate I'll have 1,000 by the end of this week. That's more than you're marketing staff can pull off. My other twitter account I had 1,000 followers in less than a week.