Office Depot/OfficeMax – Buyer Beware

Well, savvy consumer Dave needed some rubber bands. That’s a pretty basic purchase. I didn’t want a mega-office sized package so checked out Office Depot/OfficeMax online to see what they had available. Perfect, they had a little bag for $2.79.

Today I ran over to the OfficeMax store by the house. What? The little bag of rubber bands was priced at $3.99. Was I imagining something?

Pulled out my trusty iPhone and logged into the Office Depot website. Put in the item number and there they were for $2.79 (43% less than the store price). I kept the webpage open so I could discuss with the cashier when I checked out.

“These People are Rubber Bandits!” ~Dave Taft

Of course, no one can go to an office supply store and leave with just one item. I know, I need a new 12” ruler. Found a metal one that was $4.49.

Then I thought, “maybe I should check the price of that online.” OMG, it was $3.39 (32% less) online.

Enough was enough. I headed to the checkout with iPhone in hand. No argument, but they seem surprised. How could that be?? Needless to say they matched their own price and proudly added a Total Savings: $2.30 at the bottom of the receipt. I love how their override description says “Competitor Price Match.” Yes, my iPhone saved me 27%.

This was just 2 random low-dollar items. What could the difference have been if I had a shopping cart full of office supplies?

Ever curious I got to thinking; this was an OfficeMax branded store. What would an Office Depot branded store charge? Of course I had to find out so drove 6 ½ miles to an Office Depot store. What? Here the rubber bands were $3.59 (10% less than OfficeMax and 29% more than online).

The Ruler was $3.99 (15% less than OfficeMax and 18% more than online).

How could 2 stores 6 ½ miles apart have different pricing and neither have the online price? This is particularly strange since Office Depot touts their buy online and pick up at the store in 1 hour service online.

Out of curiosity, if I were to buy online and pick up at the store which price would I pay? Would it be the online price or the store price (depending on the store)?? I sent this question to Julianne Embry and Sarah England in Office Depot’s Media Relations Office. I’ll post an update if/when I hear back from them.

Seems to me they are simply ripping off anyone dumb enough to just walk into their stores and open their wallet. Or, maybe not??? While at OfficeMax I did look at the price for some pens. They were $7.99.

Forgot to check them out at Office Depot, but did look online. What? They were $8.99 online (11% more).

Beware next time you visit Office Depot or OfficeMax. I would look up each and every item online and get the best price. You can just type the Office Depot number in the search box so it’s quick and easy. Maybe if enough people did this they would fix this anti-consumer mess.

Note: I’ve seen the same thing at Target where the store price was 20-30% more than online for a few specialized items (Norelco electric razor replacement blades and a Multi-plug travel adaptor).

Happy Shopping….and Be Careful Out There!!!!!

Office Depot/OfficeMax certainly aren’t looking out for You!

Update – 10/19/2015:

Today I received a wishy washy response from a Customer Advocate at Office Depot’s Executive Consumer Relations department in Boca Raton, FL. I wasn’t overly impressed. Here is a summary:

  1. She apologized for replying late and for the pricing issue. Well, it was within a day so that was quite responsive.
  2. My concern was reported to “Upper Management.” Wow, “Upper Management!” I assume that’s codeword for someone on the 2nd floor of her office or whoever’s cube is next to the toilet.
  3. Online pricing is the lowest…though no explanation about the random pens being cheaper in the store than online. Nice try, but total BS!
  4. Even though the 2 stores I visited were 6 ½ miles apart, the price difference “is due to the fact that even though these are the same items, they come from different vendors and this affects the pricing.” Really? Different rubber band and ruler vendors service these stores??? Sorry honey, I’m not that stupid.
  5. I was offered, subject to email confirmation, a $25 emailed gift card (aka hush money to drop it.) due to the “pricing issue and as a gesture of goodwill.” Momma didn’t raise no fool…send away…stat!  Goodwill is a good word, I’m impressed.
  6. In my hush money reply I did reiterate that this is the first time I’ve seen price disparity between two retail stores in the same metro area and that “Upper Management” should really look into that.

In summary, I was told that Office Depot “Upper Management” is aware of the issue, doesn’t really give a damn and figures a $25 gift card will satisfy the loser who only comes to their store to purchase rubber bands and the occasional ruler.  Well played!

Now, what shall I buy with my $25 gift card? It’s an “email gift card” so I asked if that could be used in the store or just online. I’m sure figuring out how to maximize the value will take hours and multiple trips to multiple stores to figure out. But hey, as I’ve been told many times, “Dave, you have way too much time on your hands!”  That is true, but now I’ve got a $25 gift card to go shopping in that spare time!

Note: If you receive a $2.79 bag of rubber bands this Christmas don’t blame Santa, blame the Executive Consumer Relations department at Office Depot!

The End…until…

Update – 10/24/2015:

With my Office Depot $25 eGift Card in hand it was time to do some shopping. I headed over to the OfficeMax store by my house to browse around.  I found several things that I could use this hush money windfall on…envelopes, pens and labels for my Brother labelmaker.

Knowing that I would be ripped off in the store I simply took photos of the items I was interested in purchasing and headed home to shop online for less and then pick up in the store.  There was another bonus awaiting at…25% off the most expensive item.

Mission accomplished! I spent a total of $26.45 including tax.  Here is my shopping list:

I’m sure you’re wondering just how much I saved online. Well…a lot!!!!  My online order totalled $24.72 plus tax. Had I purchased the same items in the store it would have cost $41.74! Including the 25% off one item coupon the online total was 41% less than purchasing in the store.

The one random item that really caught my attention were my “Eco-conscious” 9″ X 12″ envelopes.  As you can see above they were $1.59 per package.  I ordered 3 packages for a total of $4.77. So, how much was one package in the store??? $4.99!!! Holy Crap!!!

Yes, these envelopes are 3.18 times more expensive in the store!

Oddly enough, the “Eco-conscious” 6″ X 9″ envelopes were $2.59 online and $3.99 in the store, a mere 35% savings.

Just got an email that my online order is ready for pickup. With my $25 eGift Card and $1.45 in hand, I’m off!

And that, my friends, is the rest of the story!

Sweepstakes Dreams

I must admit I love sweepstakes. It’s kind of like winning the lottery without having to buy a ticket. Some of my favorites are the ones run by HGTV. Currently they have several going on.

Urban Oasis – Win a 1,300-square-foot bungalow dressed with furnishings from and located in Asheville, NC, plus a 2016 Acura TLX and $50,000 cash. The grand-prize package is valued at $587,000.

Blog Cabin – Win a renovated mountain retreat located in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, plus a $50,000 cash prize. The grand-prize package is valued at $950,000.

Just think…$587,000 -$900,000 in prizes! What a life changer! Or, is it?

I got to thinking, what I would do if I were to actually win one of these amazing properties. Hmmm!

Well, I’m not retired and neither are near where I work so I couldn’t move in. I suppose I could vacation there, but what about the rest of the year? Would I turn them into a rental property? That’s possible, but I’d probably need to hire a management company to handle the day-to-day operations.

I know, I’d just sell the place and cash out! Hey, I’d have a bundle…or would I?

If you win the lottery they take income taxes out of the winnings and you get the rest to spend. Not so much when it comes to winning real property like a house or a car. I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to win either of these sweepstakes, but what a headache to deal with.

So, what would I end up with if I won the $950,000 Blog Cabin package, sold it and kept the proceeds?

Income taxes. In order to claim your prize the sponsor must collect 25% Federal and possibly 6% Georgia (for me) estimated income taxes. This means I would need to come up with $237,500 in cash just to collect the prize. That amount could be reduced if I used the $50,000 cash prize towards the withholding, but I’d still need to come up with $187,500. Perhaps I could take a mortgage on the free house. Wait, I don’t own the house until I come up with $187,500. Crap!!!! Guess I need to take a personal loan or raid my 401(k) or something. That’s a lot of money!

Okay, I found the money for the withholding taxes, now what? Well, the winner is responsible for real estate transfer taxes, deed recording charges, closing costs, current and future real estate taxes, title insurance, homeowner’s hazard and liability insurance, and all other taxes, costs, fees, and expenses related to the maintenance of the house.

If I put the house on the market I could probably sell it within 3 months. Hey, it’s an HGTV dream home. I’m sure buyers will be rushing in.

I’m thinking that I’d need another $11,000 to cover the real estate taxes, insurance, miscellaneous fees and principal/interest on the personal loan I took out to pay the withholding taxes for 3 months. Hmm…maybe I should have gotten a bigger personal loan.

Yea, the house sold for the $900,000 estimated value. Real estate commissions?? Yep, got to pay a $54,000 commission to my realtor. Damn, they made off like a bandit. I should have negotiated a better rate.

The house is sold, I’ve paid the realtor, covered the transfer costs, federal and state income tax and paid off the short-term loan. Looks like can pocket a cool $500,000!!!!

Wait…what…Capital gains taxes on the sale of a non-primary residence? Damn, I already paid Uncle Sam and Auntie Georgia $388,000 in income taxes. Now they want to tax the gain on the sale of my free house too? Oh good grief.

If I sold the free house for $900,000 in less than a year I’d also have to pay capital gains (ordinary income) taxes on the full sales amount, less commissions. Ca-ching! Another $385,700 in income taxes off to Uncle Sam and Auntie Georgia.

Oh, and since I would have $950,000 in sweepstakes winnings and $846,000 in capital gains the income from my day job will end up being taxed at the highest tax rate for the year.

It would seem that after selling this place I’d be lucky to pocket $87,205 (9% of the prize).

I must be missing something! Maybe a good tax advisor is in order. I wonder what that will cost me?

Don’t get me wrong, $87,205 is better than $0, but it’s a whole lot less than $950,000!

Now if I were to keep the house for a year and then sell I would only pay Federal and State long-term capital gains taxes of $219,960 and could pocket another $165,816. Ah, perhaps that is the silver lining?

Now, back to my daily sweepstakes entries.  At least if I win I know I won’t be able to quit my day job just yet!

Having dreams is what makes life tolerable. ~Rudy

Note: Many of the HGTV home sweepstakes offer a cash in lieu of the house option. Those seem like a much better deal.