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Article: Office Depot Litigation Roundup

Wow. I have been outclassed by the San Jose Mercury News. In a new article, they have summarized the last several months’ worth of Office Depot shenanigans in one tidy package. It’s all there: whistle-blower David Sherwin, from way back in April, the most recent allegations by Earl Ante about OD asking him to falsify records, and all the various state-wide suits being brought to court.

They even talk to our good pals at NOPA, who repeat their line (that they pitched at the President) about sole-source contracting being a recipe for disaster.

I gotta say, it feels really cool to see an article with all this nuance and realize I’ve got a blog post somewhere around here about it from when it happened. Go go independent journalism!

If you’ve somehow missed all this Office Depot hullabaloo, check out the full Mercury News article for a recap, or filter this blog by “Big Box News” for in-depth analysis.

Blurb: OfficeMax Posts Q2 Loss Right Alongside Office Depot

From the Daily Herald:

Naperville-based OfficeMax Inc. announced sales declined about 16.5 percent in the second quarter that ended June 27.

Total sales were $1,657.9 million in the second quarter of 2009. The office supply giant also reported a net loss available to OfficeMax common shareholders of $17.7 million, or $0.23 per diluted share.

Almost 18 million? Not quite as bad as Office Depot’s $82 million loss, but hey. We’re just happy to see bad business returning bad results.

Big Box News: Ex-Office Depot Worker Says Company Asked Him to Falsify Records

According to the website Inside the Bay Area (a division of the Oakland Tribune), a Fremont man, claiming he lost his job at Office Depot because he refused to falsify data that showed the company overcharged the city of Berkeley hundreds of thousands of dollars, is suing the office-supply giant in federal court.

Earl Ante, a former Office Depot salesman, seeks unspecified damages for lost wages, benefits, mental distress and punitive damages. He filed the suit in federal court in San Francisco about the same time the owner of a rival office-supply store in Hercules used purchasing records she obtained through a public records request to show Berkeley officials that Office Depot overcharged the city $289,000 from early 2007 to early 2009.

Berkeley officials conducted their own investigation of the city’s contract with Office Depot and came to the same conclusion. Office Depot paid back the city in April.

Three cheers for whistle-blowers, I say. This is just the latest in a string of Office Depot horror stories, but at least this one has a quasi-happy ending: the man didn’t do it. It’s despicable that Office Depot would not only overcharge their government customers, but also that they would ask someone to lie about it on paper. Not that OD asking employees to lie is anything new, but this is a pretty desperate move from a company that’s already facing allegations of misconduct in over five states.

I want to be clear: when started this blog, we didn’t set out to specifically trash Office Depot every week. They just keep feeding me material.

Secret to Cheap School Supplies: wait.

Over at user-generated content site The Examiner, they have posited an interesting conundrum: what happens when you buy TOO MANY school supplies?

The theory goes like this: you have a general list of things you think your child may need, and you buy enough of them for everyone before the first day of class.

Maybe you see a good deal at your local big-box store and, fearing the worst, snatch it up while you can. Now you feel you’re geared up for school, and this happens:

Picture yourself running out buying four notebooks here, five folders there, not to mention the six 2” ring binders that you had to get because you couldn’t resist the sale sign. All, only to find that after the first day of school, Mrs. Douglass only allows 1” ring binders. Mr. Pryor requires a 3” ring binder for science class and science labs. Now, Mrs. Rogers is simple. She only wants loose-leaf paper in a 3 Prong, 2 Pocket, $0.49 folder. What a waste.

Sure, it makes sense to buy pens, notebooks, and other simple items ahead of time. But don’t get caught up in all the back-to-school craziness, sending your kid off to their first day weighed down with a hundred and one awesome supplies that will end up going to waste while you scramble to buy the “right” ones.

Instead, try this: kit your kid out with a simple loadout: notebook, pens, pencils, simple folders. This will give them the ability to store any materials they are given, while writing down what supplies they still need. Then, find a reliable web distributor of office supplies who just so happens to offer next-day shipping, and boom. Your shopping is done, you have exactly what you need, no fuss, no muss.

Blurb: Office Depot Reports Record Q2 Losses


Tuesday, office supplies retailer Office Depot Inc. (ODP: News ) reported a wider net loss in its second quarter, hurt by higher charges as well as double-digit sales fall in all regions. On an adjusted basis, the Boca Raton, Florida- based company slipped to a wider-than-expected loss, and top line, with a 22% decline, missed Street view. North American Retail Division’s comparable store sales in the quarter decreased 18%.

Second-quarter net loss was $82.864 million, compared to last year’s net loss of $2.629 million.

Now we sit back and wait for them to blame the economic downturn or sluggish Back-to-School sales, even though certain other companies that aren’t lying all the freaking time are doing just fine.

Developer Sues VistaPrint and OfficeMax

A developer of automated Web-to-print workflows, ColorQuick, Pennsauken, NJ, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Vistaprint and OfficeMax, according to graphic arts online. ColorQuick claims that the automated print processes used by VistaPrint and OfficeMax’s ImPress digital print services use a process similar to ColorQuick’s patented process. The suit wants OMAX and VistaPrint to stop using the process, and seeks an unspecified amount of damages.

While it’s certainly no shocker to me that OfficeMax may be engaged in shady dealings, it’s a bit disheartening to hear this about VistaPrint. For a long time VistaPrint was where I got my business cards, because they would offer free samples (with their logo on the back) for the price of shipping. Of course, much later I found out how easy it is to make your own business cards, but the fact remains that they offered a pretty helpful service. I hope the lawsuit works out in everyone’s favor, and VP gets to keep doing what they’re doing, somehow.

21 Office Supplies Too Awesome to Exist

A lighter note from readers were tasked to use Photoshop to create office supplies that were simply to awesome to be contained upon this mere mortal plane. The results are stellar, though a word of warning: there is some harsh language and Cracked’s usual brand of juvenile humor. So if you’re not offended by toilets, curse words, or things that are hilarious, check out the contest here.

Office Max Touting Delivery Cutbacks as “Green” Initiative

Business Week is reporting that our lovable ol’ pal OfficeMax is in the news once more, this time pretending to care about the environment while simultaneously making everyone’s life harder:

Companies have come up with many reasons for cutbacks in service. Saving money. Reducing the need for layoffs. Boosting efficiency.

But here’s a justification rarely heard: Spinning the cutbacks as a ‘green’ initiative.

That’s what OfficeMax has done. In the Washington, DC, area, it announced to customers that “beginning July 13, 2009, OfficeMax fleet trucks will deliver Tuesday – Friday.” Eliminating the Monday delivery will “Lead to a Positive Environmental Impact!” the announcement trumpets: “By compressing 5 delivery days into 4, OfficeMax will improve the metro environment.”

So here’s the deal: business lose out on Monday delivery. Workers are forced to work 10-hour days to maintain their current hours, and many will suffer cutbacks. On top of all this, the amount of “restructuring” that has to be done to accommodate the new plan will, of course, involve cutbacks to staff and salaries. But hey guys! It’s okay! It’s for the environment!

Just when I think I’ve heard the worst idea OfficeMax has ever had, they come up with something new. Kudos to you for being surprisingly terrible, OMAX.

Editor’s Note: I just found that awesome picture of the guy in the dunce cap. Part of me wants to use it in every post about OfficeMax or Office Depot, though I imagine the thrill will wear off eventually.

Cuts Force Teachers to Scrounge for Supplies

The Athens Banner-Herald is reporting a story that is at once tragic and heartwarming: teachers in the area are being forced to pay for supplies out-of-pocket, and many of them are having to go without. Or WOULD be having to go without, if not for a special program put into place:

During the past five years, teachers from Clarke, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties have been able to stretch their supply budget by taking advantage of the Teacher Re-Use Store, a clearinghouse run by the Athens-Clarke Solid Waste Department’s Recycling Division.

Local businesses, like Merial, a veterinary pharmaceuticals company, and the University of Georgia, donate items that otherwise would end up in a landfill and the store invites teachers to go “shopping” for supplies.

“It’s kind of like a huge yard sale, but everything is free,” said Suki Janssen, waste reduction administrator for the Athens-Clarke Solid Waste Department, who runs the store each year at the recycling center on Hancock Industrial Way.

I have to say, this is a pretty excellent program. It’s recycling in the truest sense of the word, and I definitely approve. And hey, once the Re-Use Store has freed up a little budget money, send those teachers on over our way. We’ll take care of them.

Back to School Season: Gloomy Predictions

According to “Malled!”, a blog focusing on South Florida retail, there are some depressing numbers out there about this year’s back-to-school shopping season.

Today, a survey came out from America’s Research Group that mirrors that gloomy retail prediction. It found that 34.4 percent of parents plan to spend less this year compared to last because they have “less money” (41.8%), “higher debt” (40.5%) and fear losing their jobs (8.2%).

“Back-to-school spending will be a minor blip on the radar screen for retailers this year,” consumer trend expert C. Britt Beemer, CEO and Founder of ARG, said in a statement. He predicted that back-to-school spending will drop 8.5 to 12 percent compared to a year ago, when back-to-school sales declined more than 5 percent.

The worst part about the economy still being in trouble around this time is that a lot of big-box retailers are going to try to use back-to-school shopping as a way to gouge innocent consumers. Since retailers know your kids need supplies, they’re going to do everything they can to increase their profits on those supplies and make back some of their long-last cash from earlier in the recession.

So what can we do? The same thing I always suggest: get your supplies cheap and fast from a reputable, reliable online dealer. Skip the big-box ballyhoo and order supplies from someone you trust, at low prices that don’t rise to fit the whims of the market. It’s just good sense.