Big Box News: OfficeMax Recalls Chairs After Injuries

The Sun Sentinel is one of many news organizations to report that OfficeMax has been forced to issue a recall for Chinese-made Task Chairs sold between 2003 and 2008, due to over 35 reports of premature breakage and over 15 injuries.

Consumers are advised to stop using the chairs immediately and contact their local OfficeMax for further instructions.

In a shocking twist for this blog, I’m not going to blame OfficeMax for anything. The CEO of OfficeMax isn’t doing personal factory tours of their Chinese chair-making plants, and no one could have seen this coming.

They’re cooperating with investigations and are offering refunds or discounts to those affected by the recall. I’m not going to use this to take a jab at the “big guys”, I just want everyone to know what’s up so no one else gets hurt.

And of course, if you find yourself in need of a chair that DOESN’T fall apart on you, I have a few recommendations.  And wouldn’t you know it? I know just where to get them.

Blurb: Staples to Pay $790,000 in Overtime Lawsuit

The Boston Herald is reporting that, in a continuing theme, Staples is being ordered to pay $790,000 in damages to end a class-action lawsuit filed by a former employee who claimed she was shortchanged on overtime pay.

Kirsten McCandless of Milford would get about $106 per qualifying workweek under a preliminary settlement agreement with the Framingham-based office products company. The suit, filed in October 2007, claims Staples violated state and federal wage laws.

The deal, filed this week in U.S. District Court in Boston and subject to a judge’s approval, would also apply to about 60 other current and former Staples employees who worked as senior product solutions specialists between Oct. 1, 2004, and June 30, 2008.

It seems like not too long ago that Staples was being ordered to pay MILLIONS for violating overtime law, so perhaps only paying ALMOST A MILLION means they are settling down in their overtime-law-breaking ways. Oh wait, less horrible isn’t the same as good.

Big Box News: Office Depot Sues Ex-Employee Whistleblower

I wish I was making this up, but no, it’s true. Office Depot is suing the man who accused them of asking him to falsify documents.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Office Depot is claiming that Earl Ante, who recently filed suit that Office Depot had asked him to falsify documents in the ongoing case of Office Depot overcharging the city of Berkeley, was in fact responsible for the overcharges, and they’re out to prove it in court.

The salesman, Earl Ante, says in his lawsuit filed in federal court in San Francisco that he lost his job in the fall of 2008 after he refused orders to falsify data in the company computer when Office Depot found out Berkeley was about to audit its contract.

Office Depot initially declined to comment on the lawsuit but decided to break its silence on its investor-relations Web site with a full-on assault against Ante.

“(A)ny overcharges to the City of Berkeley were caused by Mr. Ante himself, who was responsible for managing that relationship,” the posting states.

So basically, the timeline is as such:

-Office Depot overcharges the city of Berkeley by $289,000.

-Office Depot asks Earl Ante to falsify documents, he refuses and is fired.

-Earl Ante sues Office Depot for firing him unjustly, and blows the whistle on their overcharges.

-Office Depot panics and blames the closest person at hand…Earl Ante.

Now, obviously, I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know what evidence is on the table, and I don’t know how the verdict will play out. These are just my assumptions based on what I’ve seen so far.

And what I’ve seen so far are cowardly, playground-level tactics from Office Depot to cover up one of their biggest blunders. The suit says Ante was in charge of the Berkeley accounts, and that’s why they were processed incorrectly. But what about the other whistleblowers? What about the FIVE OTHER STATES launching their own similar investigations?  Was Ante in charge of those, as well? Not likely.

Overall, I am constantly amazed by Office Depot’s ability to disgust me with their tactics. First business, now legal: it seems there is no low that OD won’t stoop to. Just another reason to avoid the big-box entirely.

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.

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.

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.

Big Box News: California & Ohio Join Other States in Office Depot investigation

According to, “Office Depot has disclosed on its investor website that the Attorneys General of California and Ohio have launched civil fraud investigations into its $700 million dollar “U.S. Communities” national contract that thousands of local governments, school districts and public institutions draw upon to purchase office and school supplies. California and Ohio join Colorado, Florida, Missouri and Texas in opening such investigations.”

According to today’s article, the National Office Products Alliance (NOPA) called upon the Office of the Attorney General of California to include in its investigation of Office Depot a thorough examination of the role played by the Walnut Creek, CA-based U.S. Communities organization which has allegedly received as much as $20 million in “kickback” payments from Office Depot for sponsoring the national contract now under investigation in six states.

According to NOPA, the article states, these two new investigations (CA and OH) again highlight the inherent problems associated with reliance on a single office supplies contracts by government agencies at all levels. “Strategic sole-source contracting has damaged competitive independent small businesses around the country, reducing vendor choice and raising prices for government customers,” said Chris Bates, President of NOPA. “The idea that sole-source contracting offers a ‘best value’ proposition should be questioned by every federal, state and local government and institutional entity in light of the results from so many audits and investigations.”

For more on this issue, find the full article here.