Humor: Staples Forced to Cut Staples To Save Money

The Huffington Post has a satirical article that lampoons some of the ridiculous measures companies are taking to cut costs in this struggling economy. One of the highlights of this “memo” from Staples has to do with cutting, well, staples:

Staples: They may seem like an insignificant cost, but fears about the stability of the dollar mean the cost of durable items, like metals, has skyrocketed, pushing the average price per 1000 staples from $.79 to $.84.

Instead of throwing money away like that, we encourage you to use paper-folding techniques (for a demonstration, please visit Ted in accounting; he’s a whiz at origami!) that will make you wonder why you ever used staples in the first place! To that end, we will be collecting office-owned staplers at the end of the week for resale.

Alternately, you’re welcome to remove and attempt to reuse staples from documents stapled before this change goes into effect, but the management would like to remind you that blood traces are not acceptable on finished reports.

Check out the humorous article and try to keep a straight face. It really does a great job of showcasing how desperate some companies are getting these days. Remember, before you cut out pens from your budget, try looking into a cheap alternative to the big-box boys. (I know, I know, it’s a humor article, but the point stands!)

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.

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: Office Depot Gets a Lifeline is reporting that long-foundering big-box dinosaur Office Depot is receving a cash injection from private investers to the tune of $350 million. According to the article:

With the recession and stiff competition — especially from behemoths like Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) — the fortunes of the company have been rough. So, Office Depot has worked aggressively to restructure the operations, such as by closing down stores and slashing headcount. So, the cash infusion will certainly be helpful.

Stiff competition, eh? Yeah, I’m pretty proud to be a part of that. As much as it makes me smile a little on the inside to see a dastardly company reap what it sows, I do feel a little bad for the employees who are out of work whenever a big-box store shuts down. Hopefully soon the companies behind these outdated relics will realize the easier, cheaper, greener way to go and transfer to an online format. Though by then it will probably be too late. Sorry, Office Depot. We were here first.

Blurb: Using Social Media to Drive Sales has a tiny piece mentioning that a lot of Office Supply companies are using social media to help boost sales:

Traditional retailers such as Office Depot, Staples, Macy’s and Nordstrom are finding success with using social media to boost sales, according to Brett Hurt, founder and chief executive of Bazaarvoice, which manages user-generated ratings and reviews for manufacturer and retailer sites. Among the firm’s products is BrandVoice, a service for manufacturers to place real product reviews on retail sites.

Hrmm. Is that so? Social media driving sales? This is breaking news! Tell your friends! When you get to our twitter page, tell them you read about it on our blog.

Article: Continued Slump Seen for Office Depot

Over at, the web division of the Erie Times News, columnist Malcolm Berko has some dire predictions for Office Depot. In addition to their nefarious dealings, which we have covered at this blog in great detail, there are also a lot of elements of this once-great company that call its future into question. Some of Berko’s highlights?

1. Nearly 80 percent of its customers are small businesses and the economic slowdown is forcing these firms to reduce purchases, become more efficient and to search for less expensive products.

2. Office products are a lucrative $350 billion market and are attracting the attention of big box merchants. But, ODP has failed to acquire the scale advantages or supply chain efficiencies to compete with these lower cost providers.

3. Office Depot’s management really “stinx.” Proof of the stink is the ignominious failure of management’s multiyear plan to improve profitability, remodel stores, expand inventory of private label merchandise, streamline operations, improve efficiency of store employees, and increase working capital.

Since the article is primarily focused on the big-box world, I won’t fault Berko for not mentioning the upswing in reliable, affordable online retailers. A common oversight, but one that big-box giants are going to be hard pressed to ignore for long. In the meantime, as much as it warms my heart, this article is nothing new. It’s just nice to see more and more people taking notice of how these corporate mega-stores are losing ground in the ongoing race for your office supply dollar. Soon we won’t have to talk about them at all.

Big Box stores finally coming around to the idea of “value?”

A recent article at Forexyard addresses the idea of “value” for the consumer being the highest priority for shoppers right now. This means not only the lowest price, but quality products and reliable service. It also states that, begrudgingly, Big Box retailers are coming around to this idea. I say too little, too late.

Analysts expect Staples and rivals Office Depot and OfficeMax Inc to play the “value-for-money” card prominently to woo recession-weary customers this season.

But “value” does not necessarily mean offering cut-rate goods.

“Simply lowering price doesn’t stimulate demand,” Piper Jaffray analyst Mitchell Kaiser said, adding, “it’s going to be all about offering quality products at a reasonable price.”

Companies agree.

“Fitting the right price points and giving customers a great value will be more important in the current economy,” [President and COO of Staples, Inc. Michael] Miles said.

Really, Staples? You’re just now figuring out that maybe customers want more than a low price tag? Not that any of the Big Box places are notorious for giving a great deal, but it’s always been true that service and selection are some of the areas where they just can’t compete with the online guys. Now that the economy is rough and their profits might suffer, they’re turning to the idea of providing actual value? Sounds like a cop-out.

To me, if value to the customer isn’t your priority from day one, then you’re in the wrong business. There are lots of places to buy pens; if your end goal is to sell them then great, do that. But if you want customers that respect your brand, your store, your ideas, and the way you treat them, and ones that keep coming back to you for all their needs because they know you are going to meet them, then value needs to be at the forefront of your mind from the second you open your doors, metaphorical or not.

I’d like to see the Big Box guys get their act together, I really would. Competition is healthy and there will always be demand for instant satisfaction, where you can walk in and walk out with what you need. But until they can do that with a reliable degree of value for the customer, I’m not exactly terrified of my company’s future.

Question: Can I use any ink I want in my printer?

Short answer? Yes you can.

A lot of manufacturers try to bully you into buying official, name-brand ink from them at exorbitant prices by claiming that you will be voiding your warranty or have to pay more for maintenance if you use anything other than their ink. Well, it was recently brought to my attention that not only is this claim ridiculous, it’s also illegal.

Under the Warranty Improvement Act, United States Code Annotated, Title 15 Commerce and Trade, Chapter 50: Consumer Product Warranties 15, Section 2302:

(c) No warrantor of a consumer product may condition his written or implied warranty of such product on the consumer’s using, in connection with such product, any article or service (other than article or service provided without charge under the tears of the warranty) which is identified by brand, trade or corporate name; except that the prohibition of this subsection may be waived by the commission if:

  1. The warrantor satisfies the Commission that the warranted product will function properly only if the article or service so identified is used in connection with the warranted product, and
  2. The Commission finds that such a waiver is in the public interest.

So basically, unless the manufacturer can claim (and prove) that using a third-party product, like printer ink or toner, is doing some kind of harm to the device, than anything else they say about it is forfeit. And guess what? No one has yet come forward with that kind of proof.

Not only does this mean you can use any ink or refill kit you want without fear of your warranty being voided, but the company can also not threaten to remove or discontinue support, break a lease, or basically do anything else about it, either:

The Supreme Court (IBM vs. The United States) held that IBM could not threaten customers with termination of their data processing equipment leases just because they did not use supplies manufactured by IBM. Such practice constituted a “tying agreement” and was found to be to violation of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Law.

So there you have it. Buy whatever ink you want, to your heart’s content (though remember, buy from your friendly neighborhood online store, not those other guys). This goes for computer parts, replacement parts, and just about anything you might need to buy. You learn something new every day!


Article: Professional Organizers help save time and money has an article up where individuals share testimonials they’ve learned from professional organizers. As that fits in with what we like to do around here, I thought I’d share it. The highlight that grabbed my attention?

• Organizing office supplies: Has prevented unnecessary purchases for my home and business.

• Organizing my garage business supplies: Has also allowed my employees to find supplies and not accidentally double order, wasting cash flow.

• Time is money: When I can find files, etc., I am more productive all day.

As we’ve shown before, just knowing where your stuff is can help save you needless expense and make your day a little easier all around. The right filing cabinet, a handful of binding solutions for all your loose papers, and so on can really spruce up an office, home or otherwise, and keep it running like clockwork. That article said it best: time is money, and the less time you waste finding the stuff you need to run your office and the more time you spend running it, the better off you’ll be.

Schedule C – What expenses can your business file?

Tax time is upon us once again, and small business owners, especially new ones, are likely to be blindsided by the sheer amount of tax information out there for a business owner. According to an article posted on Mary953’s “Caps” blog (a division of popular money site The Motley Fool), the 2006 tax code was the same word length as 10 King James Bibles. No one should be expected to remember it all.

In the spirit of compiling useful knowledge, I thought I’d link you to Mary’s post as it is indeed incredibly helpful in finding out what expenses you can claim. And since we have a particular focus around here, here’s an excerpt that stands out for me:

Office Expenses (18) – Office Supplies – Ink, paper, toner, pens, staplers and staples, paper clips, folders, and, guess what?  If you have an office with a public bathroom, then use that company credit card to buy hand soap, towels, toilet paper and the rest because it is deductible too.  Coffee service is here if for clients.  You can put snow removal, lawn care, cleaning service under this also.  Remember that the name of the game is to spread the expenses out so that you have something under as many spots as possible.

The links above are my own addition, of course, but it’s still cool to see that you can list all this useful stuff on your taxes. Check the article for a full list of how to get the most back (or at least avoid giving too much) this tax season!