Big Box Watch: Berkeley joins in Office Depot allegations

Continuing the drama surrounding Office Depot’s alleged misconduct in dealing with state and local governments, the Director of Finance for the City of Berkeley, Robert Hicks, says the Office Depot company has overcharged the city by as much as a quarter of a million dollars during the course of a three-year, $550,000-a-year contract to provide miscellaneous office supplies and recycled copy paper to the city. According to the Berkeley Daily Planet:

Hicks’ revelation supported the allegations first made to the City Council last October by Diane Griffin, president of Radston’s Office Plus supply store of Hercules and a member of the board of directors of the Nation-al Office Products Alliance (NOPA).

According to the conclusion of an analysis of more than 100 pages of the Office Depot-City of Berkeley contract provided to the city by Griffin, Office Depot charged the normal retail price on 135 of what it called “core” office supplies, but promised a 55 percent discount to the city for items not on the “core item” list. Griffin says that in fact, Berkeley received only a 39.7 percent discount on those non-core items, the basis for her estimate of the $250,000 overcharge.

Hicks has also stated that his office will look into the dealings with Office Depot outside of the contract mentioned above, and that the actual amount of alleged overcharge may reach even more than $250,000. Diane Griffin herself said she believes the Office Depot overcharges on its City of Berkeley contract are accumulating at a rate of $8,000 a month.

The more I dig into these Office Depot allegations, the more bewildered I am by their apparent conduct. They go and offer people a ridiculous contract that no one could possibly match, and then not only charge way more than they promised but also, in some cases, far more than retail price. There’s a lesson to be learned here: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

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