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The Squeaky Wheel...

Some days it pays to know how to complain.

Today was one of those days. pfjunkie and I wandered on out to OfficeMax because they had a very good deal on one bit of computer goodness that we had both been coveting for a while. Their advert listed:

a relatively no-name external 120 Gig hard drive for $40 with no mail-in rebates. Not a bad price considering that the cheapest you can find (even the no-name) ones online for (through reliable dealers) is right around $100, sometimes with some number of mail-in rebates that might push them to around $80-90

We got there about half an hour before the store opened (mostly out of boredom and Dave's aversion to checking store hours before heading out ;) and hung out geeking about Star Wars and random computer crap (so it was actually an entertaining half hour).

Eventually they crack the doors open and we're the first customers in the store. We immediately ask about the drives and....

"We're sorry, they're sold out"

What. The. Fuck?

How do you not have something that's advertised when the first customers of the day show up?

Well since I'd made the effort to get there first thing in the morning, I decided to exercise my complaint-fu and I asked to speak to the manager. He was surprisingly nice and he explained how their ordering and advertising system works (I was surprised that I could see how they'd often end up without advertised sale items although I suspect doing it consistently still qualifies as some form of deceptive trade practice or false advertising). I was still cranky though so I basically said that I was going to write an angry letter to their corporate offices because this happens way to often to be reasonable. To my surprpise he asked us to wait for 5 minutes while he tried to find a substitute item to offer us.

I was doubtful but since we'd already made the drive out there, I figured what the hell, I might as well se what he came up with. 10 minutes later he came back and said he could get us:

A Western Digital 120GB External Hard Drive

for the advertised price, but he could only do one because that's all he had. I wasn't happy about it, but I said sure and I figured I'd let Dave grab that and I'd ask him to give me one of the 80 gig external WD drives (which they did have on the shelves).

Well lo and behold, he came back 10 minutes later with two of the 120 gig hard drives. I was totally blown away. Granted we shouldn't have had to go through the hassle, but I was really impressed that he came through with something better than we'd been planning on buying.

I think I'm still going to write the letter to their corporate offices, but I won't be complaining. I think I'll be writing them a very nice (but slghtly vague) thank you letter for their manager's great customer service, and you know I probably will make an effort to shop there more often (unlike Best Buy which has largely lost my business, but that's another story ;).

So the moral of the story is that the squeaky wheel does get the external hard drive, and I have once again proven that my squeak-fu is strong (although having a super-deep and gruff voice from being sick the last week and a half might have helped ;)


Many years ago I worked at OfficeMax, and that kind of shit was happening all the time. They would always do a sale of some particular thing without bothering to see if stores had reasonable inventory levels in advance.
Yeah, I've seen it happen countless times (and I don't even work there). According to the manager, they basically have a set period of time when they have certain products (and this is figured out months and even a year in advance) and they arrange their advertising around those schedules. So in this case the drives had sold out weeks ago but their advets and everything else were already done up because they had figured they would still have a few that they'd be trying to offload.

It makes sense that they'd figure all that stuff out far ahead of schedule, but I'm pretty sure that consistently not having things that they advertise and then only having similar but more expensive items is pretty much textbook "bait and switch" which is usually classified as some form of false advertising. I think they're probably trained to give substitutions to people who complain beyond a certain threshold because those are the people who might initiate some form of legal investigation of their practices. At least in TX relatively minor stuff like this often has to be brought to the attorney general's attention by a consumer/customer and it would make sense for them to just buy off those few customer's who notice and care enough to complain about it by giving us what is effectively the advertised deal or slightly better.

Another guy at the store was really quiet and reserved and he pretty much just walked out when he heard them tell us they didn't have any and then he saw us walk out with drives and asked us about them and after we told him he just seemed annoyed and walked back to his car. I don't know that they'd give him the same deal for complaining (or as quickly because I did put on the "angry well spoken consumer who will write letters" act right away) but they obviously weren't going to give him anything for just walking out of the store.
Walmart starts stocking up on those cheap 19" TVs around early- to mid-september for a sale the last week of November (thanksgiving)

But still, Office Max seems to do it VERY often.


At least that manager was somewhat cool and helped you out. THAT'S hard to find.....good customer service.
There's something to be said for being assertive...especially in dealing with retail. Good for you!!
The next time that happens, if the manager just absolutely cannot find a replacement for it, you should ask for a rain check. When I worked at Walgreen's we'd give out rain checks all the time because they'd put out a circular and wouldn't have half of what was in there, and there were always some customers that came in and bought EVERYTHING that was on sale whether they wanted it too. (I mean, really, who really needs 6 cans of sliced mushrooms in water? ) But that was our policy, if you wanted it and it was in our advertisements but we didn't have it, well come back later with the rain check and you get it for the advertised price. So you might check their policy on it and ask for one if it happens again.

Either way, I'm glad it worked out for you in the end this time. :)