An Insider’s Guide to Staples

Copy paper, toner, giant tubs of Folger’s coffee — “Yeah, we got that,” Staples promises. But while the chain may

Copy paper, toner, giant tubs of Folger’s coffee — “Yeah, we got that,” Staples promises. But while the chain may have tons of merchandise, it can be a disappointment to those who haven’t done their homework. To shop it like a pro, take a cue from a Staples salesclerk known only as Dave, who posted on

Take your computer elsewhere for repairs. According to Dave, “tech work is the lowest priority” because it’s not evaluated and rewarded in the same way that other tasks are, so there’s no incentive for the tech staffers to take it on, much less do a good job of it. Plus, tech staff is often pulled away for higher-priority work, and the constant distraction can lead to goofs, claims Dave. (A Staples spokesperson counters that service, staffing, and satisfaction are always high priorities for the company.)

In fact, you might want to buy your computer elsewhere too. That’s because “Staples makes almost nothing, and sometimes loses money, on PCs, especially laptops,” claims Dave. How do they make it up? By doggedly trying to upsell extended service plans, tech services, and accessories. If such hard-sell tactics are a turnoff, go with a competitor or buy online. (Says the spokesperson, “We refer to this as building the right solution for the customer.”)

Use the Copy Center, the most profitable part of the store. To keep the dollars rolling in, employees will make sure you’re completely satisfied with your job, even if it means redoing it or refunding your money.

Don’t assume the EasyTech associate is one. According to Dave, employees earn this distinction by selling a lot, not for any expertise they may have. (For its part, Staples says it has certified technicians with extensive training on staff.)

Talk to a manager. As at any store, he’s the guy with the power to refund your money, honor your expired coupons, or fix whatever problem you may have. What you may not know is that he has plenty of coupons to give out to unhappy customers. Complain and you may get some money knocked off your bill. Oh, and speaking of coupons, Dave says the ones from Staples are almost always available online for those willing to hunt for them. In fact, if you know you’re going to buy something at Staples, search online for both a coupon and a competitor offering a better deal. The retailer will give you both a price match and the coupon discount.

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest