Are Office Depot workers pushing unnecessary computer fixes?

Office Depot is under fire for services that a former employee believes take advantage of unsuspecting customers.

1116-ctm-officedepotinvestigation-jones-1181439-640x360.jpg
KIRO-TV

The retailer says it helps about 6,000 customers per week with its free PC health checks, and that it does not condone any of the alleged conduct we uncovered. But CBS affiliate KIRO-TV’s undercover cameras showed how employees used the service to sell customers expensive computer repairs that weren’t there, reports KIRO’s Jesse Jones.

Office Depot’s technicians repeatedly told us our computers were infected. 

“It’s got malware symptoms in there,” one said. 

They said they could fix them -- for a hefty fee.

“It actually looks like it’s $180 right now,” the technician estimated.

The only problem? All the PC’s were brand new and fresh out of the box. The computer security firm IOActive also gave them a clean bill of health.

“We found no symptoms of malware on these computers when we operated them,” said Will Longman, IOActive VP of Information Technology and Security.

We even purchased one of the new computers at Office Depot. But when we brought it to technicians at a different store, a technician said, “Malware symptoms were found in the machine.”

Office Depot employee Shane Barnett said his bosses ignored his repeated warnings and were more concerned about sales and quotas.

“I hate the program. I hate it,” Barnett said. 

“I refused to do it. They’re like, ‘You have to hit these numbers.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not going to make things up so you can hit your numbers. I’m not going to do it,’” he added.

We brought six computers for checkups at Office Depots in Washington and Oregon. At two stores, employees said the computers only needed anti-virus software. One even told us to ignore the test results.

“It’s going to recommend the PC tune-up. But you really don’t need to, because this is a brand new computer,” an employee said. 

But at other stores, technicians said they detected serious issues.

“It did find potential malware-related symptoms,” one worker said. 

“Usually, it’s something as benign as a toolbar hiding away in say, Internet Explorer. Because it’s, it was installed with an update of some sort. All the way up to full-blown viruses trying to steal your credit card information, so that they can ruin your credit,” one technician said.

According to IOActive, any time a customer complains about pop-ups, slow speeds, virus warnings or frequent crashes, Office Depot’s computer scans will automatically come up with problems to explain it.

“If they actually did what they say they did and actually cared about their customers, they would have never started this program. Because this is completely taking advantage of people that are unaware that they’re being taken advantage of,” Barnett said.

Barnett told us his hours at Office Depot have been cut since he began speaking up more than two years ago. The company declined an on camera interview, but a spokesperson said: “We intend to fully review the assertions and take appropriate action.”