Small Wonder

The last time I was in an office supply retail store (Staples, Office Depot etc.) was shortly before I took down my consultant’s shingle and beat a client to death with it.

A frequent customer of such establishments, therefore, I am not.

So when New Wife asked me to swing by one and buy a half-dozen plastic clipboards while she was doing the laundry, I obliged with pleasure.  Here’s the item under discussion:

I know, we could just have bought the things from Satan’s Warehouse Amazon, but they were needed urgently, i.e. the next day, so we would have to buy at full retail.  But the price stuck in my mind, because that meant that the clipboards would price out at just over a couple of bucks each.

So I went over to Staples, who had the product not at all, nay even unto other colors.  “Maybe next week?” was the helpful response from the stock clerk of whom I made the request.

No big deal:  this is America, land of choices sufficient to make you puke.  So pausing only to knee the surly peasant in the groin, I went over to Office Depot, literally across the road.

Okay, they didn’t have any blue ones in stock (school uniform color, in case you’re interested).  But they did have clear ones which, when I checked with Herself, were judged “satisfactory” albeit grudgingly.

But no price in the shelf, so I grabbed a passing flunky by the ear and told him to scan the UPC code with his little scanner thingy, which he did after only a little moaning.

Then he told me the price of the piece of plastic with tin clip up top:

Thirteen (13) U.S. dollars… EACH

…and then it was my turn to do the moaning.

Fucking hell.  If a piece of mass-produced-made-in-China shit can cost in-store what can be purchased online at one-sixth of the price, something is wrong somewhere.  It could be the office supply store’s pricing policy, it could be the cost of shipping, it could be that the price was entered into the store’s price file at 10x the intended (that added decimal place matters, you know), it could be any number of things.

Anyway, New Wife was as appalled as I was, the teachers will just have to settle for something other than a blue plastic clipboard, and I’m sure that Office Depot’s fire insurance policy can replace the store… or not, I don’t care.

Because it will be another decade before I bother to set foot inside one of them again.


  1. As another data point … the only reason I visit the “Office” stores anymore is to buy the annual case of printer paper. The last time I was in the store, they wanted $65 !!! They used to have reasonable prices (<$30) on such and you might imagine that low-volume/high-weight would make shipping impractical. You'd be wrong about that. I see that Amazon has free same day delivery for a case at $45. If I order it now, I can have it at my door by 2 p.m. this afternoon and the Amazon guy gets the hernia, instead of me.
    I can't believe the brick-and-mortar office stores still exist.

  2. I went into Staples a couple weeks ago to have them print a pdf file onto 24″ x 36″ paper (floor plan for a building) and was told it would cost $30. For ONE!

    I don’t do much printing any more and just send the pdf files via email to the clients who have their own large scale printers. About 5-8 years ago I had the UPS store print them for $7 each, which was still outrageous but doable.

    Sold my own HP plotter 10 years ago and there have been a few times I wish I hadn’t. Not really. It used 4 ink cartridges at $40 each and I print so infrequently they would dry out. You can’t win.

    Regardless, amazon gets my $125 prime money each year and I get my money’s worth out of it. It’s an hour drive to anywhere around here.

    1. The last time I needed a plotter size print from a PDF, I used the FedEx (ex Kinko’s) store. They have self-service machines at reasonable prices, or at least they did a year or so ago. It’s cheap for B&W and substantially more for color. Gosh, how I miss having a plotter!

  3. I have convinced myself that amazon is no different than Sears and Roebuck & company from days of yore. Their website is the modern equivalent of Sears’ “wishbook” catalog.

    I usually try Staples, Office Max or whatever its called now, and Walmart for office supplies. Otherwise it’s off to Amazon.

    Prices of everything have gotten out of hand. The most expensive vehicle to operate now has become the grocery cart.

    1. Sears is one of the best examples of businesses murdered by stupidity at the top. They dropped their catalog business to concentrate on brick and mortar stores right when internet ordering was getting started!

  4. It may be satan’s warehouse but they are murdering almost every other retailer on all of availability, price and delivery.

    I buy a lot of construction material and have accounts with wholesalers all over town. I always check amazon at the same time I check a wholesaler’s website. Most competitors now match amazon’s price. At least one, Home Depot, also quickly changes the shelf price.

    In the long run Amazon is doing a good job of lowering prices.

  5. I’ve tried like hell to do bidnezz with our local retailers. But as you’ve stated above it’s becoming impossible. Needed to buy radiator hoses, went to the local auto parts chain store, not only did they have to order them, they were $40 apiece. Satan had them for half that, and since I was waiting anyway……

  6. > If a piece of mass-produced-made-in-China shit can cost in-store what can be purchased online at one-sixth of the price

    I needed a clipboard recently (only one) and found this:

    $4 each instead of ~$2, but made in the USA, which should be worth something. It arrived the next day, too.

  7. The Walmart website indicated more reasonable prices, so that’s an option if there’s one near you. Not quite as good as Amazon as far as I saw, but much better than the prices you noted.

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