Office Depot Case Study

.. n all situations. Part of Office Depot’s mission statement: to be the most successful office products company in the world involves conducting their business with uncompromising honesty and integrity. As an example of this integrity and honesty we will review an ethical scenario. Tom Jones, a newly appointed Sales Assistant, enjoys working at Office Depot and is hoping to have a successful career at this company.

His boss, Eric Smith, has given him the assignment of strengthening Office Depot’s relationship with local elementary schools. Smith asked Jones to convince local area school teachers to buy their supplies exclusively through Office Depot. Smith has strongly suggested that Jones meet with teachers and offer them substantial incentives if they will agree to require their students to purchase a particular set of school supplies that are available primarily through Office Depot. Meanwhile, the local media is focusing on this issue and the local paper has recently published a letter from a school teacher about similar pressure adopted by other retailers. The ethical dilemma Jones is facing is one that no new employee wants to encounter. He is facing a decision that will either get him into a costly lawsuit and into the public criticism, or the possibility of getting demoted in his company. Jones has to decide whether to be a civil worker for society, or a supporting father at home where they need his job as a means of living.

The situation can be viewed from various perspectives, depending on which ethical theory one believes in. Other factors may also apply, varying in the geographic location, cultural background, and time. Through relativism, the theory states that ethically correct conducts are determined by the people, one may deem that it is plausible to say that Tom’s act was ethical. Relativism is based on what the majority favors; whatever the majority feels is right, then it shall be for the rest of the people. It is similar to the modern concept of Democracy, for which the majority rules. Utilitarianism, is the theory that maximizes utility of any actions. In Utilitarianism, ethical issues are determined as those which maximize happiness upon all individuals.

An act is deemed to be ethical if it has the maximum utility and happiness in comparison with other available options. In this case, it is foreseeable that Tom’s act may maximize utility while satisfying the maximum number of people affected. By offering dedicated office supply to the students of the local schools, Tom would help the community while also helping his company grow. While Tom may have much support from the prior two theories, according to the Duty Theory, it is unethical for Tom to do what his employer told him to do. Duty theory, as the name may suggest, is derived from duties that one much abide to.

The general rule is that one has a duty to choose the optimal choice. In addition, one must also not receive personal benefits from doing his duty. In such context, Tom surely has committed an unethical act. Divine Command and Virtue Ethics are the remaining major ethical beliefs we may apply to this dilemma. Both theories are very demanding of individuals and their already limited possibilities. Divine Command is based on the Ten Commandments of the Bible, for any act that does not violate any of the Ten Commandments is deemed as ethical.

Virtue ethics ask only that the intent of any act be for the good of all things living. In both cases, Tom’s act can be said to be ethical. The best decision may be for Jones to inform his superior of the current situation that may deem harmful to the company if the request by the manager is taken. Jones could explain that the time to implement that strategy may not be now, but could be a plan of action at a more beneficial time. Perhaps, at a time when this sort of strategy is not under the public’s scrutiny. If the superiors are unwilling to hear his pleads then, Jones, would have no choice but to comply with the request made by his superiors and do as told or face the consequences.

It is Jones’ obligation to his superiors to do as he is told for the best interest of the company. If they are willing to take the ethical risk, Jones would have to comply with their decision. Since it is not an illegal action, Jones would have no obligation to report the unethical act to a regulatory agency; unless an illegal act has been committed. In this scenario, Office Depot has maintained its high ethical standards. We will now take a closer look at articles comparing Office Depot’s competition in some areas.

Evaluation of Articles Concerning Competitors In order to evaluate the competition, we carefully reviewed numerous articles provided for the case study. We came to the conclusion that the article which was most unbiased was, Discount Captures Lion’s Share of Back-To-School Sales in ’98 by Mike Troy for Discount Store news. This particular article discusses the strong sales increase at discount stores over the months of August and September. This increase was primarily due to the large number of parents and students shopping for back to school supplies. This time of year is second only to Christmas in sales for stores like Wal-Mart, KMart and Target.

Dollar stores also tend to do well at this time of the year, according to the article. The U.S. Department of Education projects that by the year 2006, there will be approximately 54.3 million students in the United States. This would impact the amount of increased sales significantly in the coming years. Enrollments for college and high school students are growing the most quickly. This area has particular sales potential as more money is generally spent on the purchase of products for college and high school students than lower grade levels.

Office supplies superstores such as Office Max and Staples are providing competition for Office Depot in this area. Office Max, Staples and Office Depot all attract alot of back to school shoppers because of their low price guarantees and a greater selection of products than at discount stores such as Walmart and Target. We found that all of the information contained in this article was presented in a very factual and equally representative manner. The author was unbiased in his writing as he gave several facts and statistics. The author gave information regarding the behaviors of the consumers and the market as a whole, not just one store chain in particular. Discount stores as well as dollar stores and office superstores were mentioned in the article. The article did not promote Office Depot over any other store.

For these reasons, the article seemed most unbiased. On the contrary, the most biased article we found was entitled, Web Presence Key Strategy for Office Depot, from Discount Store News, October 26, 1998. This article discussed how the office superstore started selling products over the Internet in January 1998. This was beneficial to both its small and large business clients. Office Depot’s larger business customers can access a private website where they can gain access to 10,000 products.

This website saves time for the consumer as it eliminates having to drive to the store and purchase from the location. Because the site is open 24 hours a day, people can order whenever they would like to. This is a quick and efficient way to purchase office supplies. The article went on to explain how the Internet ordering is proving to be very successful for Office Depot and that it is expected to continue to grow. This article seemed particularly biased due to the fact that the author only provided promotion for Office Depot. The author even went so far as to state the Office Depot credo.

At the end of the article, the author stated that the Internet is unknown for other retailers, but not for Office Depot. That statement seems extremely bias as well as unfounded. The author also included prices for Office Depot products and the website address. The article seemed like more of an advertisement than a piece of news, particularly as no comparison was made to similar office products stores which have websites as well. International Management As Office Depot has entered many international markets, it is important to review a scenario for which international management is necessary.

For this purpose, we will assume that a successful store manager in one of the United States stores has recently been assigned to another country where Office Depot has operations. This manager has just arrived in the foreign country yesterday and has just visited the store location there. The manager has spent several hours talking to the store managers and employees and has observed its customers. The manager has observed that several customers in the store have spent much time using the computers for personal use even printing out memos and spreadsheets. This practice seems very different to the manager than what has been observed in the U.S.

stores. In this situation the manager would go about dealing with this situation by letting people continue to work on the computers and observe what occurs. Video cameras could also be set up for continuous observations. Perhaps, the more time spent on the computers will result in increased appeal to purchase one of their own, or perhaps the software they are using. Additional information would have to be accumulated to find out how other stores in the area might handle the same situation. The manager could also talk to the customers using the computers and ask them what they think of this service. A survey could be posted, regarding the content, convience and quality of the store.

The survey would be placed throughout the store, because the opinion of the consumers is of high value to Office Depot Management when making decisions. After consideration, it may be in the best interest of Office Depot to continue to run things as usual with some slight changes. Since it is a different country in which the customs are different, and are not always easily changed. Management may recommend that a clerk be present in the computer section at all times. The clerk would be ready to help customers and constantly ask people if they would like assistance. This might also discourage people from using the computers to do their personal work, because many people do not enjoy others looking over their shoulders.

Also if there is someone there to constantly offer help with purchasing a computer or software, the customers might feel more comfortable buying the merchandise after they have used it. A sign could be posted that says, Try it then BUY it with a emphasis on the word buy’. If the sign were not successful, management would recommend that another sign be posted next to the computers that states, Limit 20 Minutes. If people still continued to use the computers and supplies excessively, to the extent that it would hinder others from looking at the computers, the spreadsheet programs could be replaced with demo versions. Demo versions do not have the ability to print.

The printers could also be reconfigured so that people could not print from any application other than demo applications. Finally, part of the store could be made into a work area where customers could come and use the computers, printers and software at an hourly rate. A work area would keep those not interested in the purchase of a computer in an area set up particularly for that purpose. This would keep others away from those computers that are on display for the sole purpose of sale. The work area would provide an area for customers looking for a place to do their personal work while providing another source of income for the store. Conclusion Effective management and decision making are necessary for dealing with obstacles such as those of international management.

In fact, for any obstacle to be handled the most efficiently and effectively, management is key. Time and again throughout this case study, we have seen examples of Office Depots success in management as well as many other areas. Office Depot’s management focuses on encouragement and reward of its associates. Innovation, communication and entrepreneurial spirit are valued in Office Depot’s most valued asset, its associates. Office Depot’s associate-oriented environment is the type of very basic standard, towards which Office Depot owes its success. Superior customer satisfaction is another standard which Office Depot defines as a company-wide attitude that recognizes that customer satisfaction is everything. Office Depot’s pledge to offer only the highest-quality merchandise available at everyday low prices, while providing customers with an outstanding balance of value, selection and services is continually met.

This type of pledge coincides with Office Depot’s ethical view on it being their responsibility to conduct business with uncompromising honesty and integrity. Shareholder Value is yet another standard met to provide Office Depot shareholders with superior Return-On-Investment. Shareholder value create continuous shareholder commitment and satisfaction. It is clear Office Depot succeeds in the many areas vital to its sustained growth and success. Office Depot sets a business standard serving their customers through multiple channels. As the business standard, Office Depot, Inc., together with its subsidiaries, is the largest supplier of office products and services in the world.

This was achieved through its success in selling to consumers and businesses of all sizes through stores, business service groups and internationally. It is definitely clear that in many aspects under many points of view, the company realizes its mission statement in the most successful office products company in the world. Business Reports.