FOX25 Investigates: Are office retailers charging for unnecessary computer fixes?

BOSTON — A FOX25 Investigates undercover operation is showing that costly repairs recommended at a big box office store may not actually be necessary.

FOX25 purchased several brand new laptops and took them to Office Max locations across Massachusetts for diagnostic tests.

“Marlborough said we had some problems,” FOX25 photographer Steve Wright reported. “And needed to get that taken care of soon they said, not necessarily today, but in the next few days.”

FOX25's sister station in Seattle KIRO first discovered the problem at Office Depot stores in the northwest.

The Marlborough Office Max technician told FOX25 it would cost between $149 and $199 to fix the problems.

A FOX25 producer also brought a different brand new laptop to the Office Max in Dorchester where she was told the problems were even more serious.

“I was surprised to hear I need more than $149 of diagnostic. It was poor performance error and poor security,” the producer said.

FOX25 brought a third laptop to Office Max in Walpole where the tech said there were no problems.

“It would be highly unlikely for any computer right out the box to have any malware installed on it,” FOX25 IT Manager Harry Seeto said. “There’s some free anti-virus software there for you, but nothing that would cause a problem for the computer.”

Shane Barnett is a former Office Depot worker turned whistleblower who spoke to KIRO. He said the company pushes each employee to meet sales goals for tech services, and each technician's goals are posted for other employees to see.

“The program itself is mandatory. It's not an option to not run the program. You have to run it on every machine that comes in the building,” he said.

KIRO also reports that during the diagnostic tests, technicians are required to ask the customers about pop-ups, computer speed, virus warnings, and shut downs. If even one of the boxes is checked the software automatically returns a possible malware problem.

FOX25's Ted Daniel reached out to Office Depot's corporate office about the concerns and was given the following statement.

"Office Depot in no way condones any of the conduct that is alleged in the KIRO-TV report. We intend to fully review the assertions and take appropriate action."

In another email, the company said it has launched its own investigation.