I’m confused. I’ve been tasked with writing a blog post on the landscape of the 2012 teachers’ discounts offered by the big office supply stores, but I’m confused. It’s a muddled, confusing, dark world to try to navigate through.

Are you asking why bother? What’s the big deal? Well, a report in 2010 showed that teachers spent \$1.33 Billion of their own money on school supplies. Yes, it’s a big deal. So I’m going to try to work through it for all the teachers out there.

Staples

Over 1400 teachers have signed a petition asking Staples to change their brand new Teacher discount policy back to 2011’s version.

They are upset because Staples changed their “Teacher Rewards” program so it no longer allows for any “instant discounts” or “extreme deals” during the Back-To-School season. Instead, teachers get a 10% cash back to spend later. The math works out like this:

2011 Staples Teacher Policy:
25 packages of loose leaf binder paper = \$2.50
2012 Staples Teacher Policy:
limit of 5 = 50 cents
regular price – \$1.99 X 20 packages = \$39.80
\$39.80 – .50 = \$38.30

Is \$2.50 for 25 packages of loose leaf binder paper a sustainable business model? Probably not, but how is the profit margin working out with more and more teachers turning their back on Staples in 2012?

Office Depot

Office Depot’s Back to School Rewards program is similar except the numbers appear to be a little more favorable. They have a list of basic back to school type items that are on sale and a discounted price, PLUS you get 100% of the purchase price back in Rewards points. There’s a limit of 2 per person per day, but an industrious teacher, shopping for pencils for each student in their class could get some pretty amazing deals.

Of course, if the items that are on the Rewards program list aren’t the items you need, then this program won’t really help at all.

Office Max

If you don’t want to jump through the hoops of:

1. Getting rewards points back several weeks later
2. Having to shop every day to get the quantity you need
3. Hoping that they have the items you actually NEED as part of a rewards program

Then Office Max is the answer.

Office Max also has a teachers program—the difference is, theirs is quite simple.

At Office Max, as part of the Teachers program you take 25% right off the top of any items, even items on sale, AND, they increase the quantity limit to 20, no matter what the posted quantity limit is.

25% off of \$1.33 Billion is \$332 Million, so, that’s kind of a thing.

Remember the beginning of this post where I said I was confused? I guess I’m not any longer and I hope things are a little more clear for you as well. I didn’t want to take sides. Here, at SheerID, our goal is to have all three of these companies as customers. And, for the record, if they used us, they would save a TON of money in operating costs alone as well as eliminate any fraudulent use of their discounts. SheerID would confirm for them that teachers were the ONLY ones getting teacher discounts and the shopping process for teachers would be easy as 1 + 1.

Currently, all three of these programs require that you prove that you are a teacher, and of course the only way to do that is to somehow show your Teacher ID. Not a thing if you are getting 90% off of supplies. But as discounts get more complex and more diluted, even signing up for the programs starts to not feel worth it.

But back to that whole “not taking sides” thing—if I was a teacher that knew that I was buying supplies for my entire classroom. I’d sign up for all three programs. These programs aren’t set up to demand your loyalty, so don’t give it to them. Shop each of these programs and compare where your best price is going to come from for each necessity, then buy opportunistically.

And yes, continue to complain and sign petitions and make yourselves heard. Teachers are a force. The office supply stores clearly want your business, and eventually, they’ll listen.