Dunder Mifflin

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The company logo, as seen in the US television series The Office

Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc. is a fictional paper sales company featured in the United States television series The Office. It is analogous to Wernham Hogg in the British original of the series, and Papiers Jennings and Cogirep in the French Canadian and French adaptations respectively.

Two real websites have been created to support the fictional company.[1] NBC sells branded merchandise at its NBC Universal Store website.[2] Its logo is prominently displayed in several locations in downtown Scranton, Pennsylvania, where the show is set. Since the show airs in many countries, Dunder Mifflin has become associated with Scranton internationally – in a 2008 St. Patrick's Day speech in the suburb of Dickson City, then-Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern made a reference to the city's fictional branch office.[3]

Overview[edit]

Three adults and a child in a stroller in front of a set of closed elevator doors. Above them is a sign with "Dunder Mifflin Paper Company" on it in white letters on a black background
Dunder Mifflin logo displayed in Scranton's Mall at Steamtown, frequently mentioned on the show.

A fourth-season episode, "Dunder Mifflin Infinity", said the company was founded in 1949 by Robert Dunder and Robert Mifflin, originally to sell brackets for use in construction. The fifth-season episode "Company Picnic" said that the co-founders met on a tour of Dartmouth College. U.S. News and World Report likens it to many real companies in its size range: "It is facing an increasingly competitive marketplace. Like many smaller players, it just can't compete with the low prices charged by big-box rivals like Staples, OfficeMax and Office Depot, and it seems to be constantly bleeding corporate customers that are focused on cutting costs themselves."[4] The show's creators share this assessment—"It's basically a Staples, just not as big", says co-producer Kent Zbornak[5]—as do some of those companies. "Since Dunder Mifflin could be considered among our competitors", says Chuck Rubin, an Office Depot executive, "I think Michael Scott is actually the perfect person to run their Scranton office."[6]

The company was depicted as based in New York City, with branches in smaller Northeastern cities. Episodes are set in the Scranton branch, but other branches have been mentioned and seen. The now-closed Stamford, Connecticut, branch was seen when Jim Halpert (John Krasinski) transferred there during the first half of the third season.[7] Another episode, "Branch Wars", gave viewers a brief glimpse of the Utica branch, one of several purportedly in upstate New York. Zbornak says that city was on the short list for where to base the show, with some of its writers having ties to Central New York, and that they always intended for at least a branch office to be located there, for reasons of phonetics. "Utica was just such a different-sounding name than Scranton," Zbornak says. But also, "we had done a little research and thought our kind of business could survive in Utica."[5]

A Buffalo branch has been mentioned in several episodes,[8] and a Rochester office was also mentioned in the episode titled "Lecture Circuit". The Dunder Mifflin website also lists a Yonkers branch. Albany rounds out the New York locations, which in a deleted scene in "Stress Relief" is revealed to have closed, leaving three other branches in other states: Akron, Ohio; Camden, New Jersey; and Nashua, New Hampshire.[9] In "Company Picnic", it is announced that the Camden and Yonkers branches have closed, and that the Buffalo branch is about to close. In "Boys and Girls", a Pittsfield branch was mentioned, until Jan shut it down when their warehouse workers unionized. The episode "Turf War" focuses on the closing of the Binghamton branch, and how reps from the Syracuse branch are competing with Scranton employees for Binghamton's old clients.

Business writer Megan Barnett has pointed out parallels between Dunder Mifflin and the real-life W.B. Mason paper company, based near Boston, in Brockton, Massachusetts. It is similarly regional in focus, serving corporate customers in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states. Like Dunder Mifflin, its original product line (rubber stamps) was something other than paper, and it faces stiff competition from national and international chains. It, too, has a branch office in Stamford, but Mason's has remained open. In 2009, it had an accounting scandal that resulted in a $545,000 payment to corporate customers, much as Dunder Mifflin had to deal with the arrest of Ryan Howard for fraud the year before.[10]

Depiction of corporate culture[edit]

The company's "clearly dysfunctional" top-down management style is a major source of tension on the show, notes Chicago-based writer Ramsin Canon. Corporate headquarters rejects the television commercial Michael created, as he in turn insisted on his own ideas for the commercial and ignored his employees. Ryan Howard (B. J. Novak), who began as a temp, becomes Michael's new boss because he has an M.B.A. despite never having sold any paper or paper products. Michael, in turn, treats his own employees the same way.[11] The show's depiction of a dysfunctional corporate culture has led some commentators to liken Dunder Mifflin to the software maker Initech in Mike Judge's cult comedy Office Space[12] and the nameless company in which the Dilbert comic strip is set.[6]

A brick tower with peaked roof on the right-hand side of a street in front of the camera. There are green hills in the background.
The Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Company tower, seen in The Office's opening credits.

Dunder Mifflin is also depicted as struggling to accommodate the demands of a diverse workforce. Episodes have focused on sensitivity training sessions and other informal efforts.[13] Sexual harassment has occurred often enough, however, that it has lent its name to an episode. Employment lawyer Julie Elgar started a blog analyzing each episode for plot developments likely to be actionable if they occurred in real life and estimating the legal bill and/or possible verdict the company would incur should a suit be filed—as Michael's former supervisor, Jan Levenson (Melora Hardin) did in one episode, alleging wrongful termination.[14] Greg Daniels, the show's creator, said many episode plotlines are in fact based on anecdotes recounted during the sensitivity training he and the other members of the show's cast and crew are required to take annually as employees of NBC, a General Electric subsidiary.[6] The episode "Boys and Girls" showed that the company strongly resisted unionization efforts by its employees, to the point of closing down a branch, as many real companies do or threaten to do in the same situation.[15]

Locations and sets used[edit]

The office and warehouse of the Scranton branch office are sets on the production company's office in Van Nuys, California (a real office was used in the show's first season). The parking lots and exterior of the building are likewise the exterior of the building (except in the first season, when the building's exterior was different because a different shooting location was used). Since the stage set had no windows, writer Jennifer Celotta's office was dressed to look like Michael Scott's when the script called for him or someone else to look out the window into the parking lot.[16] In the second and subsequent seasons, the office interiors and exteriors are at a different location in Van Nuys.[17]

A book titled "Dunder Mifflin 2007 Annual Report" on top of a ream of paper in two empty plastic chairs
Annual reports and paper on seats of "uncommon stockholders" at 2007 The Office convention.

Some viewers have presumed that the Pennsylvania Paper & Supply Company's tower, a downtown Scranton landmark which appears in video footage shot by cast member John Krasinski for the show's opening credits,[18] is the Dunder Mifflin office.[19] The real company, which also sells paper and office supplies, has welcomed the exposure (and increase in business) and has a ground-floor showroom where it sells both its products and T-shirts with the tower. It plans to add a Dunder Mifflin logo to the circular insets near the top of the tower.[20] Mifflin Avenue ends adjacent to the Penn Paper & Supply building.

Presence in real world[edit]

The success of the show has led to the sale of actual products with the Dunder Mifflin logo as souvenirs. NBC sells branded T-shirts, mugs, calendars and other items at its website,[2] as well as in the NBC store located in New York City. In 2006, the website 80stees.com ranked Dunder Mifflin second only to Duff Beer from The Simpsons as the best fictional brand.[21]

At the first annual The Office convention in Scranton in 2007, fans who had paid for reserved seating at an "uncommon stockholders meeting"[22] in the Mall at Steamtown received an annual report and complimentary ream of paper. A nearby elevator shaft is also decorated with the company logo. While the Scranton branch's address, 1725 Slough Avenue, does not actually exist (the street name was invented as a tribute to the original British version of the show, set in Slough, near London), the company logo can be seen two places in the city's downtown section outside the mall: on one of the pedestrian overpasses along Lackawanna Avenue, and a lamppost banner in front of City Hall.

Two websites purporting to be the company's exist. Dundermifflinpaper.biz (now also available at Dundermifflin.com) is the main site, with basic information about the company, and dundermifflininfinity.com, which is allegedly the company intranet, serves as an official NBC fansite.[1]

In November 2011, Staples Inc. announced that they are selling their own product of manufactured paper under the "Dunder Mifflin" name, under license from NBC's parent company, Comcast.[23] The Dunder Mifflin products are produced and sold by Quill.com, a wholly owned subsidiary of Staples. The brand expanded its paper product line beyond manufactured paper in November 2012.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Dunder Mifflin Paper". Retrieved 2008-06-04. , the main website, and "Dunder Mifflin Infinity". Retrieved 2008-06-04. , the intranet.
  2. ^ a b "NBC's The Office: DVDs, T-shirts, books, mugs and caps". NBC Universal. Retrieved April 2, 2008. 
  3. ^ Falchek, David (2008-03-17). "Prime minister of Ireland attends Lackawanna event". Republican & Herald (Times-Shamrock Communications). Retrieved 2008-04-03. "He identified Scranton as the birthplace of senators Robert Casey Jr. and Joseph Biden and the branch office of Dunder Mifflin, a reference to the NBC sitcom based in the city." 
  4. ^ Palmer, Kimberly (2008-03-13). "Career Lessons From NBC's The Office". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  5. ^ a b Cooper, Elizabeth (2007-10-03). "'The Office' in a Utica state of mind". Observer-Dispatch (GateHouse Media). Retrieved 2008-05-14. [dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Jones, Del (2007-09-26). "Taking 'Office' lessons from the world's greatest (inept) boss". USA Today (Gannett). Retrieved 2008-05-08. 
  7. ^ Ryan, Maureen (2006-11-14). "'The Office' merger goes as badly as possible, in a good way". The Watcher. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2008-05-14. "A crushed Jim took a job at the Stamford branch of Dunder Mifflin, and fans of "The Office", most of whom appear to have spent their summer composing YouTube tributes to the would-be couple, have had to wait patiently for the two to be reunited, even as work buddies ... Thanks to cost-cutting, Dunder Mifflin’s Stamford and Scranton branches are merged in Thursday’s episode, with comically disastrous results." 
  8. ^ Valenzuela, Dave (2007-11-09). "Dunder Mifflin: Buffalo Branch!". The Buffalo News. Berkshire Hathaway. Retrieved 2008-05-14. "So during the opening minutes of last night's episode of "The Office" on NBC we had confirmed that Dunder Mifflin has a BUFFALO branch. How cool is that?" 
  9. ^ "About Us". Dunder Mifflin. Retrieved 2008-04-04. 
  10. ^ Barnett, Megan (October 20, 2009). "As Seen On TV: Dunder Mifflin / WB Mason". Minyanville (MSN). Retrieved October 20, 2009. 
  11. ^ Canon, Ramsin (2008-04-21). "Marx & Michael Scott". Gapers Block. Retrieved 2008-05-10. "The power relationship is much more emotionally involving. Consider the episode ("Local Ad") where Michael tries to produce an advertisement for Dunder-Mifflin using all the talents of his branch, only to be coldly ignored, to such an extent that we do not even see his effort get rejected. The ad they produce is actually pretty good — really stupid, obviously, because the guy never realizes what he's saying — but the concept is good. If "Corporate" had supported their efforts, they could in fact have created something effective and earned the goodwill of employees who had cooperated. But power is the only commodity that matters in the corporate hierarchy, more so even than profit. First these little guys in Scranton start thinking for themselves, then what? So you do not get the wrong idea, though, the writers go a step further — Michael in turn suppresses the creativity of his employees, imposing his (naturally moronic) ideas on them. Bosses are bosses ... It is not coincidental that the man who imposes all this on Scott is former temp Ryan Howard, who gets his MBA and leapfrogs everybody to become his boss's boss, despite having never sold a single sheet of paper." 
  12. ^ Humphrey, Mark (2006-11-27). "Dunder-Mifflin provides my ideal 'Office' setting". Daily Bruin (ASUCLA Student Media). Retrieved 2008-05-14. "Sure, I loved Office Space, but that was different. In that movie, Initech didn’t look like a fun place to work. Far from it. Who would want to work for Bill Lumbergh? It had be fun to mess with him, I guess, but his responses are so one-note and monotone that it’d get old after a few weeks. No, the difference is that I would love working at Dunder-Mifflin, simply because every single person in the office would provide me with hours of entertainment." 
  13. ^ Bolonik, Kera (2006-02-09). "Defending NBC's The Office: A British Import The Network Didn't Mangle". Slate. Washington Post Company. Retrieved 2008-05-14. "Michael shares his British mate's arrogance, self-absorption, and cluelessness, but he possesses his own brand of vanity, as well as a wonderful tendency to be sinister toward his colleagues. The latter is apparent as early as the second episode, "Diversity Day", in which Dunder-Mifflin employees are subjected to two excruciating cultural awareness seminars after Michael performs a Chris Rock routine on '"the two different kinds of black people". The second of the two seminars is an impromptu forum run by the clueless perp himself." 
  14. ^ Elgar, Julie; Troy Foster. "That's What She Said". HR Hero. Retrieved 2014-02-03. 
  15. ^ "Unionbusting at "The Office"?". American Rights At Work. Retrieved 2007-01-30. 
  16. ^ McAuliffe, Josh (2007-04-05). "A day at 'The Office'". The Times-Tribune (Times-Shamrock Communications). Retrieved 2008-10-31. "On the second floor of the building adjacent to the set is the writers' room. Below it is the Dunder-Mifflin warehouse. In one of the writer's offices, the show shoots any scene in which Michael looks out his office window down at the Dunder-Mifflin parking lot" [dead link]
  17. ^ "The Dundies" [Commentary track], The Office Season Two (US/NBC Version) [DVD], 2006, Los Angeles, CA: Universal.
  18. ^ Marchese, John (2007-10-21). "Scranton Embraces the 'Office' Infamy". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-04-02. 
  19. ^ Wildermuth, Renate (2007-10-07). "'Office' Visit". Times-Union (Hearst Corporation). Archived from the original on April 11, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-08. "The paper company in Scranton most viewers associate with the show would be Pennsylvania Paper and Supply. Its 225,000-square-foot (20,900 m2) headquarters with landmark tower is featured in the opening credits." 
  20. ^ Sagers, Aaron (2007-10-27). "Pennsylvania city relishes attention from hit TV series". The Morning Call (Tribune Company). Retrieved 2008-04-07. "The tower looks exactly the same as it does on TV, although company President Douglas Fink says there are plans to add a Dunder Mifflin logo to one of the tower's black circular insets ... Fink adds that the attention from the show has led to a greater awareness of his business." 
  21. ^ Walker, Rob (2007-11-18). "False Endorsement". The New York Times Magazine (The New York Times Company). Retrieved 2008-04-02. "Fictional-brand fandom has real precedence. Last year the online store 80sTees.com named Duff beer, from 'The Simpsons,' the No. 1 fake brand — beating out T-shirts for Dunder Mifflin, the paper company on 'The Office.'" 
  22. ^ "Loyal Customers? Dunder Mifflin's Got 'Em". portfolio.com. Condé Nast. 2007-10-31. Retrieved 2008-05-18. 
  23. ^ "Partnership with NBCUniversal brings “The Office” to Workplaces Nationwide" Quill.com (November 28, 2011)
  24. ^ "Expanding Line of Dunder Mifflin Products Shows Success in Reverse Product Placement" New York Times (November 23, 2012)

External links[edit]