Saturday, November 03, 2007

Writers and Printers

Where would we be without our printers? Even in this age of the "paperless office" (yeah, right!), and even though quite a few publishers now accept email queries, if not email submissions, we still live and die by our printers. Gone are the days when a dot matrix printer was acceptable - now most people expect laser quality. It's hard to believe how disposable printers are made to be, as if our whole intent now is not only to use more and more paper, but to also have printers that are incredibly cheap and if the drum wears out, it's cheaper to buy a new printer than a new drum. Hello, landfill.

Everyone has their most-loathed manufacturers, both in printers and computers. Many years ago I had a Compaq laptop and the service provided when it broke down was so abominable that I swore I'd never buy anything with Compaq on it again. (Try, for example, being told that the power unit had to be sent to Scotland to be fixed! It'd only take 4-5 months.) And the fact that HP bought Compaq didn't improve things. I and my friends have a long history with HP's inkjet printers that defies all logic.

A printer that will print page numbers only at the top of the page, not the bottom? A printer that ignores all page settings and always gives you 1cm margin at the top? A printer that sucks up extra pages whenever it feels like it? And we all know that the reason printers are so darned cheap these days is because the manufacturers are making billions out of charging us megabucks for the ink refills. And most of the time, the ink hasn't actually run out, it's just down to about 20%, which is "below operating capability".

But a recent purchase by friends really wins first prize for manufacturer sneakiness. They bought a fairly expensive model so they could print photos and things for school projects. As the supplied ink cartridge ran out not long after purchase (because of course you never get a full one with a new printer), they took it up the street and had it professionally refilled. Before they knew it, the computer screen started showing messages warning them that since they hadn't used a manufacturer's cartridge, their warranty was now voided. (Same cartridge, mind you, just new ink.)

You might say, fair enough, because there are people who use ultra-cheap replacements and then claim there's something wrong with the printer. But hang on a minute, even HP produce a slightly cheaper version of their own cartridges. What is so bad about using a different brand of replacement anyway? Aren't we entitled to find a cheaper brand?

However, the final straw has been that now the printer won't print at all. It keeps telling them there is a paper jam, when there isn't. There is nothing wrong with this printer, other than the fact that somehow HP have found a way to make it shut down if you use the "wrong" ink. Bad move, HP. You have finally, irrevocably, joined my list of manufacturers whose products will never grace my office again.

And if all the people who have been badly treated by BigPond ever get together and boycott them, they'll be out of business in a second. We need effective complaining campaigns, we need to make manufacturers get their act together and we need to stop buying plastic crap that doesn't last the distance. OK, I'll get off the soapbox now.

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