Sunday, November 23, 2014

Merry Printmas

M ordered my Christmas present yesterday. We researched and discussed features and options, and we even went out to a store to look over what we thought we wanted. (I'm a huge proponent of buying local, but when Amazon has the exact same thing for over a hundred dollars less, it's hard to pass it up.)

We ordered an HP color laser printer.

Our experience with home printers has not been good. We've had at least two that I can remember, and possibly a third that was so awful I have blocked it from memory. Although we are fully aware that printer companies aren't really in the business of selling printers – they're in the business of selling ink – we do feel that printers ought to work more than 25% of the time without having to re-set things, turn it off and turn it back on again, and not have to replace ink cartridges every time we want to print a single page. It seems we were stuck in the inkjet cesspool.

We were so frustrated with our last printer experience that we've essentially gone a couple of years without a printer. Oh sure, it's sitting out there in the media center, blue light glowing cheerily as if to say, "Hey there! Send your print job to me!" The fact that it's got a shit-ton of crap piled on it is the only reason it hasn't been tossed out the door into the front yard. When we want something printed, we send it up to the nearest FedEx Office or across the back yard to my MIL.

Now that I'm writing more and entering contests (!), I need to print fairly regularly. And now that Zoe has a school project due every 38 seconds, usually requiring photos and now with the option to turn in typed work, she needs to print fairly regularly. M's coaching work involves printing rosters, practice schedules and data. In short, it was time we welcomed another printer into the house.

We knew we did not want another inkjet. Oh sure, they lure you in by selling those pieces of shit for $45. "What a great deal!" we'd say. And we'd throw one in the cart at Sam's Club, bring it home, unpack it and plug it in. It'd work great for a short while, and then the honeymoon abruptly ended. This last one required a couple of calls to the manufacturer to get some sort of replacement part.Yes, it was covered under warranty, but it wasn't fun having to take time to trip through voiceprompt hell to find the right person, then wait for the new part to arrive, then dismantle the printer to install. By the time that happened, we hadn't used the printer in a couple of weeks. This inevitably led to clogged inkjet nozzles, and the only way to fix clogged inkjet nozzles is to blow a crapload of ink through them to unclog them. I can't tell you how many times I had to start a cleaning cycle, seething while I listened to my money blow through the nozzles and knowing I'd probably have to do two more cycles just to get the damn thing working properly. No sooner would we get them cleaned out than we'd get the "low ink" warning. Of course. At this point I would be so frustrated with the whole thing that I'd find alternative printing sources. I'd eventually run into a deadline that required printing at home which led me to discover…wait for it…clogged print nozzles.

I read an article one time that inkjet printer ink is the most expensive fluid in the world. It's way higher than gasoline, even when gas is off the charts. In fact, the author of the article took the amount of ink in one cartridge and calculated how much it would be if it were sold as a magnum of champagne. It was something like seventeen times higher than the world's most expensive champagne. This made me feel even better as I'd sit through yet another nozzle cleaning cycle.

Our last printer also boasted wireless connectivity. Once we put it on the network, we'd be able to print to it from any computer in the house! We could print from the other end of the house, actually, and saunter out at our leisure to pick up our document. We dreamed of printing delight, or at least of ease and convenience. I believe it took M about 79 hours, multiple diagnostic webpages, and a fair amount of expletives to get the damn thing set up to work wirelessly approximately 17% of the time. Plug & play was not in the cards for this printer. It also turned out that if you went even a couple of days without printing wirelessly, it'd lose the connection and he'd have to start the set-up process all over. I remember being desperate to print something one day and not telling him that it wasn't working. It was easier to pull the damn thing out of the media cabinet, including all the cords we carefully snaked through the back, take it into the dresser in the guest room (we were hidden from M's printer wrath in there), plug it in, and hardwire my laptop to the printer just to print a page. Well, I was able to print after I sat through multiple nozzle cleaning cycles, of course. My frustration level was as high as his, but I had not yet reached the point of wanting to chuck the printer into the yard. I knew if I went to him with yet another issue with this stupid piece of equipment, it'd be all over.

So we knew going into this new printer purchase that we didn't want an inkjet. Since dot matrix printers have fallen off the horizon of ever-advancing technology, this means we were looking at laser printers. Color or black and white? Color, definitely. Mostly for the child. So far this year she's done reports on owls and Mary, Queen of All Saints, plus a couple of book reports. All of these are enhanced by color images. Wireless? Yeah, since we have, at any given time, five different computers that we'll need to print from. Airprint? Yep…mobile devices numbering five as well. We decided we didn't need an all-in-one, as we have no need to fax (does anyone still fax any more?) and it's just as easy to snap a photo of something with our iPhones as it is to scan.

Armed with the knowledge of the printer we thought wanted, we visited a local store. We both went in with the thought that if the store was willing to negotiate, we'd pay a bit higher and buy the printer on the spot in exchange for the salesperson's knowledge. Nope. The store lost a sale yesterday and we saved over a hundred smackers.

After looking at the printers, we went to the ink cartridge aisle. A wall of boxes piled up, looming, with different codes depending on which printer they're used for. Apparently, when manufacturers make printers, they design whole new cartridge systems for each printer. Heaven forbid should multiple printers take the same cartridge. We found the ink cartridges for the printer we wanted, checking out page capacity and price. Laser printer cartridges are not cheap, but I figure we'll save money by not having to blow out the damn nozzles every time we want to print. This was when the sales guy decided to try to sell us an inkjet printer instead. "You can save a lot of money by buying an inkjet printer. Lasers are expensive!" he said cheerily. I patiently explained our issues with wasting ink, and said that our frustration with several different inkjet printers was now leading us to laser. He said, "Oh, no. They're much better now. Plus, this manufacturer has a program where, if you don't print something for three months, they figure something is wrong and they'll automatically ship you new ink cartridges! It's great!" He beamed. I stared at him. First of all…Big Brother? I don't want my printer manufacturer monitoring me every time I print. WTF. Also, I needed clarification. "For free? They'll send me new ink cartridges for free?" His smile fell. "Um, no. You have to buy them. But they know when to send them to you and the program only costs like $38 a year." So, let me get this straight: you're recommending a program where the manufacturer sells me even more ink that I will waste, and I have to pay to be in that program? Huh. Also, I don't want to sit around and wait for the new ink cartridges to arrive when I need something printed now. "Oh, they'll get to you in five to ten days." Yeah, that really helps when I need something printed NOW. They're called deadlines, asshole.

This is when we decided to have no guilt by purchasing from Amazon, which had neatly provided a long list of consumer reviews that gave us much more information than the in-store salesman.

I am so excited to have a printer again, one that works and that has good quality. We both have experience with HP lasers at our places of employment, and they are workhorses. They just continually crank out page after page with no issues. The one in my office is at least five years old, I think, and is awesome. I'm actually looking forward to cleaning out the media cabinet today, to make room for the new printer. I will have to hide the old inkjet, though, so that I can dispose of it properly instead of M taking it out to the yard with a sledgehammer, which is what I'm sure he wants to do more than anything. Think "PC Load Letter" scene from the movie Office Space.

Merry Christmas to me. It may not seem like the coolest gift, but trust me, it's exactly what I want.


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