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Case Study:

Multifunction Printer

A leading brand's multifunction printer displayed at a local retailer impressed Chris. When Chris' mother (referred to as JRN below) needed to replace her printer Chris quickly recommended that she purchase a similar multifunction printer for herself.

Below are a series of correspondences between Chris' mother and Chris relating to the travails that ensued upon her purchase of the leading brand's multifunction device. This case study documents some of the significant costs now shouldered by this brand--costs that are significantly reduced by EZ Rated.

The purchase process began with general information being forwarded by Chris to his mother from CNET.com, a technology information website.

----- Original Message -----

From: Chris
Sent: Saturday, December 08, 2001
Subject: Brand's model multifunction printer

'Outstanding printing, expanded connectivity, ease of use, improved copying and standalone color faxing all in one compact design. Offers printing, copying and faxing capabilities. Features brand's . . .[special] . . . technology for photo-realistic image quality. [Brand's feature] . . . offers creative copy features without a PC, scan directly to applications or e-mail, 20-page automatic document feeder. Included in box: black and color ink cartridges, installation software on CD-ROM, phone and power cord and user's guide. 1-year mfr. limited warranty.

CNET Rating: 8 out of 10 Rating criteria
The good: Low cost per page for black text; fastest overall in printing and copying; best overall print quality.
The bad: Expensive; scan quality only fair.
The bottom line: [The brand's model multifunction printer] . . . makes few compromises, which is saying a lot for an ink jet multifunction. But this level of quality will cost you.

Dialogue was taken from email exchanges relating to the above printer:

JRN: This one . . . [leading brand multifunction printer]. . . looks pretty good to me, Chris. I sure think it beats taking my printer in to be fixed.

JRN: Chris, on this one, it says: "scan directly to applications or e-mail." How does it do that?

Chris: Software that automatically attaches a scanned image to an email that you address. The file will be in a format others can see when they get the email.

JRN: It is amazing what they have been able to combine into one unit. . . .If this is a fax as well as a printer and copier, it is mind boggling to me how they got all those functions to combine.

Response to Chris's requested for a summary of events to that point (12-15-01):

Dear Chris,

Only at your urging would I put myself through the terrors of this past week regarding my purchase of . . . [leading brand multifunction printer]. . .. Frankly, I've had enough of that machine to never want to look at it again in my life.

My ordeal started when you suggested that this printer/scanner/fax would take the place of the three pieces of equipment that had failed me--the printer, just last Saturday, December 8, 2001.

I went to Circuit City to check out its price, which was there, on sale until December 15th for $269.99. I then drove to Best Buy and found the . . . [model multifunction printer]. . . on sale for $299.99. I had just enough time to drive back to Circuit City to purchase the . . . [model multifunction printer]. . . before they closed.

The salesman offered a 4 year extended warrantee for $69, and usually averse to such gimmicks, I saw the need for some extra protection in a piece of equipment which purported to perform three functions in one: ah, the blessings of convergence. Not betting on its perfection, I bought the extended warrantee.

The salesman also insisted I needed a new cable for my new printer/scanner/fax, and that turned out to be another $25 + tax, bringing the whole total up to $383+.

There is a savvy superintendent of maintenance here who has done me many a computer service, so I let him know by phone what task I had in store for him, and sure enough, the next day, Tuesday, Dec. 11th, he showed up, with the brief amount of time he had, ready to hook up my new gizmo.

He punched open the new cable--right through the plastic, and then we found out the six-foot length of cable was not long enough to make the connection between the location of my computer and the base of my workbench, wherein my new printer/scanner/fax was to be housed. As he had wrecked the wrapping, I felt I wouldn't be able to return the cable. So, I had him use the old cable, a Belkin F2A046-10.

The first problem we encountered was caused, we decided, by the lack of a couple of computer screws (lost in my recent move). This, we thought, was causing the printer to fail to be connected to the computer. I went to a computer store later that afternoon [RETURN VISIT] and got some replacement screws.

Wednesday, with my helper back, and everything disconnected, the . . . [brand]. . . uninstaller was used to uninstall the program twice, but upon reinstalling everything exactly as the instructions commanded, we still could not get the program to run. There was no connection established between the printer and the computer. My helper said he'd be back the next day.

When he couldn't get the program to run after going through the routine again, twice, we both decided I should call for help. [SUPPORT CALL] Imagine my surprise when I found out . . . [brand]. . .had no toll free number--not even for customers whose printers were under warrantee. Imagine further my chagrin when I was told, immediately upon telling the person who answered the phone what kind of piece of equipment I was calling about that my printer was out of warrantee.

Now, here's a backup piece of information. The same maintenance superintendent who is helping me install this . . . [model multifunction printer]. . . INSTALLED THE . . . [model multifunction printer]. . . THEY HAVE WORKING IN THE OFFICE here in the complex where I live. I may not have the very latest . . . [brand]. . .model, but I did have a new printer, a brand new printer, and it was one on which I not only had. . . [brand's]. . .warrantee, completely intact, but a warrantee that extended out to 12/10/05.

To get back to my story and my growing chagrin: Here I am on 12/13/01, having to call Montana, and being told--right out of the gate--that my product is out of warrantee. I immediately corrected the woman, telling her that my product was not out of warrantee because it had been purchased from Circuit City on the 10th.

She apologized and said she would connect me with technical support. She connected me with Larry. Larry admitted that he thought he was in for an hour and a half conversation, but he wasn't. I was calling to find out if my cable, the Belkin F2A046-10, would support the connection between the . . . [model multifunction printer]. . . and my computer. [In your email on 12/11/01, you wrote: "You already have the proper cable (you have an IEEE 1284 compliant parallel cable."] However, Larry told me: the Belkin F2A046-10 would not support the connection between the . . . [model multifunction printer]. . . and my computer.

The conversation could have ended there, but Larry was so surprised that was my only question, he had a few other points to make, a couple very valid, but all on my phone bill. Upon hanging up I had to set off to purchase a 10' IEEE 1284 compliant "A-B" printer cable since. . . [brand]. . .had said what I have won't support what this machine needs. Off I went to spend MORE!

My maintenance super arrived today, 12/14/01, and after disconnecting the old cable, the Belkin F2A046-10, which . . . [brand's]. . . tech support said would not support their product, we reinstalled the software connected up the new 10' cable, and nothing happened. No connection between the computer and the printer could be established.

For 4 days, I have been paying my maintenance super for help, and for four days, there has been nothing but aggravation and frustration, and I KNOW HE INSTALLED THIS VERY SAME SYSTEM IN THE OFFICE. We both gave up. The second attempt today convinced me that the machine I had purchased was a dud, so we packed it up, and I brought it back to Circuit City this evening. [PRODUCT RETURN]

That is when I sent you the following email:

December 15, 2001, at 12:14 a.m.

"You aren't going to believe this story:

I had no trouble returning the . . . [model multifunction printer]. . . . The only trouble was getting another. I was waiting outside for the longest time to have someone put another in my car for me. Finally, the guy came out carrying one--the last one. There had only been two when I purchased mine. Someone was trying to buy this one, on the last day of the sale, and had I come 15 minutes later, there would have been no printer to replace mine. As it turned out, I got the printer, and I don't know what happened to the other customer. [LOST SALE]

What has happened certainly isn't what I wanted to do, either with the whole of last week, or the past two hours of this evening. . . . [brand]. . . needs to start making things a whole lot easier if they want to stay in business. [BRAND DAMAGE]

JRN message, Sunday, December 16, 2001

I do believe the problem is with my computer printer component for the printer. It looks like there is another port open into which I could plug this printer cable. Will it be all right if I do that? In fact, I do believe I'm going to try that, and I'll let you know the outcome.

JRN message, Wednesday, December 19, 2001

I went to the Computer Service store today, only I took the computer along with me. I had the guy help me . . . [RETURN VISIT & IN-STORE SUPPORT] he showed me that the first port was vacant, and I could put the mouse connector in there, etc. Now, the printer has its own port, which is what . . .[brand]. . . said it needed--not to have anything else connected in the same panel ["on their help screen pop up, it suggests that it is best not to have anything else connected in the same panel where your printer port is when you are having trouble connecting!!!"], and when I get done checking my email, I'm going to see whether I can install my Brand 3-fer.

I'm not even hopeful at this point.

Wish me luck!

JRN message, Thursday, December 20, 2001 -- Printer NOW operational.

Now, as for. . .[brand]. . ., their instructions on the big green and white shiny double-sided paper that comes with the 3-fer stops at a critical point. After working from those instructions, etc., etc., etc., and uninstalling the CD, and the connection between the computer and the printer/fax/scanner and reinstalling the whole thing another couple of times, I took to the book and went to their most extreme case as to what to do when your computer and printer won't talk to one another. (Please note: I am using your original Belkin printer cable, which their support--you remember, that was the call I had to pay for--said would not work):

  • "Verify that the cable is securely connected to your . . . [brand model]. . . and directly connected to the applicable port of your PC. After the cable is connected properly, turn your . . . [brand model]. . . off and then on again.
  • Turn your . . . [brand model]. . . off and then on again, and then restart your PC.
  • If the previous steps do not solve the problem, remove and reinstall the software.........................

They just don't tell you how many times you are going to have to do this, or how unclear the break is between their green sheet, and having to switch to the book.

If only . . .[brand]. . . in their shiny instruction had said, NOW, shut down your computer and your . . . [brand model]. . . , which you have had on, and THEN make the connection between them, before starting the system up again, I would have saved 5 days of work, endless days of aggravation, and goodness knows what kind of trouble. The way they leave it on the sheet, the computer is on.

They send you on a tour, which you would have to finish to find out you have to shut off your computer before connecting the cable, and even though I knew you had to have everything shut off a few days ago, I had forgotten it with all the chaos of returning the first unit, the other 10' IEEE 1284 A-B cable, and having the whole world cave in on me because we could not get that first unit to connect to my PC.

They . . .[brand]. . . not only lost money on me, a persistent lady with a master's degree, but they probably lose tons of money because they don't print out all their instructions on that shiny green piece of paper that lays flat over their unit. By making it trifold, instead of bifold, they could tell their customers everything they need to know to make their installation complete, after configuring their software. OR, they could say, "NOW, dear customers, if your PC and . . . [brand model]. . . aren't talking to one another please turn to page 33 of your manual."

Instead, they say, if this screen (Congratulations) does not appear, see "Additional Setup Information" in the Basic Guide." For someone like me, who can't easily read small print, that visual is invisible!!!

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