To repeat the tweets that came pouring out in a raging boiling flood of fury last night, my printer -

well, that’s all anyone needs to say, I guess. And yes, there are greater problems in the world. And no, I wasn’t furious; sham outrage is how we gild our petty annoyances to deflect criticism for being annoyed by such small things. No one’s fooled, but we do it anyway.

I hate to make printer complaints, because you always get advice. Well-meaning advice. Buy this brand! I have it and it’s never given me problems. Except that I had that brand and it it gave me problems. Buy an expensive one, and you won’t have these problems. Guaranteed? Really? No? Okay, then. I bought the Kodak because the ink is cheap, and I don’t print much. That’s their niche, I guess. The printer for people who don’t need to print. I use it for scanning, and that’s when the troubles began: it refused to scan because it was out of ink.

This is not unusual. (Just a google search for scanner won't run without ink.)

What’s more, I wasn’t out of ink. Not really. I’ll bet if I cracked the cartridge open, my hands would be covered with Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta. The cartridges either hit their expiration date - the ink is made of milk, you know - or the sensor detected that 75% had been used, and so it was empty. (Which would be especially perverse: Why not just less ink and give the empty warning at 100%?) The only reason the scanner wouldn’t work was because the people who designed it, under orders from management, entered some code that bricked the machine unless you bought more ink.

We all know this. We all know that printers are cheap things designed to sell ink. What surprises me is why printer companies willingly and intentionally make devices they know will make people hate their brands. It’s suicidal.

Canon makes cameras, right? Does no one in the company think that people might remember oh, the last time I used that brand it gave me no end of grief. Or do we just assume they care about the cameras? H-P computers ditto, if they still make them. Bought a Lexmark once that was supposed to be wi-fi; couldn’t find the signal if you sat it next to the router and drew a dotted line.

Then there’s the all-in-one color ink tank, which the consumer knows the moment he sees it will roger him with a rusty augur. Unless you print off alternating sheets of solid color there’s no way the tanks will deplete at a common rate. It’s like buying a jug of peanut butter and jelly that has a separate compartment for each, and if you use up the peanut butter first the jelly nozzle seizes up. But there’s jelly in there! I know it! Too bad. You are DENIED JELLY ACCESS.

One thing is certain: no matter how bad a printer is, there will be someone on Amazon who gives it five stars. Works great, never let me down. Think of it: have you ever in your life, a year into ownership of a printer, felt compelled to go online and give it a good review? Perhaps to defend it against the slings and slurs of those who are bad-mouthing it for no reason? Do you sit up at night thinking gosh, that’s a great printer. I really need to spread the word.

118 1-star ratings on Amazon. Such as:

when you're at college and you have to print out a paper 10 minutes before class and it refuses to print because the color cartridge is out... go die kodak

I would never buy a kodak product again. They are the worst on the maket! Stay away. worked for a week or two and then only problems.

I was warned by a rep at Staples that Kodak makes crappy machines but I thought it was sour grapes for whatever reason.

Interesting. Does this make someone feel better about Staples? Perhaps. On the other hand, Staples sells them. Amazon sells them, but with all those reviews you can judge for yourself. That's the thing about online retail: right there, right alongside the thing you're buying, there are 200 people with opinions based on personal experience.

How can a bricks-and-mortar store compare?

They can't. Except on price. Which they can't. Unless they sell something no one else can. I wrote mildly jocular column last week about Best Buy, and how they might save themselves from the Future of Doom. I suggested they make their own printers, and not gouge people on ink. Have big pools of ink in the store, or a faucet. Bring a bucket! Ten bucks a gallon!

Anyway. It is my day to be at war with machines. Tonight I mistakenly clicked on the “SD” version to download a TV show - horrors! Standard Definition! - and there was just no way to cancel it. Couldn’t be done. Can’t back out. Because, you know, I might have done that out of some devious intent to get the first 90 seconds of a show for free. So now I have to wait for Apple to get back to me. This one: my fault.

Prior to that I was on the phone for 50 minutes with DirecTV, trying to get the ancient TiVo to believe that we live in Minneapolis, not Los Angeles. It tries to find shows that aren’t there. It doesn’t believe that Channel 4 exists, and seems aggravated that I insist that it does. I did all the things with the tech that I always do, because we have to do them; they’re almost religious rituals. Yes, the dish is aligned. Hear the clear high song of the 98% signal strength! When we exhausted everything else she ESCALATED the issue - whoa, windburn, ma’am, not sure I’m ready for this ride, but here we go. Got a terse nerd in Mississippi who had me do everything she’d just requested. The TiVo can see the satellites, but gets nothing from them. Blind but deaf.

He said he might have to send out a technician. “To fix a 2000 AD Tivo?” I said. “Isn’t that like a heart transplant for a hamster?”

There were several seconds of dead air as he processed whatever the hell I meant, then said the person would check the lines.


Something I forgot to mention yesterday, even though I know I've mentioned it before:



These fascinated me as a kid. There was one at Northport Clothiers, where the menfolk got their suits. Well, there or Strauss downtown, and I seem to remember that the same fellow worked at both. Either my brain assembled them into one guy, or he moved from one to the other. Phil was his name. Black glasses, well-dressed - of course - and friendly to me as a kid, but not in that way that puts you off because you think the adult’s just smiling because your parents or there or because you don’t want to be there because it’s boring to get pants. The store had a smell I can’t quite describe, but it was leather and polish and cigarettes and hot electric motors. That last aroma was probably due to the polisher, which I ran until it complained.

Why red? If it was for brown, why red? So people didn’t mistake the brown for the black, I just realized, and red is closer to brown. But still. You look at that thing, and think: lot of traffic from clowns?

Finally: today.




















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