Recently, I had to dust off my printer to print out, sign and scan some documents. I know, I know, why didn’t I just telegraph them via Western Union, derp derp derp. Anyway, I owned a printer/scanner, so no problem, right?
A day later, I’m ready to burn all printer companies to the ground. Why?
1. Unnecessary Bloatware
It goes without saying that it’s impossible to buy any sort of object that you can hook up to a computer that won’t come with a shiny disc of useless crap it demands you install on your computer, where it will become the software equivalent of herpes — never visible, but always there, dragging down your performance. I once bought a USB CD drive that basically sulked and sat in the corner because I didn’t want to install its version of iTunes, which I didn’t need, because I run Ubuntu, which can’t read the software anyway and has its own crappy knockoff of iTunes which I already use, and none of it was necessary to burn a CD, which I didn’t want to do in the first place, because who the hell uses a CD player anymore? I just wanted to archive my old albums. So printers come with this crap, you throw it out, the end.
Until, apparently, you want to print out a PDF. Oh, sure, Adobe makes a PDF reader…that everybody uses. But the reader included FREE, you know, just like the free one you downloaded except shitty, is really the one “optimized” for the printer, and don’t you want to use that, instead?
No, I don’t. No one does. Even Microsoft has given up on this one. The only reason the committee of hippies who run Ubuntu wrote their own version was because Adobe didn’t give a crap about them, so they had to.
It will print, or at least say it will, after clicking out of the “use our junkware please!” window five times.
I thought this would be my only error message. I was a fool.
This is the state of 3D printing — in five minutes you can find the plans for a machine (the RepRap) that prints 3D objects using a variety of materials, can even build most of its own parts, and do all of this for about a thousand bucks. There are other 3D printers that cost about as much that build any object you can design out of office paper and Elmer’s glue.
So why does printer ink cost $50? Ink in a bottle, that you use with pens, that runs you ten bucks. Printer ink is apparently made with howler monkey semen or some other precious resource. It is literally cheaper and easier to print an object in three dimensional space than it is to run off a three-page black and white document.
And let’s not hear any garbage about how there’s some sort of fancy device or something in the cartridge. This is something that the printer companies very much want us to throw away, or even generously give back to them to resell to us for another $50, and if it were actually expensive, we’d have an ironclad legal agreement to send the things back. In fact, they’d deliver them to our house under armed guard and shoot us if we tried to change the ink.
Of course, for me, it was a moot point because my cartridges had expired in 2010. Apparently the ink really can dry up somehow. I say somehow because it’s in a vacuum-sealed pouch, so really it shouldn’t be drying up at all, but apparently physics bow to economics on this particular point.
3. How Mindbogglingly Out of Touch They Are
The first thing my printer said to me, when I tried to print, was “PC LOAD LETTER” on its tiny LCD screen.
I’m not even kidding. Of all the errors it could cough up, it coughed up the one made infamous by one of the greatest movies of the ’90s. It’s not like this is an old printer. It was made new in 2009, before I inherited it because my friend got another printer from work for free. Don’t even get me started on the fact that it has an LCD screen, like an ’80s watch.
Look, I understand printers are cheap pieces of junk, but not even Linux barfs weird error messages anymore, and it’s run by people who have orgasms over weird obscure errors in code. More to the point, screens that can show more than fifteen characters are cheap and widely available. Why do they still have a screen a Game Boy would laugh at installed? In fact, why does it have an error screen at all? This thing is hooked up with a USB cable, just put the message on my monitor.
It’s really pretty symbolic that printer companies are stuck in the late ’90s in a world where there are cellphones faster than computers that came out two years ago. Their idea of innovation is…wait, do they even have one?
4. Customer Service
Dear Printer Corporations,
Look, let’s just put it on the table — you don’t like customers once you’ve gotten their money. It’s okay. We understand. We don’t like you either.
But the best way to make us go away if we come whining to you about how your product is made of steaming turds and does nothing but vomit steaming turds is to make a non-crappy product. But since that’s apparently impossible, you could at least hire people who have higher brain function, as I’m fairly sure the terminally cheerful people I spoke to aren’t really sure what this thing between their legs is, just that after they drink something, about a half hour later they feel a funny sensation and are suddenly all wet down there.
Seriously, where do you find these choads? The entire time I was on the line, I never spoke to somebody obviously from India, so that’s out. Besides, the Indian guy might have actually known what he was doing.
The first time, the woman I was speaking to refused to accept I wasn’t using a serial cable. Literally, I told her I was using a USB cable and she asked me “what?” I half expected her to ask me to hop into my Model T and go down to the general store to pick up some snake oil to rub on the contacts. I should not be explaining the concept of the Universal Serial Bus to somebody trying to help me use a piece of electronic equipment.
So I hung up, and called back and got Ted. I knew I was fucked the minute the guy identified himself as Ted. I don’t know what it is that makes cheerful, smug guys named Ted gravitate to the customer call center industry, but if you know somebody who is bitching at length about the idiot douche at customer service who condescended to him while not understanding his problem, his name is Ted. It might just be one guy, who works for all these companies, and they keep him employed because they just can’t stand to talk to him long enough to fire him.
Anyway, after I explained my problem to Ted, he told me to buy a new printer and transferred my call to sales.
Instead, I went to the UPS Store. I got my documents printed, with considerable difficulty on their part, and scanned. It cost me $2, approximately. As I was leaving, the manager of the store called the copier service center. The last thing I heard before the door closed behind me was “Hi, Ted.”
Next time, I’m leaving that guy a tip.