Thursday, August 23, 2007

Caveat Emptor

The other day, my old printer died. I've had it several years, and it's been cranky lately, so this wasn't a surprise. It ticked me off though that I had just bought two new ink cartridges and had only successfully printed about five pages when it gave up the ghost. After wasting almost seventy dollars on those cartridges, I knew that the cost of ink was going to be a consideration in what my next printer would be.

With a high school student who's printing something almost every night for homework, replacing it immediately was a high priority. I looked online at the usual office supply and discount stores and found a Lexmark Z845 at Wal-Mart for only $29.99. Since I don't do anything more than basic text printing and economy is essential now, I was thrilled to find one so inexpensive. I looked for the replacement cartridges and found that the black was less than $14 and the color less than $20. I've had Lexmark printers in different offices over the years, and they were okay, so I grabbed this up and went home to install it.

All the paperwork gathered, the packaging put to one side, I start to install the cartridges and find that there's no black cartridge. With the painting in progress, my office is a bit cluttered, and I looked to see if I had misplaced it. No, it was nowhere to be found, and I find in small print, "Black ink cartridge not included." Well, doesn't that suck. I head back to Wal-Mart and find that only black ink cartridge they had left was sold. The next day, I call to see if they have any more in stock and was told that they did.

Three trips to Wal-Mart in less than 24 hours will not make me happy, but I go get the cartridge. I find when I get there that the price has gone up from $13 and change to $19 plus overnight. How fun! Back to finally installing the printer I find that I need a USB cable to attach it to the CPU, and there's not one included. Searching through the tangle of spare cords I have stashed away with my old CPU, assorted dead computer mice and keyboards, I can't find a spare USB cord anywhere, so for the fourth time, back to Wal-Mart I go. With the cartridge and cable that weren't included, this $30.00 printer has now cost almost $70.00. I'm going to keep this printer because I'm sick of the hassle, but I'll never buy a Lexmark product again.

Living in a small town, shopping options are limited. There is only one other store in town where you can buy computer equipment. It's a franchise of a national chain, and my personal reasons for not shopping there trump my usual preference to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart when I can. My husband's family owned one of those small, local businesses, a hardware store that had been in the family for decades, that Wal-Mart drove out of business. I have acquaintances employed by Wal-Mart, including women who have been passed over for store management positions despite excellent records in department management and people whose hours are consistently held below the point where benefits become available. The reasons to dislike Wal-Mart aren't some liberal theory to me. They come from life experience.

Driving to the regional shopping hub takes a quarter of a tank of gas, so hitting one of the office supply stores even in my comparatively gas thrifty car would have meant an additional $12.00 for a round trip, so this seemingly inexpensive printer really seemed like a good deal, even if it did come from Wal-Mart. Unfortunately no, Lexmark made a dupe out of me.


Blogger Lisa :-] said...

This is why I DON'T shop at WalMart unless it's absolutely necessary. There is usually a reason why their merchandise is so cheap. The only things I will buy at Walmart are things like make-up, hair products and animal food. Things that I know won't break or end up missing parts when I get them home.

August 23, 2007 10:40 AM  
Blogger Lisa :-] said...

And I wouldn't necessarily hold this against Lexmark. Manufacturers are under extreme pressure to place their products at Walmart--simply because Walmart is so huge. When Walmart goes to a manufacturer and says, "We want to sell this product but it has to have a cost to us of no more than x dollars," manufacturers will cut stupid corners to get to that price.

August 23, 2007 10:42 AM  
Blogger gigi said...

Four trips to WalMart.


Now that's what I call having a bad day.

August 24, 2007 5:39 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

fortunately, as the "boss" of a small company, I do all the computer equipment purchases for our 3 offices and have been burned like this enough times that I now know what to expect, what questions to ask, and what small print to look for on the packaging.

Right now, the thing I have to make sure of when I buy software or equipment is that it is WinXP compatible. Most everything still is, but before long, you will see things that require Vista to run.

August 26, 2007 9:16 AM  

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