Aug 152009

Straying ever further from the main point of this blog, I recently had to delve into the world of printers for the first time in a long time. My 14-year-old HP LaserJet 5 scares me with a foul odor and even fouler-looking pages now, and my 8-year-old HP DeskJet 940c can’t stay in register to save its poor little life.

Getting Stapled

Since the State of North Carolina had decreed that last weekend was to be a holiday of mass consumption in order to get the kiddies ready for school, I went into my frenzy of printer acquisition. (Because printers were on the tax-free list.) Before the holiday, I had spied a neat deal online at Staples– an Epson 1400 for $179. It’s a great inkjet photo printer that usually runs for $300 everywhere else.

Alas, they were out of stock online.

So I went to the local store, which, according to the website, had the item in stock. I looked at the shelf, and they wanted $299 for it. I asked one of the sales people if they would match the online offer, and they would. But they were out of stock, too. They had some about 45 minutes away,  and they reassured me that if I went a few days later, I could still get the deal. (Yes, I was greedy– I wanted the deal tax-free.)

Okay, here’s where you should be very careful. Yes, sales usually go from Sunday-Saturday. But online deals don’t. And I didn’t know that. If someone tells you you can get the price, you should say at this point, “Can I get that in writing?”

That was my first mistake.

Thursday rolls around, and I knew I would be near the store that still had them in stock. I decided to check online before I left home to make sure they still had them in stock– they did, but they were low. The deal was still good. But by the time I got there, they had already yanked the deal off of their website.

Actually, they had not only yanked the deal off of the website, they had yanked the printer off of the website completely. It was as if it didn’t exist. So it didn’t matter what I said to the store employees there, they wouldn’t give me the deal.

Naturally, I was a bit upset. I hate it when the rug gets pulled out from under me, but what can you do? I didn’t take it out on the employees there– it’s not their fault. So I went home, wrote a letter to Staples explaining why I was upset, and what had happened.

I didn’t expect to get the deal at this point. I had already mentally walked away. If I could get the deal through writing a letter, great, but if not, I was over it. I always keep in mind what one of my old law professors taught me, “Never fall in love with something that can’t love you back.”

He’s Not Heavy, He’s My Brother

The printer frenzy weekend came and went. During the frenzy,  I found a great little Brother MFC 7840W (which totally rocks) from Best Buy for $199, reduced from $300. With a couple of gift cards I had, I walked out the door having spent only $125 on it. Tax free, too, because of the weekend. (It was also the last one in the Triangle. Woot.)

The 7840W is an awesome little multifunction printer. It’s a black and white laser printer that also is a fax, copier, and scanner. It has an auto-sheet feeder as well. Most importantly, it does wireless network printing like a champ. I guess it does scanning, too, but I don’t need that so much. The only weakness it has is the manual feed port– you can only manually feed a sheet at a time, and you have to hold the sheet you’re manually feeding. The other weakness is a lack of auto duplexing, but I don’t care about that.

Other than that, it’s great, and it fills the smoking hole left by my dying LaserJet 5. (No, really, it’s smoking.)

One neat trick I found is that if you cover the small round window on the right side of the toner cartridge with some black tape (or really any kind of masking tape), you can squeeze out a few extra hundred or so pages. Toner refills look bearable, price-wise. (Even more so with this trick.)

Pulling out the Staples

So anyway, here I am, happy with my little laser printer. I’ll admit I wanted the Epson that Staples had to print out a bunch of my photos from my journeys. The Epson is a great inkjet for photos… and not much else. After looking online, it’s hard to get a good deal on it from a reputable seller. It costs a fortune to ship, too, because it weighs a ton.

Much to my surprise, about 5-6 days after my email, I hear back from Staples. They were looking into the matter. To be honest, whenever I contact a company, I don’t ever expect to hear back, simply due to the volume of e-mail they get. I mostly wrote to get the frustration of having wasted 2 hours off of my chest, and to let them know that yanking a deal down in the middle of the day isn’t such a nice thing to do to your customers.

We exchanged some more e-mail, and after a few more days, they agreed to ship me a new Epson 1400 for $179 + tax, free shipping.

So in the end, I can say I’m pleased with how things turned out. Two new printers worth about $600 for about $300.

I win.

I’d say the moral to the story is this: always walk out on a bad deal, and go into every deal mentally prepared to walk out. Walking out on a bad deal is one of the most liberating feelings ever. It’s really fun to do when a car dealer tries to screw you over. I’ll save that for another post.

Be willing to haggle, and be willing to negotiate. Stand up for yourself, and tell companies when they do things that tick you off. Don’t be afraid to ask for something. If you don’t ask for it, you definitely won’t get it. If you ask nicely, you might just get it.

And never fall in love with something that can’t love you back. That way, you’ll always win.

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