Thanks to rapid advancement of technology, mass production, fierce competition and an increase level of sophistication from average people, we are have been in a while now, in the new face of consumer electronics, where buy a new one is cheaper and better rather than repairing, where the vendor would want you continuously give them money. But will you allow $300 printer down for a piece of paper? Not me !

[HPC6180's jam]

HP C6180's Paper Bay

What Happen to My Printer?

My 3-years-old HP C6180 multifunction top of the range printer has been quite reliable, until a few weeks ago. Suddenly a paper jammed inside the feeder and there is no way I could access the bay easily without disassembling the chassis.

And immediately my engineer brain starts to whinge: printer and paper jam should be very common and closely connected. Isn’t it ? I mean paper jam in a printer will not be a rare or weird occasions.

But, if it is so, then , how come such a big name like HP does not anticipate such common event? (By making it at least easy to remove the jam when it happen)

[HPC6180's jam]

A piece of paper jammed inside

And so there I was, on sunny Saturday morning, I ended up spend almost 2 hours fishing a piece paper from a printer with my MacGyver’s tools: a torch, a pair of 30-cm-rulers and sticky tape (Enjoy the pictorial on the right). And to my surprise, the jammed paper is actually a fresh new paper – it’s not even the recycle one

I mean, if HP really care about customer experience, a hinged opening on the chasis will fix the problem in 10 seconds flat. I keep wondering until I got “Eureka!” moment when thinking about the new face of the consumer electronics that hold the answer of this simple problem.

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A closer look

What Happen to Consumer Electronics?

I remember vividly when I was in school and the tape player in my house was broken, I and my parents drive half around the town to have it fix to a reputable repairer. Have you ever got that similar experience recently? Probably not.

These days, most of consumer goods, especially electronics one,  are designed for “single use” only. They are not meant to be repaired when they have broken.

Thanks to the low cost of mass production, the true cost of getting a new unit will be cheaper than making it easier to repair, maintain endless supply of spare part, training program for repairer and its support infrastructure.

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My sophisticated tools

Yes, companies still offer “warranty period” which is actually simply replacing your faulty unit with brand new one that has been made by mass production – or at most to some modular level that make it easy to just plug and play.

The ages of the product is also has been designed to be quite limited. Three or four year would be an eternity. Why? This is also caused by the rapid advancement of technology which made 3 years old technology significantly obsolete.

But more than that, a repeat purchase will be the ultimate goal for every consumer electronics makers. That is their livelihood.

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2 hours later

The modus operandi would be make the customer hunger of features. Then the new model with that features released.

Particular for printer, the real profit model of printer product will be more on the consumable: ink and paper to name a few. Not only because they are consumable (repeat buy while being used) but that consumable will have the highest profit margin. Printer company can literally just give away the printer as long as customer will buy the genuine ink.

For example: Deskjet F2480 Inkjet Printer a multi-function device (print , copy, scan) at this moment still can be purchase at Officework for only $39. Yes, $39. Furthermore, a few weeks back HP is giving away $20 cash back make it practically only $19 to purchase. But…. the combo pack for the ink (black and tri-color) will set you back just under $60. See the pattern ? Economically, once the ink run out, it’s cheaper for you to buy a new unit. Not really ‘normal’, isn’t it ? Well, get used to it…

[HPC6180's jam]

Look! No more jammed

So, what?

Back to my original problem, making sure paper jam can be easily rectified, probably in the bottom of priority list from printer company (if it makes to the list at all).

If other people who does not a great passion like me (read:have 2 hours to spare and was watching MacGyver movie too much), will take the printer to “repair center”. And I am quite sure, it will not be the things that covered even under warranty.

They probably will categorize this as “misuse” (maybe the paper too thin, too thick, not inserted properly,  misalign,etc) and end up you will pay premium to open the chasis and put it back. Well, good for local business, but if you don’t want to pay the price, it goes back to the question “will you let a piece of paper bring this $300 printer down ?” Frustrating… you betcha…

Hopefully, my mumble about consumer electronics above will ease down your pain as it helps when you understand.

And.. next time you buy a printer, make sure the printer allow for paper jam to be rectified easily !