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Sometimes it can be hard to read the fine print |

Sometimes it can be hard to read the fine print

John F. Oyler
| Monday, December 3, 2018 1:33 a.m

The capability of the collection of electronic/mechanical devices that populate our homes today is remarkable. One of my most useful tools is my printer.

Actually the term printer is a major understatement — my printer is a copy machine, a scanner, a fax machine and a wireless communication instrument, as well as a powerhouse for printing files from my computer.

About a year and a half ago, I decided it was time for me to retire a battered old veteran that had served me well for many years. I was pleased to learn that I could replace it with a powerful machine for about $125 and have been equally pleased with the performance of the replacement.

Two weeks ago, I began to experience streaky prints, a sure sign that my cartridges were running dry. I accessed the troubleshooting screen and confirmed that was indeed the case. A trip to Office Depot and a significant financial investment provided me with three replacement cartridges.

As is the usual case, my careful installation of the new cartridges rewarded me with confirmation that they were indeed official ones, not some cheap imitation. However, when I tried to print a color image, all I got was black and white.

I then went through the proper sequence of troubleshooting, all to no avail. First, I tried shutting down and rebooting. Then I went through the sequence suggested on the printer’s home screen. Then I downloaded a user manual and followed its instructions.

At this point I decided to give up and call the technical services department of the corporation that supplied the printer, so I accessed their website and immediately encountered an imposing series of “Frequently Asked Questions,” none of which were appropriate to my difficulty. After considerable additional effort, I finally was able to make contact with a live human being who described himself as a technical service specialist.

He was wonderful — patient, sensitive and respectful. After 15 minutes of sympathetic dialogue with me, he announced, “Now that we have completed all the diagnostic steps, it is safe for us to conclude that the printer is broken.”

He confirmed that the printer was out of warranty, but that his compassionate manager would allow him to sell me a replacement printer at a discount — $85. I was immediately grateful at their largess in getting me out of my problem, so I confirmed the order, thanked him profusely and hung up.

As I pondered why they were so good to me, I realized that they had sold me a new machine, at their wholesale cost, and had committed me to a future continuing to buy cartridges from them indefinitely.

Of course, there is also the possibility that the whole thing was a massive scam aimed at stealing my identity. But which identity would that be? Am I a fortunate consumer, grateful that I have been treated so favorably by a giant multinational corporation? Or a gullible octogenarian who has been skillfully manipulated by a fast-talking techie? Or a shrewd technology consumer who has managed to navigate his way out of a puzzling problem?

I will leave that decision to my readers. Personally, I am leaning toward “gullible.”

John F. Oyler is a contributing writer. You can reach him at 412-343-1652 or Read more from him at

Categories: Carlynton
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