Over the past few weeks I’ve been waiting on a final solution for the HP Z3100, and I’m sorry to say I still won’t be running any gloss for at least another week. I know, I know, you can’t run a small business this way. Believe me, I know it.
I do wonder, when dealing with other organizations where the urgency of helping a business out has gone? Today I’ve decided to outline the saga of the Z3100 to date.
Gloss just hasn’t been happening
June 3rd I wrote a quick blog post about the fact that my HP Z3100 was having issues with gloss. For a week I’d been working on the system trying to figure out what was going on. Severe banding was occurring with the prints, and all gloss coming out of the system was completely unacceptable. The quality isn’t something I could accept for my customers.
In order to try and clear the issue I did the following:
- Ran multiple test swatches on the printer to try and clear the banding.
- Cleaned the print heads multiple times over the period of a few days.
- Re-profiled the gloss papers I have in stock.
- Finally, swapped the print heads (hundreds of dollars there).
- Re-tested again for a few days.
- Finally called my extended warranty company.
After realizing that the trouble was something I couldn’t clear, I did call Sagemax, my extended warranty company. Clearly I needed a service tech on site, or on the phone, to give me a hand with the issue.
Extended warranty for business equipment
I know, everybody offers and extended warranty for everything. At this point in time I’m often surprised that my local grocery store hasn’t started offering me an extended plan on my food purchases. Fortunately we haven’t gone that far yet…… Yet. 🙂
In the case of getting a business machine, extended service plans are necessary. So, when I purchased the HP Z3100 from B&H Photo back in 2008 I planned on getting an extended service plan. I just wasn’t sure which one to get. So, when I went to make the purchase I did talk to a sales representative with B&H to find out what was different between Sagemax’s plan and HP’s plan. What I was told was I would receive the same service from Sagemax as HP. The same service technicians would be used, and using a 3rd party support company would get me the same level of response as going with the manufacturer’s service plan.
Okay, I was sold. And I felt more secure knowing that my equipment was protected. After all, this printer accounts for the bulk of my business. Being down even for a week or two could be a business killer, and that’s something nobody wants.
The initial call in
So, 5 weeks ago I called in to Sagemax. Here’s what I said on my post that day…….
For the past week I’ve been noticing degradation on Glossy prints coming from the HP. In the past few days we’ve passed degradation and just gone to unusable and unacceptable. The weird thing? Matte papers and canvas are perfectly fine. It’s only on gloss and the metallic papers that major banding has been occuring in the prints. So, bottom line? No gloss or metallic until I get some service on the printer.
Which leads me to the next bummer. Called Sagemax (my extended warranty company) to report the trouble. I went through a few reps and finally we concluded that a service center needed to be found. No service center listed with them for work on the Z3100 in my area. We left it that I would hear back in 3-5 days (business days I’m assuming). They’ve got to find a service center, and it should take 3-5 days…… Okay? That means no gloss until next week at the earliest.
And before you ask….yup, I’ve run every diagnostic possible, calibrated paper, run test prints upon test prints, aligned print heads, calibrated paper advance……the works. So, I’m bumming there.
The follow up
A week later, after my 3-5 business days had passed I called Sagemax again. The customer support person on the line didn’t really know what was going on with my trouble at first, and had to take a few minutes to look into it. Finally, she got back on the line with me and put me in touch with their computer help desk. Okay, that’s something.
The gentleman I spoke with looked into my case quickly, and got back on the phone with me. He was a little bothered. He explained to me that my trouble was put into a service center in their system. Unfortunately, the service center was in Michigan, and that really didn’t help me. Additionally, I’d never gotten a call to tell me that in fact my issue was called into a service center.
Well, the computer support fellow for Sagemax cleared it all up quickly. He told me he was calling a national service company who had techs all over the country and he would get someone assigned to come out and work on my printer. Perfect! That’s what I was looking for!!!
Not long after I got off the phone with the Sagemax computer support guy I did get a call from the service company he called into. I was asked what was wrong, what type of printer it was, what diagnostics were done, and what my address was……. Progress. I was given a support ticket number and the phone number for the company. Someone would be calling to schedule very soon.
Well, that was on Thursday June 10th………
One week later I called to find out why nothing had been scheduled yet. The call center person that answered the call told me, “We declined to service your printer. We don’t do these types of wide format printers, and we let your extended warranty company know that……..”
Uh, nobody called me.
Follow up number 2…..
At this point I was a little steamed. I’d been the patient and understanding customer so far, and I could continue it. Even with my business being impacted, I do understand finding qualified service techs is more important than being in a rush. I mean really, I don’t want some yahoo coming in, putting their hands in my Z3100, and leaving me unable to run canvas, right?
So, on June 17th (7 days after I thought I was getting somewhere) I called Sagemax again. Once again, I was put through to the Computer support desk after it was confirmed that the first national service company declined to work on my printer. I did ask why I wasn’t contacted, and I was not given an answer.
The latest computer support guy at Sagemax found another national service company, Barrister. He told me that Barrister would be in touch shortly, and he did not offer me a direct contact line for Barrister. I was going to have to wait patiently once again…….
It was at this point that I contacted another person I know at B&H. I really needed some help to expedite this issue. To date, installing new print heads, testing with a lot of gloss paper, testing with the Red River Polar Pearl (issues there too), and loosing out on several large print jobs, I’d lost out on a few thousand dollars. A small business cannot afford that, but that’s where I was.
I got a quick response from the B&H contact, and I was assigned a person who could help bridge the gap and help get the process moving quicker…….
Barrister did call, and we did actually make some progress…….
The multi-level support call
Barrister contacted me days later in order to help research my trouble. Once again, the person on the phone had no information about what my specific trouble was, and I had to re-tell the whole story, what I’d done to test, putting the new print heads in, etc. The Barrister rep listened, and then told me we would be calling into HP for support and diagnostics.
So, I was now on a conference call with a Barrister rep and an HP support representative. I once again re-explained the entire situation to the HP rep on the line, gave him my serial number, etc, and waited on hold. Finally, the HP rep came back on the line and told me, “Your warranty has expired on your printer. In order to go further we need your credit card number to bill you for this phone support call…….”
This is when my heart sank. You’ve got to be kidding! But before I lost hope the Barrister rep got on the line and said, “You don’t need a credit card number. I’m with Barrister, and we’ve contracted with you for 3rd party support. Our confirmation number is………”
I let my mind wander at this point in the call. Barrister has a support contract with HP. So, 3 weeks into my issue I’d found someone who would in fact get me HP support, great! Solutions were coming closer. Of course, this was the weirdest conference call I’d ever been on.
Finally, the first level support guy at HP put us through to an actual expert on the Z3100. Once again, I had to re-explain the entire issue to the latest tech. She listened, and then pulled up my serial number and said, “Your warranty has expired on your printer. In order to go further we need your credit card number to bill you for this phone support call…….” Uh, you’ve got to be kidding.
The Barrister rep came back on the phone and I could tell he was loosing patience. I’ll shorten this part of the story. 20 minutes into going around with the latest HP support woman, she couldn’t find Barrister’s account. So, we let her go, and the Barrister rep told me he would call back once he found someone who would talk to us………
Deeper into Diagnostics
A short while later, and on the same day (first time that happened in this whole saga) I was back on the line with Barrister and HP. The HP tech knew my issue, and asked about a few diagnostics that I hadn’t run. It was a special diagnostic screen that I’d never accessed before. Very cool!
The HP tech told me the issue sounded like one of two things. My media sensor might be failing, or my carriage assembly was failing. If it was the media sensor we’d be in luck. Easier fix. If it was the carriage assembly……not so lucky…….
I was now armed with some new information. And I was off to run the diagnostics. I would call Barrister back with the results!
After another hour of testing I finally found that the Carriage Assembly was failing its tests……. I called Barrister back, and left a voicemail for my rep who didn’t answer.
He didn’t answer the next day either………..
Getting someone on site
Days after that call with Barrister I finally found someone at Barrister who would talk to me. I’d left a message for the first rep on his direct line (which he didn’t give me, one of his co-workers did rather than help me), and after I couldn’t raise him for days I had to get someone. Finally, a new support rep at Barrister answered my call. I had to run through the whole error code and story, and he told me there was nothing written up on my case number. Inspiring, but not shocking at this point.
The new rep told me he’d get in touch with Sagemax, and it would then be with them to find someone to directly service my printer……..
Into week 4……..
I was informed by the person at Sagemax who’d been assigned to my issue that a service center had been found. A printer repair shop in Flagstaff. And a tech would actually come on site for me. Finally, only 4 weeks into a business impacting issue. About time.
The Flagstaff company got in touch and scheduled their tech for July 1st. Exactly 4 weeks to the day since I’d called in my issue. But we now had progress and had eyes and hands on the ground. Solutions were in the wind……..
You know more about this printer than I do
So, on Thursday July 1st I printed nothing. The service tech from Flagstaff was coming in at 11:00 a.m. Even though I had some work for George Molnar (a huge canvas worth hundreds to me) I postponed any printing as I didn’t want to make the service repair guy wait on a big print job. I wanted to have everything ready for him.
Imagine my disappointment when at 3:00 p.m. I had to call his company in Flagstaff to find out where he was. So, I called Express Printer Repair in Flagstaff and found out that his route had changed for the day. He was in Sedona at the time of my call, and I would be the last stop of the day.
I’m so glad that I at least had consideration for his time by not printing for the day……wish somebody in this story at this point had consideration for my time!
Finally, late afternoon with no opportunity to work on my printer, the tech showed up. I brought him into the print room, and explained the whole issue to him. I even had some glossy test prints on hand to show him. He looked at them and looked at the printer. I explained the error codes, and asked him if he wanted to see. He said yes.
As I got into the test menu he was taking notes. He’d never gotten into a Z3100’s test menu. He commented, “HP certifications require a lot of hours, like 50 hours. But I do know how to work on their printers.” At that point I looked at him and said, “I’ve got multiple certifications from HP, Lucent, TelLabs, Sun Solaris, Comverse….. I used to run national networks for national carriers, and I worked on wide format printers for our Radio Frequency groups.” He paused and responded, “Well, you already know more about this printer than I do.”
We ran through the test menu on the HP, and finally got to the point where the Carriage Assembly failure code would come up. It came up sooner than expected, and failed earlier into the testing. The tech wrote down the codes, and he was on his way. He told me he’d be calling my point of contact directly and telling her what was up.
The waiting game
On Friday morning, July 2nd, I called my Sagemax point of contact to follow up on the service tech’s visit. I left her a message, and figured I wouldn’t hear from her. The long weekend for the 4th of July and all, you know. Sure enough, I was right. We finally talked on Tuesday morning after I left another message.
Right now they’re deciding the next step. Repair the printer, pay out on the printer, etc. I should know by the end of the week……… That’s what I’ve been told. Today I followed up on the phone just to be sure, as it seems without regular calls from me in this process it seems to be going nowhere….. Currently the decision is with another department, but she’s looking into it this morning for me…… Did I mention I turned down 10 24×36″ Photo Floats yesterday? $691 in business lost in a day. Want me to total up the other print jobs I’ve turned down in 5 weeks???
Going forward, for my small business at least, I will always purchase support contracts directly from the manufacturer. While I was sold on a 3rd party support contract, I know now they’re not the same. I’ve used them in prior business environments, when I was consulting at US Cellular, when I was with SunCom PCS (AT&T Wireless), back at Sprint PCS, etc. We had 3rd party techs and contracts all the time. And in that business scenario it worked.
For a small business, these types of games can kill you. Believe me, my revenue has been down due to this issue. And I’ve had to spend a lot of money in my own testing that wasn’t necessary. I know I wont be compensated for the new print heads I installed 6 weeks ago, the wasted paper, all the ink I’ve bled, etc. That’s just my loss.
So, overall, lessons?
- No 3rd party support contracts ever again.
- Don’t depend on someone telling you they will get back to you in a timely fashion.
- Aggressively call for support. Waiting leaves you waiting. The first two weeks of this story should be enough to convince anyone of that.
- Maybe I shouldn’t be so nice when I call in. I’ve been taking the patient route, all the while my business has been severely impacted to the negative.
- Do not rely on other organizations understanding the impact to my business. Gotta stress the fact that this is actually put me in a very tough position. Yesterday’s customer? Yeah, I told them to check out MPix so they can meet their client’s needs. Hey, can’t screw my customers because of this issue.
What’s the next step?
Well, I’ll be waiting on a call back today. Hopefully my point of contact will have some type of news, and after our conversation this morning where I let her know about the job I lost out on yesterday, the fact that my business is being severely harmed by 5 weeks of poor support will register. It sounded like it did.
Interestingly enough, another vendor of mine, Breathing Color, has stepped up and offered some interesting support. After the first write up on this whole situation back on June 3rd I got a call from my rep there. He wanted to know how the issue was going, and wanted to know what kind of help he could be in the situation. I knew I liked Breathing Color for a reason. Since the start of this business they’ve been there with me seeing that it has the chance to grow. That’s what I really appreciate in a vendor!
So, we’ll see hopefully today whether or not the Z3100 is deemed repairable or not. Whether or not I’ll be reimbursed for it, or we’ll finally get someone competent on site to get the repairs done. Hopefully they’ll show up before I decided to fold up the tent and call it a day!
Not a vent or a rant……
Oh, and so you know, this isn’t venting or ranting. I’ve had clients and friends alike ask what’s going on with this situation. And I’ve stayed away from blogging about it as I’m trying to wait patiently. But this morning, realizing it’s been 5 weeks, I decided it was time to write up my support nightmare story. Hopefully it will help readers in their decisions about extended service support plans. Seriously, on larger equipment for my business, it will be the manufacturer’s support plan, and no other.
And for the wise apples out there (you know who you are) don’t ask me about when glossy printing will be available here……that’s just not a nice dig at present! 🙂