So a few weeks ago I'm grinding away as usual (trying to finish the next book), when Mrs. Wonderful comes to me and says that our printer - an HP Officejet 6600 - isn't working. Needless to say, she expected me to fix it. This is actually standard operating procedure in the Hardman household: if anything isn't working, hubby will know how to get it going again. Oddly enough, this is a marked departure from her attitude when when first started dating, at which time she admittedly made an unwarranted and unsupported assumption that repairing things was outside my wheelhouse. (If I remember correctly, she said that I "just didn't seem 'handy'," which is code for saying that I seemed like a smart guy, so there was no way I had any practical skills. In truth, however, I've been taking things apart and repairing them since I was in elementary school.) It didn't take long to convince her otherwise, so these days when it comes to fixing things, in my wife's mind I'm like:
But back to the printer. Just to see what was going on, I tried to print a page from the current manuscript I was working on. I could hear the thing trying to do its job: mechanisms inside of it were apparently moving, gears were turning, etc. Ultimately though, it just made a whole lot of noise without really doing anything. (Hmmm... Note to self: try to make use of that last line in an upcoming romance (preferably in a bedroom scene) to be published under a pen name...)
Anyway, I tried to print again, but this time I peeked into the compartment that held the paper to see what was going on. I saw a mechanical arm descend with two rollers on the end. The rollers touched the printer paper, but then nothing happend (other than the printer making a lot of noise again). The problem was obviously the rollers, which were supposed to turn, thereby feeding the paper from the tray into the printer.
I reached into the printer and felt around until I got my fingers on the rollers (which I believe are technically known as the "pick rollers"). Guess what? They turned without any issues. They weren't stuck, clogged up in some way, nothing. In fact, all the cogs and wheels in that area seemed to turn without issue, so the problem was elsewhere. (All of this stuff is sorta in what I'd call the undercarriage of the printer, so I had to get a mirror to see what the hell was going on in there.)
I got online and looked up the problem, and was directed almost immediately to HP's web site. The company actually has a video and lots of instructions about things to do when your printer isn't working. Long story short, I soon found myself with a bowl of distilled water, some Q-tips, and a cloth, all of which I used to gently and lovingly wipe down a bunch of the printer's rollers, which I gained access to after opening up the back and taking some parts out. Nevertheless, after all of that TLC, the damn thing still didn't work.
At this juncture, my wife got on the phone with the store we'd bought the printer from. They told her that we needed to buy a new one.
Huh??? F**k that!!!
I raged that I'd take it apart first, and if I completely screwed it up we'd be no worse off, because - per the experts - we'd still need a new printer!
But before taking a crowbar to the printer's chassis, I went online again to see if other people had had this problem. (Couldn't just be me, right?) Sure enough, this was a common issue with this printer model. Thankfully, however, someone had discovered the source of the problem: apparently there's a little plastic cog that sits on a metal rod on the printer's undercarriage. The part of the rod where it sits is grooved so that the cog fits onto it, and the cog needs to be in that exact position when the rod spins in order to interact with a daisy chain of other wheels and cogs (see pic below) that ultimately causes the pick rollers to turn.
In our case, the cog had slipped off the grooved area, so that when the rod turned nothing happened. It was the work of about a minute to get the cog back in position, and voila! The printer was back in top form (and my wife loved me again). But three days later, the cog had once again slipped off... This time, I superglued it to the grooved portion of the rod, which was a complete pain because - as mentioned before - all of this crap is on the undercarriage. (One of the other people who posted online about this issue used epoxy, but whatever will keep the cog is place will apparently do the trick.) We've had no printer problems since.
Now we come to the part of this entire scenario that really bothers me. This is obviously a design flaw, as evidenced by the fact that it's a pretty common problem that - as far as I can tell - is completely unrelated to ordinary wear and tear. HP could probably fix it by doing the same thing I did: just glue the cog in place (or do something to make sure it doesn't move out of position). Or they could just tell their retailers that if anyone reports this type of problem they'll fix it for free. Bottom line, though, is this: they need to be willing to stand behind their product. Instead, I'm supposed to buy a new printer because of a flaw related to a part that probably cost 10 cents! Seems to me that somebody is making out like a bandit in that sequence of events - and it ain't the Hardmans.
More to the point, I'd think HP would be interested in not losing customers because of these types of incidents. Frankly speaking, because of this experience, I will probably never buy another HP product as long as I live. (Not to get on my high horse, but I'm so disgusted that I might even sell the HP stock that I own.) On the flip side, if they had made even a token gesture it would have been worth noting. For example, when Tivo cancelled my "Lifetime: service, they at least had the good grace to offer me a $75 gift card. In other words they tried to soften the blow. HP, on the other hand, just hit me on the back of the head with a sock full of pennies. Not only that, but they apparently expect me to like it and ask for more, a la Kevin Bacon in Animal House: