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Paper Jam: The Trials of the Printer Guy

By Martin Nolan ·
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"Can I just make a quick copy?"

by Martin Nolan In reply to Paper Jam: The Trials of ...

     First, let me put this out there: I love my job.  Really, I love it.  The freedom is great. I love that I can go to the bank between calls or grab an extra few minutes at lunch for a haircut.<br />     I love not having my boss breathing down my neck all the time (and since he's not a tech, when my boss does breathe down my neck he has no idea what I'm doing so it doesn't make any difference.)<br />     Yeah, I love my job.<br />     Sometimes, though, it takes the entire force of my will not to calmly open my tool case and start flinging screwdrivers at anyone in range.<br />     Look, nothing is as satisfying as fixing things right the first time; the customer practically jumping up and down as you leave, copying themselves stupid and flashing you the thumbs-up.  It's awesome.<br />     On the other hand, almost nothing is as frustrating as scratching your head for a couple of hours trying to track down a short, or troubleshooting some weird, intermittent jam that never happens when you're there, but seems to magically appear only after you leave.<br />     Almost nothing. <br />     While the machine is in pieces and I'm on my knees trying to get a vice-grip around the screw I just stripped, that's when they come for me.<br />      ?Do you mind if I just make one copy?? the secretary asks, oblivious to the pile of cover panels, gears, and rollers she had to step over to bother me.<br />     It's times like these when my hand tightens around the vice-grip, and I feel like practicing my fastball.<br />     I'm often tempted to say something snide.  I'm not going to lie to you, the temptation is strong ? but I won't cave in to it.  After all, the average end user has no idea what their copier does, how it does it, or why it isn't doing it at the moment.  That's why they pay me.<br />     I usually make a little joke, a little small talk, and then lower my head and get back to work.  These interruptions in my rhythm could be seen as annoying, but I try to look at it differently.  Many times, a break is just what I need to regain my focus and come up with a new way to attack whatever problem it is I'm facing.  Since customers don't like to see me sitting around on their nickel, often the only chance I have for a breather when I'm on site is when some glassy-eyed office worker comes in and asks a stupid question or makes the same tired joke about getting me my own parking spot.<br />     Seen in that light, it's a welcome change of pace that actually helps me do my job better, plus it gives me a chance to interact with the customer away from the usual context of handing them a huge bill or explaining why their copier will be down until next week.  Though I might wish I could cop an attitude or throw a wrench, I just take a little time to think about why I'm there and why I do what I do.<br />     I love my job, I love the freedom..<br />     And I can even, with a little concentrated effort, love my customers.<br /><strong>     <br />     What kind of frustrations do you face while supporting printers and copiers? And how do you handle it?</strong>

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Can I just make a quick copy?

by colesch In reply to "Can I just make a quick ...

Posting comments fails on this blog. Noticed an error in the subject field, the value was enclosed with double quotes. This post is a test to see if its fixed.

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Can I just make a quick copy?

by colesch In reply to "Can I just make a quick ...

For more info on this post, reference:<br />
http://techrepublic.com.com/5248-6257-0-1.html?id=4497424
---
<br />
<br />
Great article! :) <br />
<br />
I totally agree with you, because as annoying as the interruption seem
on the surface, they allow a moment of down-time to regroup and
re-think the present situation. Plus, they give us techies something to
blab about at the office water cooler...hehe...<br />
<br />
Still one of my favorites is when an executive assistant told me that
she took her keyboard home and soaked it in the tub to clean it off. I
almost dropped the phone in laughter. Thank god for mute. lol...
<br />
<br />
Typically I don't recommend washing your keyboard in the sink, or even
a spin dry for your cellphone in the washer. But if you must, just make
sure its completely dry before you plug it back in.
<br />
<br />
-Chris
<br />
"The One Man Band"
<br />
www.cailleach.com
<br />
"Why does it say paper jam, when there is no paper jam!" -Office Space

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It's a dangerous job. . .

by Martin Nolan In reply to Paper Jam: The Trials of ...

    People are always asking me, "Martin - what's the most important tool in your toolbox?"<br />    Actually, nobody has ever asked me that, and until a couple of months ago I probably would have responded, "Um. . .I don't know. . .one of my screwdrivers?"  And I do have nice screwdrivers.  (I like to file the points off of all my Phillips head screwdrivers so more of the blades contact the inside of the screw heads.  It keeps me from stripping them all the time, which I am unusually prone to doing.)<br />    If I was feeling a little preachy, I might have said, "My laptop," and then droned on about how copier service is all about flashing firmware and connectivity these days and how IT skills are as essential to the business now as a vacuum and on and on and on.<br />    Either one of those responses would have satisfied the asker, I assume, and either one would have been correct enough.  But I was thinking about it a little bit, and if anyone ever asks me that question, I know exactly the answer I'll give - band aids.  Yes regular, everyday band aids.<br />    Not too long ago, I was working on a big wide format machine for an engineer's office.  This particular machine has a couple rows of copper grounding fins under the top cover.  Normally, I would approve of these fins - they serve a useful purpose and are generally inoffensive.  On that day, however, I had the top cover open and as I reached over to my toolbox to grab something, I ran my finger across one of those paper thin metal fins.  I instantly started bleeding all over the place.<br />    I ran into the customer's bathroom and washed off the cut, wrapped it in a paper towel and tried to continue doing my job.  The problem was, I couldn't stop the bleeding.  To make a long story short, I ultimately had to ask the customer for his first aid kit while the office secretary wrinkled her nose in revulsion at the mess that was my finger.<br />    That was the day of my big revelation - this job is kind of dangerous for clumsy people like me.  I have carried band aids ever since.<br />    I routinely burn myself on fusers, knock my knuckles, administer myself mild electric shocks, and cut myself.  Maybe I should try to be a little more careful - but that sort of thing
is easier said than done, especially since I'm almost always in a big
hurry.  <br />    Having band aids in my toolbox saves me some embarrassment and allows the customer (and more importantly the secretary) to keep their good opinion of me in tact, while still letting me be my clumsy self during the normal course of my day.  <br /><br />    <strong>Embarrasing stories?  I know you have them and I'd like to hear about them.</strong><br /><br />         <br />

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Do any of us have a future?

by Martin Nolan In reply to Paper Jam: The Trials of ...

    I have heard this line time and time again, and maybe it's true - if you're young get out of this business.  Find some other way to spend your days.  Go back to college, work at a store, do something else because there is no future in repairing office machinery.<br /><br />    Most of the time, the reasons given are simple and clear:<br /><ul><li>With the recent advent of office superstores selling cheap machines that are not worth fixing, nobody will need techs anymore in a few years.</li><li>The machines that are worth fixing will all have customer replaceable fusers and developers and won't need a tech anyway.</li><li>These same superstores sell consumables and cut into independent tech's profits.</li><li>Manufacturers have stopped giving support to non factory trained techs, further tying indies to one or two lines instead of allowing them to fix whatever they can get their hands on.</li><li>The paperless office will be upon us in a few years and no one will be printing anymore.</li></ul>    Of these, I find the last reason to be the least compelling.  People will always print, and with the latest document distribution methods it seems like they are printing more than ever, not less.  Besides, who wants to read documents on a screen all day?  I know I don't.  People have been talking about the replacement of hard copy documents for years, and as far as I can tell, almost no impact has been made.<br />    The first three are a little better, but still not very convincing.  The superstores will never be able to move into the higher end and specialty markets.  They aren't about to stock wide format printers or 125 page per minute machines, and those are the machines that need the most technical attention.<br />    As far as support, the manufacturers might not provide it, but there are tech boards all over the net populated with friendly techs who know their stuff and who are always willing to help out.  Some are better than others, but I have never seen a problem that someone hasn't seen before.<br />    I guess the moral of the story is, I think we as techs will always be necessary; our skills will have to change as technology changes - but that's nothing new.  We do have to find new and innovative ways to get the information, and ultimately the dollars that we need to make this job worthwhile.  If any of us are not prepared to expand our knowledge and our expertise, then we might want to consider finding something else to do between 8 and 5.<br />    <br />    <strong>How has the field changed in the past few years, and where do you see it going?</strong>            <br />

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The strange case of the phantom jam. . .

by Martin Nolan In reply to Paper Jam: The Trials of ...

Once, about a month after I started working on copiers, I got a call on a wide format machine that displayed a jam where none was actually present every time the machine was turned on. To clear the jam, the key operator had to open the clamshell, which on this model cuts the power, and close it again. I was thrilled. <br /><br /> "This looks like a job for SuperNoob!"<br /><br /> I got to the site and started taking things apart. I checked all over the offending sensor, cleaning it lovingly, making sure it was properly aligned. In the process I accidentally knocked off about forty pickoff fingers that it took me half an hour to get back in straight.<br /><br /> I leaned on the machine and tried the power switch.<br /><br /> No dice - phantom jam.<br /><br /> Then I traced the wire back from the sensor, checked all the voltages and dilligently looked in the manual to ensure that everything was in spec. I tried masking the error in service mode, which produced the dual unexpected results of making the machine run freely and totally locking me out of service mode. I intrepidly got myself back into service mode after about another hour of reading the manual cover to cover and finally resetting the RAM.<br /><br /> After re-inputting all the factory settings back into the recently cleared RAM, I checked the plate right above the sensor and realigned it perfectly after knocking it off during the course of the routine inspection.<br /><br /> I leaned on the machine and tried the power switch.<br /><br /> No dice - phantom jam.<br /><br /> I was really starting to sweat. I checked all the interlock switches, a bunch of the other sensors, I made sure the machine was level, etc. . .<br /><br /> Finally, I was resolved to purchase a new $1500 main board. "The logic has simply gone wacky," I assured myself, and turned the machine on one last time.<br /><br /> It worked - no jam. I scratched my head for awhile and looked at the machine blankly. I tried the switch a few more times and the jam never came back. I told the key operator she was ready to rock and roll and I left, satisfied with a job well done.<br /><br /> The next day, she called me. "It's doing it again," she whimpered, "I thought you fixed it."<br /><br /> Deep down inside I knew I hadn't fixed a thing, but I said, "Yeah, me too," and went back to their office (90 miles away from <em>my </em>office).<br /><br /> When I arrived, I asked her to show me exactly what she had done. She leaned on the machine, hit the switch, and up popped the jam.<br /><br /> A lightbulb turned on over my head. I leaned on the machine, hit the switch, and up popped the jam. I tried the switch without leaning on the machine, and bingo - no jam.<br /><br /> With a piece of scrap paper and a red Sharpie, I went to work. "When turning on the machine, please do not lean on the top cover." I taped the crude sign to the top of the machine, explained the problem to the key operator and we both had a good chuckle. It turns out the top cover gave just enough when you leaned on it to throw that sensor out of whack. Since then, that machine has run like a champ. Back at my car I laughed maniacally and thanked the copier gods that I figured it out when I did.<br /><br /> All in all, including travel time, the phantom jam cost me about twelve hours of time, one piece of paper, and a bunch of self confidence - but the lesson I learned was invaluable. <br /><br />Weird things happen.  Keep your eyes open.<br /><br /> <strong>Odd occurrences? Haunted copiers? I want to know the oddest thing that has happened to you at work.</strong> <br />

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To help, or ??

by Martin Nolan In reply to Paper Jam: The Trials of ...

    A common debate that circulates around various copier tech boards is whether to help obvious end users who post or not. Some argue that it takes money out of techs' pockets, while others figure a little advice about how to reset a code here and there is not doing anyone any harm.<br /><br />    I have certainly let customers in on a few tricks to save me a trip to their office, and they have thanked me - mostly by continuing to give me their business. But the internet is different of course. When you help someone on the internet, it is too easy not to think of their local tech who should have the opportunity to make the call about whether to give his customer information or not. Then again, if the person is looking for advice on the net, perhaps they can't afford a costly service call anyway or if they could, perhaps the machine is too old to warrant spending the money.<br /><br />    A lot of guys say, "Well, if they try to do something complicated and foul it up, the local tech will make money fixing their screw-up." This might be true, and it might give a tightwad or two a little respect for what we do, but is it worth it? Is it even worth the effort to respond, knowing the potential for failure? Some (who shall remain nameless) give the users deliberately misleading advice like, "Rub off the metallic coating on the drum with sandpaper and alcohol," or "Put more iron filings in the toner hopper," or some such nonsense. Maybe some people get a kick out of telling someone to damage their equipment, but I don't. I think it's a nasty thing to do, and it further degrades the reputation of all of us in the repair business.<br /><br />    My preferred method of dealing with the end users is simple, I don't. Too much can go wrong, and you gain nothing by telling someone else's customer how to fix their own machine. It's a losing game, and I think it best not to play.<br /><br /> <strong>How do you handle requests for free advice, on the internet or otherwise?</strong>

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Why do we do this?

by Martin Nolan In reply to Paper Jam: The Trials of ...

    I love <a href="http://www.copiercareers.com/salary_survey/cc06_salary_survey_tech_f.pdf">these</a>. Yes folks, it's the copier tech salary survey. If you've ever wanted a unique and frightening peek into the inner life of a service technician, here it is. I repeat, I love these things, but be warned - the information inside has the potential to frighten your boss and make your customers think you're nuts.<br /><br />    I'm not going to summarize the whole thing for you (that's why I linked to it) but I want to touch on a couple of points. The first one, which I hadn't thought about much, is the overwhelming prevalence of male techs (92%) vs female techs. Why is this? Is it a bias on the part of employers who believe that women are not as "handy" as men? Is it women themselves who don't seek repair positions? Is it an unspoken bias on the part of customers? I don't have the answers, but I assume it's a combination of a lot of factors including but probably not limited to the ones I mentioned.<br /><br />    My favorite part of the survey has to be the part where nobody likes their jobs, but almost nobody is actively doing anything about it. This particular phenomenon is probably not found only in our industry, but speaking as a tech, I can tell you exactly why we feel that way. Nobody respects us. Nobody. Not the boss, not the customers - nobody. And that is reflected in our pay and the hours we're expected to log. Techs work hard, abuse their bodies with chemicals (you know what I mean - cleaners and such), and prematurely ruin our backs and knees. We are always putting out fires, always kowtowing to petty office managers and bosses, always trying to keep up with the pace of change. Sometimes it's a little overwhelming.  No matter how you try to explain it, though, nobody believes how bad it can be.  They think you just turn a screwdriver and mess around all day.<br /> <br />    I know that I for one have fantasies of walking out and telling my boss to stuff it, keeping contact with some of the other employees to find out how far down the toilet everything falls after my departure. But I, like so many of my brothers in the industry, don't actively seek a better situation.<br /><br />    Why? Who knows, but if the profile holds, I guess it's because we are a very practical breed. And the devil you know is better than the devil you don't - even if the devil you know doesn't pay you enough.<br /><br /> <strong>What keeps you at your current position? What do you like and dislike the most about your job?</strong><br /><br /> <br /><br /> <br />

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Those Nutty End Users

by Martin Nolan In reply to Paper Jam: The Trials of ...

<br />    Anyone who has been following <a href="http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/03/24/tuttle_centos/">this little gem</a> over the past week or so might find the situation familliar.  I'm not suggesting that any of your customers has threatened to call the FBI on you or anything, but we have all dealt with people who think they know more than they actually do about their equipment.  It is a funny story, though I can't help but feel sorry for Mr. Taylor, who will live on (for another week or two) in internet infamy.  At the same time, the story has struck a chord with service and support techs because dealing with a customer who makes unreasonable demands is a major pain.<br />    On a tenuously related note, I have seen and heard just about every wacky request a customer can make in my career dealing with people, and I have come to expect a few of my customers to lay one on me every couple of months or so.  I have to spend a lot of time trying to show people why they can't get what they think they should be able to get out of the copier or printer they have.<br />    All of this has made me think - whose job is it to educate the customer?<br />    My natural reaction as a tech is, of course, the salesman who sold them the stupid thing in the first place.<br />    But in reality, salespeople rarely have the specialized knowledge required to explain some of the finer points of all the equipment they sell.  In a perfect world, maybe, but this is most certainly not one of those.  They need to consult with a technician in many cases to find out how the machine will perform in a particular customer's environment.  Too often though, in the heat of the moment instead of saying "I'll check on that," they say, "Sure, you bet!" to avoid losing a sale.  This puts everyone in a tight spot, but I have recently come to accept the fact that part of my job is telling people what they don't want to hear and trying to put a happy face on it.  That doesn't bother me anymore.  What bothers me is when they can't or won't understand the explanation I give them.  Luckily, these calls are few and far between (and usually not as extreme as some I have heard of).<br />    We all have to deliver unpleasant news, and we all have to offer solutions and workarounds to people.  It comes with the territory.  We can't take the easy way out and tell someone what they want to hear because it does nobody any good.  Until every salesman is a former tech and every customer wakes up reasonable, it's our job to go out of our way like the CentOS developer to make sure people's problems get taken care of, whether we feel we should have to or not.<br /><br /><strong>    What kinds of things do you find yourself doing that you'd rather not have to?</strong><br />    <br />    <br />    <br />

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Those Nutty End Users

by CNET Edit In reply to Those Nutty End Users

<p>Fix home copiers....if you can believe that.</p>

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