My Turn

Product Support Is an Oxymoron

James Champlin - 2001.10.01

My Turn is Low End Mac's column for reader-submitted articles. It's your turn to share your thoughts on all things Mac (or iPhone, iPod, etc.) and write for the Mac web. Email your submission to Dan Knight .

A few weeks ago, I did something I'd been waiting a long time to do: I headed to CompUSA, browsed through their selection of Macs, and settled on one of the new Quicksilver G4 800s. Ah, how nice. A new Mac. I hadn't gotten my hands on my own new computer since the early '90s, and a then it was bleeding edge 486 desktop.

But now I had it all: plenty of RAM, a big hard drive, and a lovely 22" Studio Display. Wait, what's this? I suddenly realized that my StyleWriter II won't plug into this bad boy. So, it's off to the printer department!

It didn't take long to narrow my choices down to the Lexmark Z23 and the HP DeskJet 648C. They were both Power Mac G4going to be about $60 after rebates, but HP was throwing in both cartridges, not to mention the fact that their carts were a good $5 less than the Lexmark units. I decided that the HP was the better buy in the long run. I'd been around HP products all my life. My dad has an old DeskJet 500C; it's always been great. He also recently got an HP Pavilion notebook. As an engineer, he's never used anything but HP calculators.

I got home, hooked everything up, and was so ecstatic. The first thing I did was restart to OS X. This was great. I'd been pining for X for months, and now it was mine.

Only one thing left - plug in the printer. I unpacked it and immediately became annoyed. The little HP badge that goes on the flip-top cover was missing - nowhere to be seen! Oh well, I can live without it. But getting the thing out of the box was an adventure, too. Once out, I plugged in the power and the USB cable. Not bad. I fired up Print Center, and it told me the obvious: I hadn't selected a printer. I let it go ahead. I chose USB, and... tada! There it was, an HP DeskJet 648C! But wait - it's unsupported.

Now this didn't dash my hopes, not at all. I got on the Web and headed for HP's site, thinking that updated drivers would be there, ripe for the picking. Think again. After mucking around on their site for nearly 10 minutes, it became obvious they have no support for OS X.

One thing I do see on every page, is a link to Windows XP. Great - OS X is six months old, and they don't have any mention of it. XP hasn't been released, and they're having fits about it. I figure, all right, I'll send them an email. Simple enough? Okay. Well, after going through a number of steps, I finally make it to a little-bitty HTML form. I tell them what I have and what I need. OS X isn't even listed as an OS option. I wrote it in as "other." I sent it off, thinking they'd get back to me fairly quickly.

That was Saturday. Monday afternoon, I get an automated response telling me that my message had been received. That's it. It wasn't until Wednesday that an HP rep emailed me telling me that the 648C is not "currently supported" on OS X. Okay, tell me something I didn't already know, man!

I reply, asking when drivers would be available. A reply came within the hour. They didn't know. Now I was beginning to get annoyed. HP dropped the ball on releasing OS X drivers, and then their service department doesn't even know when, or if they will ever exist? I was ticked. I thought of taking the printer back and getting the Lexmark. I didn't.

Fast forward several weeks. I brought the HP up to my room at Arkansas State, and am trying it again, but to no avail. I decided to go back to HP's site in the hopes that something had changed. Nope, nothing is different. No drivers, nothing.

I do see something nice, though. A service that will email me when driver updates are available! Yippee. I hit it quick. Four levels of menus later, I finally find an option to sign up for the service. I go through the steps, filling in the forms for their corporate database so they can sell your information to the highest bidder.

Everything is going fine until I reach a small list box asking me what I want to use it for. I click it - and nothing happens. I try holding the button down - nothing happens! The list doesn't work.

I figure, okay, I'll skip it. I hit "Submit". It dumps me right back there telling me a "required field" had been left blank. This was it. The last straw. That's all it took to push me over the edge.

At the earliest possible time, the lousy DeskJet 648C is going back to CompUSA. I'll get a real printer - any suggestions? OS X support is a must, as is a company that actually backs their products up.

I actually liked the thing, but what good is something that doesn't work?

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