This month our Mystery Shopper is looking for a colour printer to print photos, text and pictures, all with a budget of £150...
I browsed the store for a while and was eventually approached by a sales assistant. After explaining what I was after the assistant said: “We always have good offers on, but the real cost is going to be your ink. I don’t know what you pay now, but once you know how much your ink will cost, this may help you make your decision.”
He showed me the BX305EW Epson printer; it was originally £99.99, but now on offer for £49.99. This had copying, printing, scanning and fax functions with a multi-page feeder. “This is good if you have any large documents and is one of our best offers on at the moment. With all these functions available there is nothing better, and Epson ink costs are good as well. For an ink pack with all four inks it costs around £40 to £45, while some of the others cost about £58,” he explained.
The sales assistant suggested avoiding Kodak, and claimed that for every ten they sell, six or seven come back. He also explained that Canon and Brother have more expensive inks as they use high density inks and a customer could end up spending more on replacing these than on the unit. He went on to inform me about the benefits of Staples’ product replacement option.
Overall I felt that the shop assistant was knowledgeable. He gave me good advice and I felt that he was trying to give me the best deal possible.
I wasn't greeted upon entry, so I browsed the printer area for a while and noticed there was a large range, prices from £29.99 to £299.99, and a wide selection of brands, styles and colours.
A sales assistant finally came over and explained that I needed to check out the ink costs before I buy a printer. He asked if I had a wireless home and showed me a HP 5515 priced at £79.99. “HP is very good and has ‘eprint’ ability,” he explained. I asked him about the ink costs and he took me over to a wall displaying a wide range of inks. “HP will use the 364 cartridges. Black standard is £8.99, colour standard is £8.49 and each colour is individual. They also do an XL size, black is £17.99 and each colour is £16.99. Standard black will print around 250 sheets of text and the XL will print around 550,” he told me.
He then pointed out the Epson ink: “The multi pack costs £32.99 and individually, black costs £9.99 and colours cost £8.99, so you save about £5 if you buy the multi packs.” We walked back over to the displays and the sales assistant pointed out that the Epson SX438W, which was priced at £79.99, had an ‘iprint’ option, “This is similar to the HP ‘eprint’,” he said. He then went on to add that I could have a ‘Whatever Happens’ deal – If I bought a printer and anything went wrong they would supply a replacement product straight away.
Overall, I found the sales assistant to be friendly, polite and informative. Although he did speak a bit fast at times, his knowledge was very clear and he had a lot of confidence.
As I walked into the shop I could see a large group of store staff chatting, I browsed around the printers for several minutes, staff passing by several times, but no one approached me so instead I approached the group.
“Initially, these days, when considering a new printer, it comes down to the printing costs and the price to buy more inks,” one assistant told me. He pointed out an Advent AW10, priced at £29.99 and said: “You can see here that this printer can print approximately 225 sheets in black text. To replace the inks it will cost £12.99 for a black and 19.99 for colour. All three colours are in the one cartridge, others brands have the colours separate, which means you just replace the colour you run out of, with this type if you run out of yellow but still have pink, you have to replace the whole thing.”
He then pointed out an Epson SW235W: “This Epson will only print 185 sheets in black text, but the inks only cost £7.99 for black and uses individual colours and they cost £8.99 each. Your running costs may be higher, but you will get a better print quality.”
Although the assistant made some recommendations and explained print prices to me, I felt as though he was mainly reading from the tickets attached to the machines.
There was a lengthy wait in this store, so I browsed the printing section for a while. After around 15 minutes a sales assistant greeted me. He asked if he could help and I explained to him what I was looking for.
“What you need to consider is the running costs once you buy a printer. The inks can become more expensive than the unit itself, so consider these costs when choosing which printer to buy.” He walked me over to a Hero 3:1 Kodak printer priced at £59.99. “Kodak are the cheapest, probably the best and lowest cost in the market at the moment,” he explained.
The sales assistant looked at the inks being displayed at the end of the aisle and told me that the black inks are only £7.99 and the colour inks are £12.99. He also explained that they currently do a multi pack option for £21.98 and this is cheaper than Epson, whose multi pack costs around £45. He said that Kodak will be the cheapest and its print per page is good too. He explained that with Kodak you get about 250 sheets and Epson about 200 using black text. I thanked him for his information and left the store
The sales assistant sounded knowledgeable but didn’t use this to investigate my needs. He went straight into the sale for Kodak and didn’t really offer any other brands for me to compare to.
After browsing the printers on display for a while, I approached the cashier’s desk.
A sales assistant was standing behind the counter attending to a customer; once it was my turn I explained what I was looking for. He walked me over to the printers and explained that they normally have a tech guy who could deal with this. We stood in front of the boxes of printers for a few minutes – some were open and being displayed on shelves. The boxes were dusty and some were bound with security cables.
The assistant asked what I wanted to do with the printer and I explained that I wanted a reliable one, and wasn’t sure if I just want a standard printer or an All-in-One. I asked for his recommendation and he replied: “Well, Lexmark is possibly more expensive on inks, but I can’t single any out, Epson, HP, Canon and Kodak are all about the same.” When asked which was the better printer, he simply replied: “Well, I have an Epson and find when I print photos the paper stays very wet so I need to use a better quality plain paper for other printing. Also my one doesn’t like Tesco’s own ink. It goes in but after a few goes it gives up.”
The sales assistant did try to give me a recommendation but it was obvious that his knowledge was very limited and the store wasn’t in a great shape.
On this occasion I found the sales assistants in Staples and PC World to be the most knowledgeable and I felt that they asked appropriate questions to ascertain my needs. I was disappointed that I couldn’t speak to a tech guy in Tesco, however the assistant did try to give me a personal recommendation. In all stores I was advised to look at ink costs before I decided which printer to buy and I felt recommendations were given due to price over quality and reliability.
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