Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

Friends? No Wonder You Have So Few!

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 17, 2010

One is reminded of St. Teresa of Avila. Having moved to new digs and given up my access to a fully-furnished office, I needed a passable all-in-one device for my new home office. You know what I mean: Print, copy, scan, and fax, including support for legal sized paper and duplexing, in both color and black-and-white. So last Thursday evening, I trundled out to Office Depot and took advantage of their special $150 instant rebate on an astonishingly capable all-in-one ink jet printer (much cheaper than equivalent lasers) from Hewlett Packard.

I knew I was in trouble on Friday. While the printer installed seamlessly on my wife and son’s computers, it took five hours with HP technical support to get it to install at all on mine. Half a day shot.

This morning I took five minutes out of work (yes, I confess it) to print for my wife a borderless 4x6 photo of my youngest grandson at his first birthday party (celebrated last Sunday). To my chagrin, I couldn’t get it to print on my fabulous new device without leaving white space on two of the four edges. Getting back on the phone with HP for a quick solution, I learned that several other features of the printer didn’t work properly either—at least not from my laptop—but about halfway through the trouble-shooting process, the HP technician lost the ability to run his remote session software so he could see my PC.

He never was able to get back to me, but after another two to three hours of troubleshooting based on some advice he had given, I thought I had things working again. Everything was properly installed without error messages, so I finally sent a new test page to the printer. It crashed. Then I tried a test page from my wife’s computer (which I hadn’t touched), and it too crashed the printer. Up until now this had been frustrating, but it was about to become what some would call funny and I call ludicrous.

I called HP back, and a new technician patiently explained that, as the printer was the latest technology and my two-year-old computer was not, I should solve all these problems by purchasing a new laptop. But I’d have to purchase three new laptops, one for myself, one for Barbara, and one for Thomas. No problem, sir, we’ll give you a good price and we won’t charge you until six months have gone by! Good one.

We haven’t reached the apex of the story, not by a long shot. After resetting the printer, which I learned how to do online, and powering it up again, it went into a continuous (yes, I do mean never-ending) round of shut-downs and restarts. The only cure was to pull the power cord, but the loop continued every time it was plugged in again. After a couple of hours of troubleshooting this with various other Internet tips, I finally called HP’s humorous technical support team back again. This time I hit pay dirt. My problem was definitely a hardware problem, which means—under the terms of the warranty—HP would send me a replacement printer!

Ah, but not so fast: There is just one catch, sir. Our records show that your one-year warranty has expired, so we can’t send a replacement without charging you. And as your new all-in-one doesn’t work at present, you can’t scan a copy of last Thursday’s sales receipt and email it to us, so really there is nothing we can do, is there?

Fortunately, Office Depot took a brighter view of things: Bring it on back, they said. We’ll exchange it for a replacement, or for any other printer you may want. Then, at our leisure, we’ll junk it and return it to HP.

Now, what to do? Try a replacement? But what if the early problems which seemed to affect only my PC were really software incompatibilities with my particular machine? If so, I’m in for hours more work with no reward in sight. So should I try something else? Perhaps the cheapest thing that works, or maybe an expensive but proven laser all-in-one. Who knows what trouble-shooting horrors lie ahead? Just like with guessing the quickest confession line, it’s impossible to say.

Well, we’ve all experienced this kind of thing—with a PC, a car, a house, or a new toy of one kind or another: A stretch of time in which every little thing (and I mean little) seems to go wrong. By the time we’ve been through a few days of this, we start to furrow our brows at God. Or at least I do. Lord, remember me? I’m a member of your Church, and I attend Mass regularly. I pray. Sometimes I even fast. I try to fit in some apostolic work. Remember me? I’m your F-R-I-E-N-D.

As I say, it all calls to mind St. Teresa of Avila who, after she had fallen unceremoniously into a ditch, famously remarked to His Majesty: “If this is how you treat your friends, it’s no wonder you have so few.”

Today, I admire St. Teresa’s style.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Antigone - Aug. 18, 2010 6:27 PM ET USA

    I find that the only thing customer "service" reps do consistently well is mortify me. I guess I should thank God for the blessing in disguise. As for the printer, if only you had asked before you purchased -- go with the more expensive all-in-one. The inkjets employ a razor revenue model, which means you may actually end up paying more in the long run because of how often you have to buy ink cartridges!

  • Posted by: Lahrye - Aug. 18, 2010 8:44 AM ET USA

    Dear Jeff, I thought I was the only one to have had your experience replacing my HP FAX,Scanner, Laser-jet Color Printer with a less expensive 'all in one' printer. I am also happy to know your experience was faith tested too. The good news is that our Faith has been strengthened from that and discovering that companies' 'Customer Services' have all been outsourced. Peace be upon you! Larry M.

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Aug. 18, 2010 8:24 AM ET USA

    I especially like the last couple of paragraphs. I've uttered similar things in my frustrations, often to realize in short order how blessed I am. And yet there is a grain of truth in there. Regarding your particular woes, my vote is for the "expensive but proven laser all-in-one." I think in most cases we get what we pay for.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 18, 2010 7:58 AM ET USA

    I thought I was the only one who suffered such travails. We've made our world far too complex to live in, methinks. Fortunately, God is simple. Stay focused on the Goal, don't sweat the details.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 18, 2010 1:37 AM ET USA

    Well, I intend to replace my XP with Windows 7 soon. Assuming things don't go perfectly--SOMETHING almost always fouls up--I'll have my fair share of technology pain too.