“What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever found in a copy machine?”
What a question! Would you believe it if I said hot dogs? I’ve been a copier and printer repair service technician for the past 16 years. Today, I lead a team of service technicians who have seen the good, the bad and the ugly of the printer and copier repair world.
We thought it might be fun to round up some greatest hits from the service technicians at Loffler. What advice can we offer to help customers keep their machines running smoothly?
1. Don’t eat or drink on or around the copier.
One of our technicians worked on a very old machine and couldn’t figure out why there was a greasy film on the rollers inside the machine. They were coating up all the time and leaving residue on the paper. After four service calls, he realized he could smell hot dogs. The night security guard had been heating hot dogs on the rollers like they do at a gas station. Definitely not a best practice. That was one the strangest food-related incidents I've heard about.
Food spills happen and can cause jamming on the paper path. It’s not uncommon to find popcorn, M&M's, Skittles and other candy inside a copier. Spilling coffee, pop or water on top of the machine is more of a burden. Accidents happen. People set their drink on the scanning glass. When spilled, the liquid gets underneath the glass into the optics region, which can lead farther down into the machine. If a spill happens in your copier, immediately power off the machine, wipe up what you can and place a service call.
Usually we can fix the problem, but that depends on the severity of the spill. If it’s an amount comparable to a leaky pipe in the machine, the fix may not be covered on your service contract, because it’s beyond normal wear and tear. It takes one major spill to set you back financially. That’s why we like to say keep the food, and especially the drinks, away from the machines.
2. Don’t just unplug the machine to fix an issue.
I mentioned powering down the machine in the last section. This does not mean simply pulling the electrical plug out of the wall. Flipping the power switch should be the first step in powering down a device. Unplugging the machine to shut it off is not a best practice for the health of your copier or printer. Multifunction copiers and printers can have hard drives. Their power-off procedures ensure the machine shuts itself down the right way, much like a computer.
3. Do check whether the copier is plugged in.
One classic face-palm is when the copier doesn’t power on because it is not plugged in. I've gone on service calls to offices only to plug in a machine with no other issues. We will ask whether the machine is plugged in when troubleshooting over the phone. It has probably happened a dozen times in my tenure that the machine was in fact not plugged in. Often, overnight cleaning people accidentally unplugged it and the machine operator isn't aware.
4. Don’t fix an issue you haven’t been trained to fix.
This is a safety issue. Yes, safeguards are built into a copier, but there's also a lot voltage running through machines.
Some of the bigger machines have 208 volts running through them. We’ve had customers who have been shocked by their copy machine and blown across the room. This happens when they attempt to fix a problem without first powering it off and then unplugging the machine. Because power is still going to the machine, poking around – especially with a screwdriver – does not end well.
5. Don’t vacuum toner with a normal vacuum.
We had a client run a normal vacuum to get toner off the floor. The vacuum basically exploded, and all the toner shot out the back and coated the entire wall. You need a special vacuum with a special HEPA filter for toner.
Beyond that, a full toner vacuum bag is the bag of doom. Toner waste is almost like smoke or baking powder. You can dump toner waste bottles into garbage bags, but watch out if those bags pop. If your vacuum explodes or the bag pops: POOF. You have toner everywhere. All over you and all over the wall.
I’ve also seen a vacuum catch fire from someone vacuuming toner with a normal vacuum and filter. Just don’t do that. Place a service call and let the professionals handle the mess.
6. Do mind pet fur around the machines.
We enjoy seeing pets in the workplace, but know they can add downtime for your copiers and printers and increase your service calls. Animal fur gets sucked into the machine. If you can, do your best to keep animals out of the production machine area.
I’ve seen a situation where a cat would lay on top of the machine because it was warm. Cat hair built up everywhere outside and inside the machine. At one customer’s office, their dog would steal my tools every time I was there, running off with my screwdriver or my rag. We even found a mouse living in a machine, and it had chewed the device's power supply. Although of course, that wasn't a pet.
7. Don’t ask to print a copy when the machine is torn apart.
This always makes me laugh, and you’d be surprised how often it happens. I’ll have a machine in pieces with parts all over the top of it and on the floor and an end user will ask if they can still print. My response in that situation is, “If you can get a copy out of this thing, you can have my job.”
8. Do chat with your copier technician. But also let them work.
A copier repair technician becomes a familiar face in many offices. If you’re able to go about your business while we repair the machine, go ahead and do so. But if your job involves the copier or printer that we’re fixing, and you can’t do your job, feel free to hang around while we’re fixing the machine and chat. Sometimes I feel like part copier technician and part Dr. Phil. You hear a lot of life stories while you’re fixing a machine. In the production world, we see clients almost once per week. For smaller units, it may be once a month or once a quarter.
If the repair is a complicated fix, I may have to ask for some uninterrupted time to focus. Once the fix is complete, I can usually carry on a conversation while testing and cleaning the machine.
9. Do share copier and printer humor.
Copier technicians appreciate good copier and printer humor. We had a customer around Halloween cover the machine with a grey cloth and make a tombstone for the top with “RIP” on it. That was pretty funny.
Another favorite was a sign on a copier with a picture of Bob Marley that said, “I always be jammin’.”
I took a service call many years ago because the key operator placed somebody’s shoes in the paper tray. The paper tray locked and caused an error. I had to take the machine apart so the shoe owner could get home. It was both funny and inconvenient for an office prank.
10. Don’t forget: A copier can remember.
Do copiers and printers store data? While the answer depends on the model, it is best practice to operate as if they can. If you don’t want someone to see what you’ve printed, copied, scanned or faxed, consider the hard drive and delete items out of the print queue. Also, consider the recycling bin beside your copier. We've found some interesting photos thrown away over the years.
On our production black-and-white service team, the “rookie” has been doing his job for 30 years. He and the rest of his team have seen their share of weird images on the machine. People sending personal documents to print. Items that leave the technician thinking, “I should not have seen that.” We're good at turning a blind eye, but we've seen it all.
When you're researching costs for new office equipment, we know you want the best printers, copiers and multifunction devices (MFDs). Easy to use. Reliable. Built to last. One component in making sure you have that is by having the best copier and printer repair service partner at your side. We’re proud of the reputation and tenure Loffler's technicians have built. We’d be happy to help your office run smoothly.
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Dallas Steffen is the Director of Imaging Service at Loffler Companies. He has been in the industry since 2002, starting as a low-volume service technician. He worked to become a production color technician, where he served clients for 11 years, before taking on a leadership role. He works hard to give Loffler clients exceptional customer service to help them succeed in their industry. In his free time, Dallas enjoys reading, traveling, eating Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and spending time with his wife and four children.