HP's loss becomes Lexmark's gain

A reader's public gripe about the lack of Windows 7 drivers for his LaserJet printer nets an unlikely benefactor: HP's competitor

You may remember Gripe Line reader Dave, who wrote in with what turned out to be a common complaint: the utter dearth of Windows 7 drivers for his LaserJet printer, and HP's response -- or lack of one -- to the issue. Fearing that this essential piece of home office equipment was destined to become a "boat anchor," he attended HP's online "Meet the Experts" event in the hope that one of the printer pros offering up advice would have a solution. That didn't go quite as well as he'd hoped.

"I saw your column about the 'Meet the Experts,'" he told me, "and I posted a question about driver availability for my printer. My question was polite -- no flames included. And it got an answer -- of sorts -- from HP: It was removed."

[ Also on InfoWorld: Dave's situation is far from unique, if Gripe Line readers are any indication in "Where are my Windows 7 print drivers?" | Frustrated by tech support? Get answers in InfoWorld's Gripe Line newsletter. ]

Needless to say, Dave was reaching his boiling point with his printer situation and expanded on the reason for his annoyance. "When Windows 7 came out, I 'volunteered' my home PC for an upgrade test for work," he explained.

"The upgrade failed because the machine had an nVidia i860 chipset. Windows 7 doesn't support it -- though the hardware compatibility check said it was OK. I grumbled about that but plunked down money for a new motherboard and DRAM. But when my HP CM1017 didn't work either, I went a little crazy. I guess we all expect PCs to have a limited technical life. But we feel printers should last much longer. Or is that just me?"

Judging from the angry emails I got from readers with printers orphaned by a lack of drivers for Vista and Windows 7, I'll venture that it's not just Dave. But today I'm happy to report that Dave's story has a happy ending, and the solution came from an unlikely place.

In his original gripe, Dave said, by way of a dig at HP, "From now on I'm probably going to buy Lexmark." He was, in fact, seriously considering selling his HP for whatever he could get for it and switching his loyalties. "We have a Lexmark C544dn at work," he explained in email, "and it's worked wonderfully."

Well, what with Internet search capabilities these days, Lexmark caught wind of Dave's remark and saw an opportunity; Lexmark would take advantage of its competitor's mistake and, in the process, bring in a new, loyal customer. Shannon Lyman of Lexmark contacted me to see if Dave might be interested in taking a Lexmark for a spin.

"We have a great new inkjet called The Platinum," she told Dave. "While it is an inkjet, it has some benefits similar lasers -- including a $5 replacement black ink cartridge, dual paper tray, flatbed color scanner with automatic document feeder, and 5-year warranty." She was also willing to send Dave a promotional unit.

Dave was thrilled to have a solution to his dilemma so easily appear. Naturally, he said yes to Lyman's offer.

Dave's happy ending was delivered overnight by Lexmark, and he's quite happy with it. Lyman's plan to win over a loyal -- and influential -- customer is clearly a success. "The printer arrived late Friday afternoon," said Dave. "I've set it up and it runs flawlessly on Windows 7."

He continued, "HP had my back to the wall and I will not forget this. I've been a loyal HP customer going back to the original LaserJet. Lexmark is at the top of my list now."

Isn't griping grand?

Got gripes? Send them to christina_tynan-wood@infoworld.com.

This story, "HP's loss becomes Lexmark's gain," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Christina Tynan-Wood's Gripe Line blog at InfoWorld.com.

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