I posted several messages around this time last year detailing my experience with Canon tech support. The printer was an iPF5000, and to recap, it had a banding issue when printing dark, saturated colors that never was resolved. I was so disgusted with the printer and the time and money it caused me to waste on "test" prints that I seriously considered making a video of me setting fire to it and posting it on You Tube.
The threads are still here and on John Hollenberg's iPF wiki for those with morbid curiosity. If a printer can be possessed by demons then mine certainly was--and the final straw was when a rep from Canon USA in Lake Success, NY informed me that the banding I was seeing in my test image was "within spec". This after I spent my own time and money mailing a set of test images to him.
I was finally able to resolve the matter to my satisfaction by writing a very calm, professional letter to the president of Canon USA. Within a few days I had a rep on the line who essentially asked what it would take to make me happy. My response was that I wished to simply undo the entire transaction since Canon was not backing down from their position that my printer was within spec.
I ordered a Z3100 from IT supplies, got a 100% refund from Canon, shipped my star crossed iPF5000 back to Canon USA using the Z3100's pallet and box(!) since I had already discarded the Canon packing material, and was then finally able to enjoy the excellent images I had created over the years with my various Canon DSLRs.
The Z3100 has more than lived up to its advance billing, and has been as close to perfect as any mass produced machine can be in the 11 months I have owned it. I had a tech out to fix the paper sensor switch about six months ago, I had no idea they were using a simple open frame mechanical 59 cent looking part in the original design, but that has literally been IT as far as mechanical issues go. The drivers did require a bit of troubleshooting work as I had an issue with CS3 crashing after one of the firmware/driver upgrades (ver 5.xx to 6.xx). The cure was to manually remove every trace of Z3100 "stuff" from the hard drives and from the registry and reinstall the latest package. That cured the crashing problems but I say it does point out flaws in HPs driver package---my PC is as unexotic as can be had, standard XP SP1 on a Core2 Duo and a mainstream Asus motherboard. My day job is as the analog/hardware guy in the midst of a software/firmware group and I know very well the hassle of supporting all the permutations of hardware and software out there. That aside, I would expect any competent SW team to handle the plain vanilla platforms cleanly.
But hey, back to the important stuff: The printer. Gorgeous prints, zero troubles with banding, no head clogs, no gratuitous ink consumption, always ready to print (I have it on a UPS and per HP I leave it on all the time). I have burned through my first test roll of Ilford Gold Fibre Silk and I think it has become my new favorite paper. No ugly marks yet, still using the original rollers and pizza wheels although I will be scheduling the update as soon as the parts are finalized as I also want to try the Harman Baryta paper and I understand marks are a given with it.
Like rdonson, it is time for me to decide on the extended warranty "care pack". $700 per year for two years could buy me several smaller printers but it could also more than pay for itself if the printer were to require a single service call. I have already decided, I will be ordering the care pack today. I am totally satisfied with this printer's output and do not foresee any disruptive technology coming along in the next two years that will suddenly make the output from my printer look like 1987 vintage Oki-color by comparison. I just want to keep printing on it without worrying about having to tuck this monster under my arm and carry it to a service center!
To (finally) wrap it up, it's common knowledge that any company can crank out an occasional clunker. What happens after the clunker has found a new home can make or break a reputation. Any corporate leader that expects to remain viable in this age of instant communication had better make sure that the tech support organization is as well funded and supported as the R & D team. If customer support drives away customers then the product planners and design engineers might as well go home too.