This issue is regarding an Epson 9600 I bought new when it first came out. This printer has been incredibly reliable... apart from the normal Epson issues of blocked nozzles and lots of ink wasted in cleaning cycles. When it prints it prints beautifully or I would have replaced it long ago. The issue is that the light black nozzle dropped out back in November and I was unable to recover it through repeated head cleaning cycles.
I phoned Epson Pro Graphics and they recommended two repair facilities within a 90 minute drive. The first was busy for at least a week. The second said they could get on it immediately and that the problem should be resolved in a week. That was November 16 of last year.
Six weeks later I received a call that the printer was ready. I arrived to find no technician in the shop (the one who repaired my printer was on a service call). I loaded a sheet of paper and ran a nozzle check. There was no yellow. I ran an alignment test pattern and the numbers were off by a wide margin. The head alignment had never been done after a new head was installed.
I phoned Epson. Because of the cock-up, the six week wait and the fact that the technician was not trained to work on Pro Graphics printers Epson decided to pick up the cost of the new head and arrange a service call from their service provider, Decision One. They agreed to pay for parts if I would pay for the service call and labor. I offered to bring the printer in to any service facility to save travel time (for the repair technician) and they said this service was for house calls. I live two hours away from the technicians.
The first Decision One technician arrived in early January and had the printer working after several visits. Decision One withdrew $450 from my bank account (I was required to provide a credit/debit card number before they would dispatch a technician) without informing me that they would do so. I learned of this when I received an invoice for repairs performed stamped "PAID".
The printer worked for several weeks before vertical banding at 1440 became a major issue. I phoned Epson and they scheduled another visit from Decision One. When I called, Epson stated "just indicate this is a Warranty 90 repair issue and we'll deal with the rest."
The technician began a series of visits that soon reached 10 or more by the end of March. He never left any documentation indicating what the problem was or what he repaired. He would stay as late as midnight to complete his repairs. He was never able to stop the vertical banding at 1440 bi-directional and introduced banding at 720 uni-directional after replacing my original Carriage Motor. He freely admitted that he had no clue as to what was causing the banding, so he just replaced any part he could think of (since Epson had agreed to pay for parts). In the mean time I had a printer that now banded at two of three useable settings and this was a 90 day warranty repair.
In late March the head was replaced for the fourth time and the main board for the 5th time. The following morning I turned the printer on and was greeted with a flashing Service Required 0001001B warning light on the control panel. I phoned Epson and learned that this meant that the print head was overheating and that I should turn the printer off. They arranged another visit from Decision One. I requested a different technician citing the inability of the first technician to resolve the issue after some 10 visits. (On one occasion the first technician drove the 2 hours to my place and arrived to discover the Carriage Motor was for an Epson 10000 and not a 9600. He still spent an entire day futzing with the printer and impacting no change in the banding.)
The new technician arrived and spent a full day trying to resolve the banding and couldn't. The following morning the Service Required warning appeared again as soon as the printer was turned on. I shut the printer off, waited 20 minutes and tried again with the same result... seven times. I phoned Epson and they rescheduled another Decision None visit.
Technician arrived several days later and drained ink from the lines with a syringe. He was covered in ink and claimed there was air in the lines. In his report to Epson he stated he did not see the Service Required lights when he turned on the printer and that there was no banding. (Interesting that he turned the printer on in my presence and saw the flashing Service Required lights, after which I commented "I'm relieved the flashing lights came on as I didn't want you to think you wasted a trip.") Epson Pro Graphics phoned me as the technician's report was contrary to what I had emailed Epson. I sent photos of the Service Required lights and the tests made the day before, in the presence of the technician, clearly showing banding at 720 uni and 1440 bi.
Epson scheduled another service call for late April. I stayed home and waited for the technician. He called around 11 am and stated that my printer had been placed on "Administrative Hold". I had to phone Epson to learn that Epson was deciding whether to repair my printer. I was told a decision would be forthcoming.
A week later I learned that Epson had decided not to repair my printer under the warranty period. I had asked Epson Pro Graphics, on March 1, if they had a refurbished 9880 they could sell me as I had lost all of my business in the months since November? I was told "Epson doesn't sell refurbished wide format printers." I was also told that they would not honor the $900 rebate on a 9900 printer on March 1, one day after the Epson rebate expired, but that they might be able to get me some ink.
In mid April I was informed that I owed Decision One $4,000 for repairs. This was changed to $2,500 a few days later as $1,500 was for parts that Epson was paying for. I asked why I should be billed for repairs done under the Warranty 90 period? What, after all, did a warranty cover if Epson was paying for parts? I was told I owed $2,500.
I then asked why I should be required to pay $2,500 for repairs to my printer that resulted in banding at 1440 bi and 720 uni... not to mention that I couldn't even load a sheet of paper since April 1 due to the Service Required flashing lights?
A week later Epson's Customer Service called to tell me that I now only owed $1,000 IF I'd buy a refurbished 9600 for $1,500. I couldn't believe I was hearing this! I asked where this refurbished printer came from as I had been told Epson didn't sell refurbished wide-format printers?
Last week a final decision was made and Epson called to state that Decision One had decided to drop all charges for repairs. I asked "what repairs? They repaired the same head 4 times, the main board 5 times, the carriage motor 2X, the stepper motor once, the capping station twice and the timing fence twice and still couldn't stop banding that this printer never exhibited. I paid for these repairs and Epson now refuses to honor their warranty!"
I was told this was the best they could do.
As good as this printer worked when it was working, the consensus I've heard from speaking to many who own Canon, HP and Epson is that the three printers are virtually indistinguishable in their output. The thermal heads don't have a perfectly round dot (which the Epson has) but this is not noticeable unless you're looking at the image with a high powered loupe. The Canon's and HP's done waste ink with cleaning cycles, like the Epson, and the longevity figures on both Canon and HP are significantly better than Epson. The final point is that if and when you need service for an issue you can't resolve... who are you going to trust? I personally wouldn't trust Decision One as far as I could throw them!
I certainly don't want Decision One ever working on any printer I own. I also have reservations about a company that charges for repairs and then makes an administrative decision not to honor their repair warranty because their service provider does incompetent repair work. That Epson would side with their service provider who has proved their incompetence beyond any reasonable doubt, and leave a wide format printer unserviceable after being paid for repairs is unconscionable.
There are various choices in wide format printers. Buyer beware!