Copier Techs And Copier Salesmen

In response to a couple of readers Dr Jim and Taminator013, I felt it necessary to speak out about the subject of the copier business.

It’s a fact: no one goes to college to graduate and become a copier technician. It’s not in the curriculum. There’s no such thing as “majoring in copier repair”. A person with an electronics degree may be able to handle reading wiring diagrams, but then there is the mechanical aspect of copiers. A mechanical engineer may have a handle on some of the mechanisms, but to be good at fixing copiers, one must be adept at both.

I have learned that if someone volunteers “I’m an engineer”, they probably don’t know shit. I’ve seen it happen many times when some clown comes into buy a pinion gear for the operational shaft on an IBM Selectric. Don’t care if you’re an engineer. You won’t be able to fix it.

Copier dealerships hire anyone with a heartbeat to fix copiers because copier dealers think that copier techs grow on trees, and can be bought for a dime a dozen on any street corner. They really believe that. They must because they still hire idiots off the street to work on $40k machines…yeah, they cost a lot, and then pay them minimum wage.

The last place I worked, hire a new tech that didn’t even have tools. He bought a tool box that was a suitcase on wheels. He was an idiot, and still works on copiers even today.

Most of the time, a copier tech, when asked why he works on copiers will say…’dunno. I was looking for a  job, and I found this one.’ Notice I said ‘works on’ not ‘repairs.’

Copiers are full of two hundred things just dyin’ to go bad on you. First and foremost, the worst enemy of any copier is the person using it…period. The user has to load paper correctly, and that’s probably the most common problem with copiers that can elevate to very serious problems down the road.

If the paper is not loaded properly,…jam.

Oh, and the dispatchers. No brain required there either. A customer calls in saying their copier ‘keeps jamming all over’.

The dispatcher places a service call detailing that ‘the copier is constantly jamming up.’ I was given three service calls one day with the exact same explanation of the problem.

Well shit. Jamming on the upper drawer? Jamming on top in the doc feeder? what is up?

I had a conversation with my boss about the less-than-100-IQ-dispatchers who paraphrased problems. I convinced him that he who paraphrases is giving false information, possibly causing the tech to make two trips to the customer because of bad placement of said service call.

Copiers require a single sheet of paper get picked up from a stack, one at a time, through a set of rollers operated by electromagnetic clutches, that straighten the paper before it receives its initial charge, then moves under the developing unit, where another set of charges under it pulls the image from the original off the drum, where it is transported to the fuser unit, where the toner is pressed into the sheet. Some machines do this 150 pages per minute.

In the early days, copier training schools were just an excuse to see how drunk one could get after class. Been there, accomplished that.

A lot of small businesses, like an office machine and supplies store, have customers who need copiers, but did not want to do business with the ‘big boys’. Back in 1980, the ‘big boys’ were Xerox and IBM. I doubt if IBM built their own copiers, as they had a habit of jumping onto other folks’ coattails.

Anyway, so the dealership looks into a copier dealership. In those days, 3M was big into copiers. They sold what is  known as ‘treated paper’ copiers. The copies were made with a paper treated with some type of photographic coating that was sensitive to light. Some of these machines used a large roll of paper (that had its own blade for cutting each sheet…presented its own problems) or cut sheet paper. Cut sheet was available in either 8 1/2 x 11 or the legal size. These machines used cold fusion rollers as well; no heat necessary for fusion.

Yawn.

OK. My point is that even in those days, I saw copier techs that were totally incompetent. Job guarders, bullshitters, you name it.

My boss went to the training schools so he could play with the bar flies, then he would teach me the machine when he returned.

The more you know, the more valuable you become.

When the company grew into where they could handle plain paper copiers, the Japanese had come into the market in the late eighties. I went to Panasonic school. We sold one machine.

At the schools, many of the techs would pass on their expertise, which I found useful. Others, just went to party.

In ’92, my company got into big time as the local Minolta dealer had been unable to keep their quotas up, we became the local Minolta dealership…and I was the chosen tech. I spent a month in schools to get caught up the first two months of the dealership.

One of the salesmen, took the van with a demonstration copier to a customer. The machine wasn’t tied down, and he had to slam on the brakes and the copier tipped over crashing down. It was a total loss, and we almost had to get out the  bright light and Mr. Thingy to get that salesman to own up to his poor judgement. He finally admitted after I showed the boss the frame damage, and the salesman was known after that as “Leadfoot”.

Our next door neighbor, a print shop, told the boss they wanted a high end machine for themselves. After I went to that school, they ordered one for them. The district and regional service managers came down to help me set it up and deliver.

A particular adjustment during setup called Automatic Exposure Adjustment was not made because they could not get the proper numbers to show up on the screen, so they left it out. They argued between them about how it would affect usage and they decided they would push manual exposure instead of auto when they trained….supervisors…heh!

Then there was a  huge disagreement amongst the sales people about who would get the commission on this sale. Since the owner called it in, there was a dispute about who got how much. I don’t know how they settled. I left that company at the end of ’93 on to Minolta corporate.

I don’t care  how much a person trains on a machine; if he/she doesn’t get it, they don’t get it and will never be successful. Copier repairs will be nothing but a string of half ass working machines that they continue to throw parts at.

One day, after fifteen years, the light came on for me. When that happened, I was unstoppable. I understood how the charging, discharging, transferring, synchronizing, feeding, fusing, heating, and photoconducting worked. I had my territory caught up in six months, and I was looking for stuff to do. I had to invent service calls to show that I was working.

Customers were glad to see me.

The company expanded my territory.

We had a guy out with a broken hand for six weeks, and I had so much free time, that took his turf almost single handedly.

The company offered me a supervisory position, which I turned down.

The corporate sales team? It’s a dog eat dog world, and get out of their way. Those guys are vicious and greedy.

The worst lies that copier salesmen and saleswomen tell customers are things that the copier will do…that it cannot.

Yeah, one of the worst salespeople I ever met was a woman, and thinking of her still gives me chills. Way too much hairspray, lipstick, makeup base, and nail polish was a dead give away.

Did I say this was at the corporate level?

There was a dealership in my hometown, that was growing with leaps and bounds. Their sales were off the chart, and they continued to improve. Their service department got the star of excellence award every year. The company sent the technicians on paid for deep sea fishing trips. They sent sales people abroad.

Then they hired a gal, who turned the bosses on to cocaine. One thing led to another, and there was embezzlement, sex parties at the beach, pictures got out, and the owner fled to be caught later. The business folded, and that brand had a very difficult time of re-establishing itself in the area.

Marriages were broken, some went to jail, it was ugly.

The place where I used to work…oh boy. What a Peyton Place.

The service manager was one of seven owners. I sent a resume, and never heard back. I finally was down visiting my bride to be and I dropped by the office and lo! the big boss was there and hired me on the spot given my experience with Minolta corporate. I had to negotiate a higher salary than they were willing to pay…remember what I said above?

The service manager was a Mexican fellow. I didn’t ask if he didn’t hire me before because I was white, or if he was intimidated by my qualifications. No matter, Doubt if he could even spell qualifications. He was one of those that was out of a job when the “sex club” went down the tubes.

I kicked ass and took names. Most of the owners liked me. They gave me a nice bonus at end of year too. The next year, some changes occurred, and the sales manager (owner) gave up his position to become Production Print Sales Manager.

This left a gap in the sales department, so they brought in the Limey. The limey had just married the big boss’s ex-wife (that is another HUGE story).

The sales department began to dwindle in size. I asked one of the owners what was going on and they were only too happy to tell me that the Limey was stealing commissions from the salesmen, and keeping them for himself.

There was a corporate contest going on, and the salespeople earned points for selling a certain type of copier (you know, 100 points get a watch, 1000 points get a trip to NY, 10000 points get a trip to Ireland). The limey kept the points too, and said sales dept dwindled to one.

The other owners got together to have a meeting and vote out the Limey. He wasn’t an owner,, just an employee.

The day of the meeting, the place exploded. It became known as “the day the Mexicans tried to take over the company” according to the big boss.

When the dust cleared, the only people left of owners were the big boss and the ex-wife. Of course, the Limey stayed on too. Everyone else was fired (owners). Now the new owners had to buy out the others interests and they borrowed that money…hundreds of thousands I am guessing.

I became service manager, and quit, then came back to run the warehouse. Health concerns caused me to back away from some of my responsibilities, and I ended up quitting.

The Limey still runs the sales department as he is now VP of sales, and an owner. There are only a couple of salespeople, that he continues to screw when he can. One of them is pretty sharp and will get in Limey’s face from time to time.

You see, every machine that gets sold in that company; part of the commissions go to the Limey.

I’m sure the commission structure varies from place to place. Selling copiers is  not a fun job, especially if the salesperson is honest. Again, selling copiers is not why what one gets a marketing degree.

The copier business is not for everyone.

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5 thoughts on “Copier Techs And Copier Salesmen

  1. I was a Konica/Roya/Mital tech back in the 80’s. I saw it as a dead end job and got an IT degree at night school – another dead end job. I have worked Satcom since – that was my training in the military.

  2. I worked for Canon Astro Office Products, which was the only factory-owned dealership that Canon had.
    I worked on the “Micrographics” product line. This was in the days before electronic storage, which was just coming out.
    The documents went through a machine that filmed both sides of the document onto 16mm black-and-white film. After the roll was full and developed, it was checked to make sure each image was good, and then the original documents were destroyed to save space and storage fees that start to add up when you have hundreds of millions of documents, like canceled checks, to either store or mail to the person who wrote the check.
    We also sold a machine called a Reader/Printer that took a roll of the microfilm and projected the image onto a screen, like a microfiche reader, but bigger. If you wanted a hard copy of the document, you hit the “Print” button, and a mirror would flip, sending the image through some optics to the drum of a laser printer, and out popped your hard copy.
    The techs were anywhere from very good to useless. NONE of them knew any electronics theory; *maybe* Ohm’s Law if you got a smart one. They were basically parts changers with very little troubleshooting skills other than being able to follow the flow chart in the factory service manual which told them what part(s) to replace.
    Some of the other techs knew what parts always broke, and went and changed those parts. If that didn’t fix it, they’d escalate it up to a more senior tech who knew enough to read the flow chart. If that tech couldn’t fix it, they’d refer it to the Canon Tech Center down in Orange County where we went to train, and one of the trainers, who were really sharp guys, would go out and fix it.
    I had to wear three pagers, One for the Canon office, and one for each of the two major accounts I was “given”. One of the accounts was run by really cool people who appreciated what I did for them, and how fast I could get there and fix things.
    The other account was three locations for a major bank that were check clearing centers. Two of those were run by wonderful people, and had great people who worked there.
    The third location was run by a tyrant, and I dreaded seeing that phone number on my pager.

  3. I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve fixing copiers for 36 years.
    And yes, I can FIX most of them, although now I mostly do production machines and connectivity BS. I started out wanting to do audio-visual but that was just like work. Same company put me in microfilm and from there to copiers.Worked for only two companies and the second bought the first out. They are in 5 states and into everything, many different vendors, makes it interesting I guess.

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