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This month on Which? Conversation: April 2022

Our monthly open thread for April is now open for business. Share your thoughts on everything happening this month in the comments.

As Ofgem’s price cap comes into effect, April is set to be the month in which the cost of living crisis really takes hold. We’ll be continuing to cover the changes here on Which? Conversation and across Which? with the latest news and advice.

What are the issues that matter the most to you? Let us know in the comments how increasing prices are impact your household.

Easter around the corner

The long bank holiday weekend starts with Good Friday on 15 April. Do you have plans for Easter? Or will you be scaling back your plans this year in order to keep costs down?

Will you be scaling back Easter plans to help with the cost of living this year?

Yes, I'm doing and buying less this year (54%, 7 Votes)

No, my plans are going ahead as normal (46%, 6 Votes)

Maybe (let us know why in the comments) (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 13

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Coming up this month

We’ll soon be belatedly publishing our quiz of the month just gone, while pressing ahead with our usual scam warnings, opinion pieces and tips.

This month we’ll be asking if everyone keeps a toolbox at home for emergencies, what your tips are for cleaning ovens and baking trays, and plenty more.

We’ll also be hearing from regular guest columnist Rory Cellan-Jones on why it’s good to share your health data.

What do you think we should be covering this month? Let us know your ideas in the comments.

Comments

Professor Tim Spector and his Zoe team have given us considered, steady, non- sensational information about Covid for the past two years. In return for this, some of us report our Covid status daily -a matter of three or four clicks on the web site. The Zoe team, have been an invaluable asset and they know, from their research, exactly what is going on; some may say better than the government appears to know. The Zoe team are dedicated scientists researching our wider health data, as well, to give a U.K. picture of the nation’s health. Anyone listening to Professor Spector’s weekly podcast will know how carefully he presents the Zoe data and with what accuracy he tells us what is happening. Yet, the government has now said that they will stop funding this valuable work and leave this research to the mercy of any benefactor who is willing to donate to it. This is something that Which? might well look into, adding pressure on those in power to continue the funding of this valuable research and valuable public service.

I was making my weekly batch of bread yesterday and my thoughts naturally turned to the higher costs of wheat flour, cooking oil (I use a lot in my bread) and electricity to run the oven. Hardly surprising, given the amount of media coverage we are bombarded with saying the government should do “something”, and notices now apprearing in shops limiting the amount of oil we should buy in response to hoarding.

I resigned myself to paying more for these commodities in the future, but then thought about the significance of higher prices and what it really means. Food is a natural resource, but there are fixed supplies during any growing season. Unlike oil, we can’t just turn up the pumps, dig some holes in the ground, extract more and kick the CO2 can down the road. The war in Ukraine will impact the world’s supply of wheat flour and sunflower oil for at least a year. So food prices rise in response to the shortage, and there is little that can be done to balance the supply/demand equation in the short term.

When we concern ourselves solely with rising prices, it ignores the wider picture. If we are paying more for food and energy, others are getting less of it, possibly to the point of starvation or economic ruin. Rising prices are the direct result of static consumption on a resource in limited supply.

As a wealthier nation, Britain should be looking for alternatives to these commodities, rather than trying to secure our quota of existing supplies to the exclusion of other nations who are less well off economically.

In my kitchen, I am looking to replace sunflower and rapeseed oils with olive oil and butter. The latter should held boost the British dairy farming industry. I will be trying out UK and French, rather than Canadian wheat flours, and perhaps some of the forgotten grains like spelt and oats for baking. A large solar PV array is due in May, in order to reduce my dependence on limited global energy sources.

I do understand there are many people in Britain who do not have the resources to pay for such expensive alternatives, but maybe Which? could start presenting the wider picture about what rising prices are really telling us about the world situation. And what we can all do to help each other, not just ourselves. There is too much self (and perhaps selfish) focus in the popular press about how inflation will affect me and the Pound in my pocket, without much thought for others.

I have long maintained that food in Britain is cheap compared to other nations. Perhaps it is now time for those of us who can afford to support British agriculture and dairy to start paying fairer prices and stop draining the world’s food resources for our own gain, whilst directing our poor (many of whom work in farming and associated industries) to the local food banks for survival.

Your sea-change might be driven by the necessity to change, if foods become unavailable or wildly expensive. Otherwise, we creatures of habit, seek normality, doing what we have done for years past. I certainly support buying local produce when this is possible and would be persuaded to do more if the country went on a “war footing” with the Ministry of Agriculture issuing regular radio broadcasts telling us how to make potatoes provide food and how we should dig for victory in our gardens. It is this kind of persuasion that is needed since the supermarkets will provide food for us when this is possible and leave it up to us to buy what we want -socially or antisocially. The individual can play a part, but only a part of the whole, guided by a general social consciousness; the like of which reduces smoking in public places. I think that great change is on the way. Ukraine is one factor both politically and provisionally if they are unable to farm. Global climate is another, fuel shortage a third and there are many more that will crop up incidental, and as a result of these. We shall have to get used to a poorer world in which leisure travel and extravagant spending vanishes and we are channelled into a life style that reflects the past damage to our planet and changing response to international thuggery.
This may be cathartic as well as hard to bear.

All the best from me too, George.

That is very cute, thanks alfa, and thank you wavechange. I’m doing a bit better today – my nose has cleared up, just the throat to go now! I’ll hopefully be back on as normal from tomorrow.

You’re welcome George, good to hear you are improving. 🙂

There is an increasing trend with poor customer service from many retailers, with some providing what appears to be unacceptable or quite appalling responses to a consumers request for help, complaints, faulty goods and refunds. Consumers have experienced unacceptable wait times when attempting to call retailers and in some cases the call hold times have resulted in consumers becoming frustrated, unable to hold any longer, giving up and unable to resolve their problem.

Many retailers insist contact should be made using online chats during which the Customer Service representative is handling multiple chats simultaneously and consumers do not receive the attention they deserve, resulting in chats continuing for extended periods and without their issue being resolved.

Additionally, consumers are advised to make contact using online contact forms, with many having to wait extended periods to receive a response. It would seem that many Customer Service representatives are only empowered to handle basic queries, so consumers find themselves engaging in lengthy online chats only to discover the Customer Service representative cannot help and it becomes necessary for the consumer to then spend further time writing to or emailing the retailer in an attempt to resolve their complaint.

This inability for consumers to resolve issues promptly is of great concern and there appears to be a shift in the way retailers handle and resolve complaints to the detriment of consumers. There was a time if you purchased goods which developed a fault, consumers could call the retailer directly, the call would be answered within a few rings, a very cheerful customer service representative would take your details and arrange for an engineer to attend and/or replace the appliance while apologising for the inconvenience. Now consumers experience a long-drawn-out process, often requiring numerous calls, ridiculously long wait times or the need to complete contact forms which rarely result in a resolution at the first attempt.

Many retailers have changed their customer service operations to suit how they wish to work, with little consideration for the impact it has on their customers. Perhaps changes were forced upon retailers due to the pandemic, rising costs or other factors, but as it stands the level of customer service provided by many retailers is quite appalling and totally unacceptable.

Whether it is possible to encourage change, who knows, but at the very least retailers need to be made aware that consumers are completely dissatisfied with rubbish customer service and unless they implement change, consumers will become more selective, choosing to make their purchases with those retailers who demonstrate outstanding customer service.

We deserve so much better than what some retailers are currently providing.

This sounds like a very worthy campaign for Which? Wingman.

Standard contact information that includes phone numbers, email addresses and trading addresses should be on every website.

Standard complaints procedures also need to be in place.

I completely agree Alfa. I’m just surprised that established retailers don’t seem to have grasped the impact their poor Customer Service is having on their customers and how it will affect them moving forward.

I am in no doubt that many consumers will have made a decision never to purchase again from retailers who provided appalling customer service.

Decision makers and Senior staff must surely recognise how they are treating customers and would be equally dissatisfied if they were to receive such poor service, which leaves me perplexed as to why they would think customers should accept this, why they allow it to continue and why they are not implementing change.

I agree with you entirely, Wingman.

I haven’t experienced the problems you have described very often because we tend to make purchases from companies which “demonstrate outstanding customer service”. But reading all the tales told by people reporting to this website alone reveals an appalling level of customer service — not due to the incompetence or poor training of the staff but deliberately, by design, as a matter of policy from the highest level. People are being pushed into forms of communication which are clearly intended to pose a barrier to resolution through delays, frustration, absence of channels appropriate to the issue, and circular transactions.

I don’t know where this trend came from. Was it purely driven by economic necessity? An excess of competition from cheapskate internet traders that has put decent firms on the back foot commercially? Some fancy management doctrine perpetrated by business advisers who are only concerned with the immediate bottom line and not in it for the long haul? It’s ruining the consumer landscape. Unfortunately, customer feedback appears to have little influence.

Perhaps Which? should review and report on fewer products and pay more attention to the service quality of the retailers and service providers, and, dare I say it, actually engage with the retailers and with the trade bodies that represent them. Consumer protection can no longer be siloed in a central London office block with nothing more than an evidential trail of e-mails; people need to get out there, tackle firms on their own turf and shame those which do not cooperate.

There appears to be little compliance with the legislative requirements for contact and communication information on websites; this has become more important than ever because of the enormous transfer of purchasing from physical stores to the internet.

We have laws that offer certain standards of consumer protection and rights but no effective enforcement body to ensure that the treatment of customers’ claims and complaints is fair, decent, and satisfactory. Legal remedies are available but this does not work for most consumers so there is a disinclination to use them and, in any case, the courts are overloaded. Disadvantaged consumers are the least likely to get the resolution or the satisfaction that they deserve so they unfairly experience the most detriment.

John Ward, you have made an excellent synopsis of the situation and in answer to your question ‘where this trend comes from’, I firmly believe it is based solely on reducing costs.

However, in attempting to do so, I believe any cost savings achieved will be cancelled out due to their customer base shrinking, leaving them either exactly where they were or in a worse position.

Updated: 16 Mar 2022 Best and worst shops The best and worst shops in the UK, as voted for by thousands of shoppers

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/best-and-worst-shops/article/best-and-worst-shops-aELTV0b6P86n – Which?

Best household appliance shops When you’re buying white goods or a vacuum cleaner, you need to know you’ll get excellent customer service both during the purchase and if something goes wrong.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/best-and-worst-shops/article/best-and-worst-shops-aELTV0b6P86n – Which?

This places Currys as 11th – in the upper half of the rankings – with staff given 4 out of 5 stars for knowledge and helpfulness. That was rated on 718 submissions. This Convo https://conversation.which.co.uk/shopping/currys-pc-world-complaints-faulty-goods/
lists 1024 comments, largely adverse.
Are we talking about the same Currys? Do the stores that are ranked below Currys also refuse to abide by consumer legislation and deny customers their rights? Should Which re-evaluate their opinion of Currys? Or are the complaints as a proportion of sales actually very low because their sales volume is so high?

Interesting and useful survey malcolmr. Pleased to see that Euronics scored quite well, I have always been impressed with their overall service, friendly approach and willingness to be helpful and anyone I know who uses them has been equally happy.

As you indicated, I imagine the number of complaints for Currys are proportionally low due to their high sales volume, but the nature of the complaints are quite shocking and it remains unacceptable.

A couple of years ago I reported that Currys did better than John Lewis on Trustpilot. Most purchases are trouble free. Among the reviews on Trustpilot, it’s easy to see that Currys has given some customers a great deal of hassle.

I was unhappy with Currys because of the way that they pushed customers to contact the manufacturers rather than facing up to their responsibilities. Boycotting the company for years achieved nothing and I restarted using Currys when Comet went bust.

Neither of the Euronics shops in this area are very local but if I can see goods before purchase that puts them ahead of Argos.

Hi Wavechange, I am surprised to hear that Currys outperformed John Lewis, but I guess the level of Customer Service must have been better at that time.

There have been several reports from consumers indicating that Currys advise customers to contact Manufacturers directly when goods required replacing in order to obtain an ‘uplift’ code. Like you, I find this practice unacceptable. If a customer has called a retailer regarding a faulty appliance that needs replacing, the retailer should be taking ownership of the problem, handling the enquiry while the customer is on the phone, with minimal fuss and not expecting the customer to undertake further calls to the Manufacturer in an attempt to resolve the problem.

I think it’s a real shame that consumers are experiencing these kind of issues, which are practices that Currys could easily rectify and no doubt would result in happy customers and greater customer loyalty.

Hi Wingman – Currys used to issue a leaflet with purchases explaining after sales service. This explained that Currys may refer customers to manufacturers, who are better placed to offer support. I have no doubt that this is the case, but customers need to be aware that retailers have a legal responsibility under the Consumer Rights Act and once the manufacturer’s guarantee has expired the CRA offers valuable protection, even though it is not a guarantee. Some of us have repeatedly suggested that retailers should issue leaflets outlining basic consumer rights and include this information on their websites.

I agree that Currys should do more to help their customers sort out problems. I have generally found other retailers more helpful.

Hi Wavechange, I agree, greater transparency would benefit consumers considerably.

I understand there will be circumstances where a consumer having to call a Manufacturer directly is likely to be beneficial, especially if arranging an Engineer visit or obtaining advice on operating an appliance. My annoyance is based on circumstances where the Manufacturer has confirmed an appliance is faulty and cannot be repaired, and requires replacing.

Under these circumstances, many customers have reported that Currys have insisted they must contact the Manufacturer for an ‘uplift’ code or ‘replacement reference’. I really don’t see that consumers should be responsible for obtaining reference numbers or replacement codes from the Manufacturer. These processes should not be placed at the feet of customers and I would like to see Currys taking ownership of these processes.

Instead of receiving a seamless, hassle free and straightforward process for handling faulty goods or replacements, it often seems that Currys introduce obstacles or delays which do no more than frustrate and irritate customers. My instinct is Currys do not have adequate resources to cope with Customer issues and are therefore passing their responsibilities back to customers in order to lighten the load.

I agree Wingman, but It’s more a question of passing the buck of responsibility, starting with Currys – all the way through the various organisations who are supposed to provide consumer protection from rogue traders, corporate irregularities and irresponsible business practices.

Looking at this longstanding problem objectively, there are too many fingers in too many pies, each one passing the buck of responsibility from one to the other, leaving frustrated and angry consumers to fend for themselves when faced with malfunctioning and defective goods for which they have paid good money or have signed credit agreements as a condition of purchase.

Starting with consumer protection there is:

Currys
Which?
Citizens Advice
Trading Standards
OFT now CMA
Consumer Rights Act 2015
OPSS Office for Product Safety and Standards – and probably a few more.

As long as these organisations continue to pass the responsibility over from one to the other, with all the red tape that ensues, Currys will continue with their complacent, malfunctional business practices, until one of these organisations comes clean and breaks the passing-of-the-buck cycle.

The following may explain a little more:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/joyceearussell/2020/09/26/great-leaders-dont-pass-the-buck/

Hi Beryl, some valid points you raised, some of which I agree with and others not so.

Keen to read the link you posted, but the URL takes me to a blank page? Is the URL correct?

Marvelous, thanks Chirag.

Interesting reading Beryl, thanks.

Follows on from my previous suggestion that perhaps the CEO of Currys should be invited to read this forum (assuming he doesn’t already).

Thanks Chirag

There was a time when Which? reviews meant something and getting top marks and a ‘Best Buy’ was highly prized by manufacturers .

Does this still apply?

If so, it is time Which? used this influence to improve products. In this case printers – that by this day and age should be of a much higher standard.

This is the top printer in the Which reviews – the Epson Ecotank ET-8500 given Best Buy status and a score of 80% that retails around £569.
For the best rated printer, I would expect 5/5 for print quality, scanning and copying but . . .

It doesn’t have a document feeder, scanning can be hazy, copying is grainy and some bleed when copying magazine pages. It gets 4/5 for black text quality, 4/5 Office graphics quality, 4/5 photo quality, 4/5 quality of scanned photos, 3/5 quality of mono copies, 3/5 quality of colour copies, 3/5 ease of copying, 3/4 ease of scanning, 3/5 noise, 4/5 power use.

With these scores, should it really be the highest scoring printer or is it just reflective of the poor quality printers available to UK citizens?

Nowhere in the Which? review does it mention paper trays or feeds. I am not interested in this printer, but paper trays do matter so for this article I tried to find further information on this Best Buy. I had to find a manual to read it has 3 paper trays, but it is unclear what they are. There is a rear upright feed and there may be also be an internal rear tray. There are two trays in the front that can take photo paper, envelopes and CDs but it is unclear whether they can take A4 paper.

The above photo is typical of most printers on sale. They nearly all show an output tray but leave you guessing on the input trays/feeds.

The way printers are photographed and presented is dishonest. Not showing the rear vertical paper feed is intended to fool us into thinking they have internal paper trays. Some printers have both, but many only have a rear feed that gathers dust and wastes paper because if it is not used up often enough, it curls up and falls out.

As further evidence of obfuscation – on Amazon, this printer is shown with 3 videos, 2 of which are of a different printer with an obvious internal front tray. The 3rd video is the ET-8500 that shows a rear vertical feed.

So I still don’t know whether this printer has the internal, horizontal A4 paper tray that I would want.

WHAT CAN WHICH DO?

Provide more photos of the printer in use. Show all paper trays, feeds and output trays.

State all paper trays, feeds and output trays in the review. Mark them down if they don’t have horizontal internal A4 trays that should be a basic requirement of all printers.

Be harder on rating printers. Does the above printer really warrant 80%? When it is marked down for print, scanning and copying quality, why is so highly rated?

These high marks give no incentive to manufacturers to improve their products.

The Brother ink tank printers below that can print, scan and copy are not available in the UK. DCP-T520W that retails for Singapore $298 – £168 and the DCP-T220 just SG$218 – £123. They even use the same power supply as the UK so would work here.
https://www.brother.com.sg/en/contents/refillinktankprinter-home
3-year carry-in warranty, very good prices, very low running costs, all the basics covered, honest images and videos showing the paper trays would put these printers on my shortlist.

Nothing in the UK comes close.

Time and time again I come across good products that are unavailable to the UK or are much cheaper elsewhere in the world. Can Which? please investigate why this is and what can be done about getting the UK a fairer deal?

Those are good points, Alfa. There is no doubt that manufacturers will sell substandard products at inflated prices into an undemanding market. One of Which?’s key functions is to educate the market and set higher specifications for product performance. Being the best of a bad lot is not good enough for a high score carrying an implied recommendation to purchase.

I agree with you John.

Printers in the UK seem to fall into two categories:
– Too cheap with manufacturers ripping us off with ink more expensive than gold.

– Over-priced as manufacturers rip us off to cover the gold-plated ink we won’t have to buy every few months.

It is not even as though the Brother ink tank printers above are completely new. I found reviews for a DCP-T210 back in 2018.

I have been looking for a reasonably priced printer that does not need to produce high-quality prints, but be able to print, copy, scan AND have a horizontal internal paper tray.

It doesn’t exist in the UK under £200. Why?

What can Which? do?

We have been very satisfied with our two HP Envy Photo 7134 printers that print, copy, scan and have a horizontal internal paper tray. They will print either single or double-sided [flipping the image on either the long or short side].

It is easy to re-load ink cartridges and clear any paper jams. I can’t remember how much they cost but not more than £150 I am sure. The 7134 is no longer a current model sold direct by HP but appears to be available on Amazon [I have not looked elsewhere] at £165 including the HP Instant Ink service for five months. I don’t believe that is compulsory after the initial supply although generic inks will probably not function.

The speed and paper capacity are good enough for home or home/office use. Double-sided printing is slower because the sheets need to dry between passes. Each printer is used for 150-200 pages every month on average.

I have not printed photos using photographic paper but colour images are good, registration is good, and overall they have been trouble-free machines.

You can buy 3rd party inks much cheaper than the OEM stuff and avoid the high prices. So a choice exists.

Thank you for the recommendation John, but how do you buy new ink?

I may be wrong, but I see ink purchase plans as another way to make sure manufacturers can continue to squeeze us financially.

The printer is for my dad and it just needs to work with the minimum of hassle which will mean OEM ink. 3rd party inks are OK for those willing to sort out their printers when manufacturers stop them working but there are too many reports of them being crippled by software updates.

We use the HP Instant Ink service which is automatic and has proved very reliable. New cartridges turn up as and when required in return for a monthly payment based on estimated consumption. Different tariffs are available.

I tend to agree with you about the manipulation of ink supplies by the manufacturers. I wish it were not so. I also dislike the ‘big brother’ arrangement by which printer activity is monitored by HP [the printer has its own e-mail address and there is two-way communication with mother]. I stopped fretting over this when considering how convenient it all is and the fact that it does seem to be cheaper than buying OEM HP ink cartridges by retail. There are times when an easy life trumps an economical one.

In the past, with Brother printers, we had occasional problems with non-OEM ink so had to keep a stock of OEM cartridges in case of emergency. Most of the printing we do does have a critical time dimension so reliability is an important consideration.

I have just looked at HP Instant Ink printing plans. He doesn’t normally do much printing but 10 pages a month for 99p would regularly get £1or £2 added on for additional pages so it would have to be £2.99 for 50 pages a month.

That is £36 a year but could easily increase if HP raise their prices. My dad just doesn’t need that added hassle and it would be me sorting him out and I also don’t need the added hassle.

I agree these printing plans are not suitable for everyone. There is a carry-over allowance if the printer is not used much in a particular month but that might not always be advantageous. There can be a tendency to do more printing than is strictly necessary which then wastes more paper and electricity. If there is a good and convenient OEM supplier available or a reliable on-line outlet that could be the best way forward.

I do the printing for an elderly lady who does not wish to get embroiled in the problems of home printing. She e-mails the documents or asks me to print off certain web pages. Her needs are quite modest and would not justify the expenditure on a new printer, ink and paper stocks. She picks the work up when out walking her dog. We also seem to be feeding the dog.

Still looking for a printer Alfa? I know they are getting a little expensive, but an HP Color LaserJet has sufficient quality for non-photographic work and is very cheap to run. The price of new toner cartridges when they run out is bit of a shock, but overall, the average price for a full colour page is only about 10p, and 3p for a B&W print. If you can find one with cashback and and extended warranty, that should be the only printer you will ever need.

They are much, much faster than inkjets and no limp, soggy paper. If I need an important email or PDF printed out for future reference, I don’t think twice about hitting the print button.

Hi Alfa – You mention looking for a printer with a horizontal paper tray. As far as I know, this is more or less standard now. The capacity can vary between models, so that might be a consideration if you plan to do this for your father.

I have used third party ink for years without problems and so have friends. Although we have long-running Conversation about manufacturers blocking third party cartridges, this seems to be avoidable if you don’t allow firmware updates.

In order to sell printers in the UK, a company would have to ensure that they comply with CE or UKCA standards and be fitted with a UK plug. That might be why fewer models are available here. I struggled to find a small printer that would accept card for a photographer friend who used to print Christmas cards. That meant a printer with a rear feed as well as the internal tray. There was not much choice.

Thanks Em, I will look into them.

Wavechange, I also thought horizontal paper trays would be standard until I checked into a few models. Purely as an exercise, check out the Epson Ecotank ET-8500 I mentioned above and see if you can definitely tell what paper feeds it has. I couldn’t.

Manufacturers tend to not show rear feeds in printer images presumably as users don’t like them. I have looked at many printers over the last few months and the only way to tell for sure on some models is to find the manual.

I agree with you on not much choice for card printers.

I had a look at the Epson website after your original post, Alfa. The information is not very useful and I recall it did not mention the size of the main paper tray. Going back, here is what it says: “The ET-8500 has photo-size and A4 front paper trays plus will print directly to suitable CDs/DVDs. The rear tray accepts speciality media such as craft papers and card, whilst the A4 straight paper feed means you can print on media up to 1.3mm thick and 2m long!”

This website shows the internal paper tray in the open position: https://uk.pcmag.com/printers/136655/epson-ecotank-photo-et-8500-wireless-color-all-in-one-supertank-printer Apparently the tray will take 100 sheets of paper and also accommodate smaller sheets for photos.

One problem with rear paper feed is that it increases the footprint of the printer. If the user is short of space that might require moving the printer forward when the rear tray is in use.

Hi Alfa, did you specifically require an ‘inkjet’ printer or have you considered a ‘laser’ printer?

I stopped using inkjet printers years ago, as I found them unreliable and there is always potential for mess from the cartridges. Laser printers are affordable, within the price range you indicated and offer all the features you specified, including a horizontal paper tray.

The toners are inexpensive, last for ages and easy to replace.

Well done wavechange, you did better than me, but you shouldn’t have to scour the internet to find out. You have to wonder why Epson and Which? didn’t divulge this information up front, though I suppose if Epson did it would highlight all those that did not have internal paper trays.

Hi Wingman, I wasn’t looking at laser printers, but they will now be under consideration.

The Brother DCP-L2510D is an absolute gem of a laser printer. You get a whole lot of printer for the money.

Not sure if it meets all of your requirements, but well worth considering. The toner cartridges, both genuine and non-genuine are well priced and last a very long time, ranging in cost from £18.00 to £40.00 depending on the page capacity ordered. Keep in mind the drum needs replacing in addition to the toner, usually around every 12,000 pages, but non-genuine drums are relatively inexpensive, ranging from £15.00 – £30.00.

But overall this has proved to be an exceptional printer, totally reliable, excellent value given the extensive features and sensible running costs.

My Epson ET4750 has a document feed. I don’t often use this, and am not sure if it is duplex. The main printer is duplex. It has a front paper feed -one – and this adjusts to the paper/photopaper that is fed in. It takes 200 sheets of A4 at a time, but I would not place that much in at once. The printer has been here for about a year and a half now. The black ink is just below half and the colours are at three quarters full. It has gone through four packets of A4 in this time. The text print is very readable, but a little ragged (if one was being picky) photographs seem to come out well. I can’t remember the cost of the printer, I think it was about £360. It scans things accurately. The fact that it just works on command without fuss is a definite bonus. I’d buy it again. There are probably enough advantages over the cheaper models to make the extra cost of this one worthwhile. The Fax facility isn’t one of them, but the larger colour touch screen is.

Thanks Wingman but it needs to to be colour.

I have the ET-7750 that is very similar to yours Vynor. I have not held back with printing and still have just over half the original inks. The printer also came with a spare set so will last me years.

The internal horizontal bar that the printhead moves across needs to wiped frequently with a tissue otherwise I get smudges on the paper.

I was going to get one of the cheaper models for my dad until I realised they don’t have internal paper trays.

Sorry Alfa, I must have missed that. I’ve never had a need for colour printing, so I am not sure how they compare in initial cost and running costs compared with an inkjet.

For black printing a laser printer is undoubtedly a reliable and economical solution. Colour laser printers usually have three colour toner cartridges plus black. A full set for the Lexmark I had at work cost £450. 🙁

The cost of a laser print is easy to work out. If a standard cartridge does say 3,000 prints on average and costs £60, then you are looking at 2p per image (side if duplex). As others have pointed out, a colour printer requires 4 cartridges (black, cyan, magenta and yellow), so a full colour print will set you back four times as much or 8p per image. Call it 10p per side to be safe, but even at 20p it beats a domestic inkjet printer hands down.

I normally buy my cartridges as a bundle (one or two blacks + one set of colours) and look out for cashback offers from HP. I don’t use compatible cartridges, because I have seen too many problems where the office administrator has tried to save money. Either the cartridges don’t work, or we throw them away half empty and revert to the OEM’s. But you could possibly save money using 3rd party.

Another tip is to override the default toner out settings on the control panel. On HP printers I can get at least 500 extra pages (10% more) by ignoring the toner low warnings.

So the cost can be eye-watering when it comes to replacement, but you need to consider the total cost of ownership over the lifetime of the printer.

Which? seem to downrate all the laser printers on test as having poor colour quality. That is only true when it comes to photographs – which is not what they are made for. Colour graphics are every bit as good as an inkjet, and solid colours are often better.

I agree that colour laser printers can be much better for some purposes such are printing vibrant colour graphics and dark backgrounds completely free of banding, even though inkjet printers are superior for photos. For most home users inkjet printers are probably the best solution but I used both at work.

PORTABLE CARD READERS

Three years ago our charity looked at buying an inexpensive portable card reader to take credit/debit card donations from people who don’t carry cash. At the time, there was not much need and these devices need a mobile network signal to work. At the time we looked at SumUp and iZettle card readers, which are inexpensive.

Although Covid has not gone we have resumed operations and found that a fair proportion of potential donors do not carry cash. We suggested that they could donate via our website but have only had three donations so far.

I am looking for advice on a suitable card reader to take donations and it must work on the EE network because it’s the only one likely to work in the rural area where we operate. Some card readers connect with a phone but since various volunteers are involved it would be better to have one with its own SIM card.

Advice from anyone with experience would be very welcome.

Does taking donations by card involve the account provider making a charge on each transaction?

I believe that card payments are subject to a charge of between 1 and 2%.

Dealing with money involves someone in effort and that needs to be paid for. Even recycling cash is something we can’t always do without incurring charges; for example, a shop that takes cash for purchases and dispenses this cash to others through the cash without purchase scheme is still charged a fee by the service operator. I wonder why we seem to accept these charges and yet complain about ATMs that charge a fee.

Hi Wavechange, might be a long shot, but depending on who the Charity banks with, some banks offer portable card reader facilities as an account option.

Some may even provide the terminal free. I’m not sure how their processing rates might compare with the major payment processors, but if you have not already done so, it might be worthwhile seeing what facilities, if any, the Bank could offer.

People complain about ATM charges because getting a wad of cash from a hole in the wall is regarded as a poor substitute for going into a bank branch, presenting a cheque to the friendly teller, and stating in which denominations you want your money. The fact that the ATM might be in a more convenient location than your bank branch, is likely to be accessible at any time of the day or night, and, as part of the same quick transaction, can provide an account update and other information, seems to bypass people’s mental faculties. I don’t know where my generation went wrong exactly but we seem to have spawned a ‘something-for-nothing’ mentality in our descendants. With my first account with the Midland Bank I had to pay quarterly charges; it instilled a sense of recognition that every worthwhile activity had a value.

This also countered the argument often made today that we shouldn’t have to pay to access our own money. Why not? It doesn’t look after itself and keep itself safe. These functions incur costs.

Vynor Hill says:
19 April 2022

Dare I suggest the well worn caveat, that in “lending” the bank our money, it makes interest on it, which it seems to forget when we ask for it back?

One letter wrong on the e.mail address and no chance of correcting it. Result -no quill.

Thanks Wingman. I know that the charity banks with HSBC. I will ask our treasurer to investigate card payments and see what our bank has to offer.

It seems that most of the small card readers are used in conjunction with a mobile phones, but there are models that include a SIM card. We would need one on the EE network.

Quite daring, Vynor :-). I think we actually place our money in their care so that when we want to pay someone we ask our bank to do it for us. That costs them time and resources to do and most of us expect that to be done without any cost to us. So maybe the interest they earn helps towards our free banking expectations.

We can all access our money free of charge, 24/7/52, of course by keeping it under the bed (or anywhere else we choose at home).

I can understand why you would prefer a standalone card reader with SIM card, but you may find this is a more expensive option when compared to using a smartphone with a payment processors app and bluetooth connected card reader.

I guess you will need to establish the costs of both and reach a decision on which best suits your budget and operational needs.

Depending on who is on duty on the day we could have a dozen or more users of the card reader and some of them (including me) use mobile networks other than EE. We operate in a rural area without even a mains electricity supply never mind a landline. Two of our volunteers don’t even have a smartphone.

We certainly need to look at costs but if a standalone unit is economically viable it could be the best solution for us.

If banks only loaned our money in the small amounts we place with them there would be hardly any interest. It is because they can aggregate it into large sums that interest materialises and provides free banking. This includes free cheque books, a free debit card, free use of branches and ATM’s [including those of other banks], free statements, free paying-in facilities, free standing orders and direct debits. A charge based on account activity [including balance levels] would no doubt be fairer overall but I am not advocating that, just suggesting a degree of appreciation that services we take for granted cost money to provide.

It is possible that for many people the end of free banking would hurt a lot harder than the end of cash. I think commerce in general is the real enemy and the acceptance of cash should be mandatory up to a certain level.

I have no knowledge of these payment solutions, but what about a cheap EE mobile phone and install a payment App on that? You could just pass the mobile itself around to take payments, or perhaps it could be installed on multiple fund raisers’ mobile? No idea without doing some research I have no time for today. E.g. VivaWallet App – although that is tied to a business account that you may not want or need. I would expect all banks to start offering free payment solutions within a few years.

I had considered using an EE mobile with a basic card reader but it adds complexity and a smartphones are anathema to a couple of our volunteers. Otherwise they are good volunteers.

Likewise, if donations can go into our HSBC to start with, that would help but it might be useful to have a separate account for online donations. We have now started taking card payments for merchandise and membership via our new website and our treasurer is already struggling to work out what payments are for.

Hi Wavechange, it might be worth exploring the suitability of the myPOS Go, which is an entry level standalone card reader with unlimited Data SIM included and there is no monthly subscription. This Card Reader supports mobile network connectivity only and does not offer Wi-Fi connectivity.

There is no reference to the SIM being tied to a specific network, instead it states ‘It automatically connects to the local 3G network’. This could suggest the SIM operates using multiple networks, automatically selecting the best network for the location, but this would need clarifying. But it’s quite possible the operators have an agreement in place with the UK networks for the SIM to access multiple networks to ensure the customer has coverage regardless of location.

Some payment processors do not provide Card Reader services to Charities, so you would need to establish eligibility. But otherwise, this might be a suitable solution.

Thanks again, Wingman. I think you are right about these machines not being network specific and the colleague who I’ve asked to do some research came to the same conclusion. I will pass on your suggestion about looking at my POSGo as well as Square, Sumup and Zettle and ask him to look at whether our existing account can accept card payments.

I rang the owner of a pub who had been using an iZettle machine but then moved to full-size commercial machine. It was not a problem with the machine or the service but simply the cumulative transaction charges had become uneconomic.

Hope you find a suitable solution. It will be interesting to know which option, if any, you decide to choose.

I have now delegated this to another society member who is the treasurer for another society and could become our treasurer sometime next year. I’ve now had a request for a second machine at our information centre, which has a decent mobile signal but also has no mains electricity. I will let you know.

It has been discussed in other convos the ease at which rogue companies can register with and use Payment Processors to collect payments from consumers for the purpose of fraud or scams.

Today I can confirm that one of the largest payment processors continued to process payments for a rogue company, even though they were advised of concerns surrounding the companies’ practices. The company was collecting payments from consumers, not supplying the goods and then failing to refund customers.

The payment processor was advised in 2020 of the companies’ practices and made aware the company had not filed accounts since incorporation and had been the subject of three striking-off notices by Companies House. Once advised, the payment processor agreed to investigate, but as far as I am aware, they did absolutely nothing.

The company in question has now dissolved following a further compulsory strike off by Companies House, yet the companies’ website remains active and the payment processors logo remains prominent on the website.

This suggests there are payment processors who clearly prioritise profits over preventing harm to consumers, something I find totally unacceptable. How on earth this payment processor was content to continue processing payments for a business that had never filed accounts, was the subject of three compulsory strike off notices and forums indicated in excess of four hundred complaints from consumers is completely beyond me.

Given the dissolved companies website remains active and the payment processors logo is prominent on the site, this further highlights the potential dangers of making online purchases from retailers we believe are established and genuine.

I would therefore advise anyone planning to purchase goods from an online retailer to establish the companies’ registration number and check on Companies House whether the company remains active or is dissolved. If active, I would also check there are no records of compulsory striking off notices and that accounts have been filed since incorporation.

As appropriate steps were taken to advise those who could prevent further harm to consumers, but those in a position to act failed to do so, I will be submitting a complaint to the FCA in the hope they may take action against the payment processor.

Happy St. George’s Day

Anyone else noticed how the tabloids now seem to headline everying: “I’m an expert and … “?

I can only conclude from this that, up until recently, these same newspapers must have been reporting complete garbage by incompetent numpties. If only they had told us sooner. Should we continue to read all remaining articles where the author does not declare their expertise up front with a grain of salt?

It has reached absurd heights today with a Mirror article: “Kate Middleton and William have ‘blistering rows’ and prince is ‘a shouter’, claims expert.” So you now have to be an expert to determine that a couple is having a blistering row or shouting. Is there a hotline I can call to verify that the neighbours are indeed having another barney?

Which? – Please don’t emulate this latest journalistic nonsense. We can assume all your articles are written by experts. Aren’t they?

It prompts the question, “what makes an expert an expert?”. A track record of commentary on an issue is not, in my opinion, a qualification. By that reasoning I could claim expertise on many things but there are very few on which I could be judged to be an expert and I never comment on those. The best that newspapers can say for themselves is that they are opinionated, usually fairly reliably opinionated, but not, by any stretch, experts.

The writers of Which? Magazine or Conversation articles might be specialists in the fields they cover and they are clearly well-informed, or at least better-informed than most of their readers, but I have long despaired over the tendency to label those who respond to subscriber’s enquiries in the magazine as ‘our cutlery expert’ or ‘our lampshade expert’.

The respectable newspapers and the mainstream news channels describe their people as ‘correspondents’ and that seems to me to be a better title. Every paper seems to have a team of royal family correspondents whose job is to discover, explore and reveal any bit of trivial gossip for the delectation of the emulous or the judgmental. If the media cannot create a scandal in real time they make a documentary a hundred years later based on hearsay, rumour and supposition.

I agree that this trend is depressing. It was once the case that only those, like our very own Wavechange, who’d spent their lives in academia and/or had an independently recognised advanced degree–usually a PhD–could legitimately be called ‘experts’ in their fields, but the headlong rush towards an intellectually egalitarian society is I suspect, a symptom of something rather worrying.

In my view an expert is someone who has, through application, exposure, diligence and involvement gained a greater knowledge in a particular field than most others. That expertise can be acquired in a number of ways but to my mind the key also lies in the ability to use that knowledge to analyse situations and draw robust conclusions.

Journalists, and those labelled “investigative journalists”, might well have the ability to collate some information on a particular topic, but rarely have the background and expertise to see that information in context. They may draw correct conclusions but not necessarily properly supported.

It would be interesting to see the qualifications and background of those in Which? who feed us articles. I wonder how many have worked in manufacturing, retail, for example. Would that experience better inform their approach to product legislation, standards, say, or would that cloud their judgement?