Whether it's a jammed printer, faulty technology or an uncomfortable office chair, few things are as frustrating as bad office equipment. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to avoid these failures.
- Office equipment failures can cost a business time and money.
- One of the best ways to avoid equipment errors is to take the time upfront to purchase or lease reliable office equipment.
- Multiple staff members on your team should know how to work and fix your office equipment.
If you work in an office, you know that office equipment malfunction is part of the job. These frustrations can also hinder productivity. Emails can stop sending, your printer can randomly spit out paper, and your computer can randomly decide to stop working. These office equipment malfunctions are both frustrating and time-consuming.
Sometimes, office equipment problems can make one's heart skip a beat. We talked to business owners about their office equipment horror stories.
Here are the five most embarrassing, scary and cringeworthy stories we heard.
1. Our neighbors used our printer and hundreds of pages of paper
James Pollard, owner of TheAdvisorCoach.com, has a heavy-duty wireless printer in his office. He loves the printer because he works from different computers and will print documents from his phone. However, one day, the people next door accidentally selected his printer and printed a document more than 300 pages long.
"We had no idea what was going on," Pollard said. "Because the people next door couldn't find the document on their printer, they kept hitting Print again and again and again. It used up all our toner and thousands of pages."
Printers and copiers can be expensive; when you add in a mistake like this, the costs really add up. This is a good reminder to take your time setting up your office equipment, and ensure that everything is installed and connected correctly.
Even if your work neighbors aren't using your machine, it's easy to accidentally print unnecessary pages, and waste ink and money. Avoid that mistake by taking extra time to get your employees and team clear on the installation process.
2. The printer sensor went bad
Richard Pummell, founder of Workonnex, once worked for a large payroll processing organization and used the office printers to print payroll – sometimes tens of thousands of checks and pages of reports – which he would print at night.
"Every once in a while, the sensors in the printers would have a mind of their own," he said. "They were supposed to ensure everything was in sequence and stop the printer if they encountered an issue."
Sometimes, though, the sensors wouldn't detect there was a problem. When this happened, Pummell and his co-workers had to manually sort through thousands of checks and reports, and put them in the right order, often late at night.
When an office product breaks down, it can make life more challenging. Finding the right office equipment and products for your business matters. Whether it's a printer, or any other type of office equipment, take time to read reviews on different products. Find printers that print efficiently, find durable and comfortable chairs, and consider including your employees in the purchasing process.
3. My chair and computer screen broke
"One of my biggest entertainments in the office has always been balancing myself on the executive chair, back and forth, or turning to the sides," said Sophie Miles, CEO and co-founder of elMejorTrato.com.
"I prefer to think that it helps me to have better ideas," she added. "Once, I was doing this, and when I leaned my back firmly on the backrest, the chair broke in half, and I fell to the floor."
Not only did the chair break, but Miles was also holding the mouse, which caused a chain reaction of small, catastrophic events. Her entire desk ended up on the floor and her computer screen cracked.
Office furniture doesn't seem like an important aspect of a business, but when you find yourself lying on your back after the furniture gives in, you gain a newfound appreciation for stable office furniture.
4. A chance encounter leads to a new pet
While the office equipment side of this story falls into the "horror story" category, the ending is quite happy for everyone involved.
"We had a client that worked with popcorn, and as a thank you, they sent us boxes and boxes of kettle corn," said Alex Shvarts, CTO of FundKite. "It was a fun snack to have around the office, even a little too addicting. Well, maybe a month later our copier machine is broken, and we call in someone to come fix it. While fixing the machine, the repair guy mentioned that his Dachshund had recently had puppies, and he was looking for homes. It just so happens that one of the company employees was looking for a Dachshund puppy. The copier repairman discovered the problem: a popcorn kernel was stuck in the copier. Since the reason he was connected to the employee looking for a puppy was a popcorn kernel, the puppy was adopted and named Kernel to honor the chance meeting of them finding each other."
This is the only office equipment malfunction story we've heard that ends with an employee getting a puppy. Most printer jams and broken office equipment leads to frustration, but this story has an extremely happy ending. It also serves as a lesson to take care of your equipment.
5. The near 911 mishap
Rob Stephens, founder of CFO Perspective, faced an issue as he started working with his office equipment after starting a new job.
"I needed to download some information securely from the internet," said Stephens. "This was 20 years ago so that meant using the internal computer modem to dial directly to the secure site. My computer didn't have a modem, so I used my boss's computer. I needed to dial 9 to get an outside line and then dial 1 plus the area code and phone number. I was having trouble connecting and decided to add an extra 1 before the area code. Of course, this caused me to dial 911 from my boss's computer."
Dialing 911 from your boss's computer is less than ideal. Luckily, Stephens avoided an embarrassing situation in the end.
"The 911 dispatcher answered, but there was no microphone on the computer to reply to them," Stephens said. "I panicked and immediately hung up. They called back, and I now had visions of police and fire trucks arriving at the 15-story office building to try to find who had dialed 9-1 and whether they needed help. The computer modem picked up and, thankfully, replied back with the standard modem/fax screech tone. The dispatcher realized that the call came from office equipment, hung up, and didn't send anyone to check it out. Crisis averted."
How to avoid office equipment disasters
The easiest solution for avoiding office equipment disasters is buying or leasing quality office equipment. Spend time researching the best office equipment on the market, and pay for quality office furniture and solutions that will hold up. Getting the right equipment, whether it's an expensive printer or a sleek file cabinet, puts you in a position to avoid office equipment disasters.
Consider what equipment your office needs. Does your business still use a fax machine? What type of printer best suits your business? Look for office equipment and machines that best fit the unique needs of your operation.
It's also important to prepare for any potential natural disasters that could hit your business, especially if you live in an area commonly hit by natural disasters.
Matthew Berman, president of Emerald Digital, dealt with an issue like this just last month. With heavy rains and flooding hitting New Orleans, Emerald Digital had to adjust to the coming weather. Luckily, the business avoided costly equipment damage by finding a sensible solution.
"As soon as we understood the situation was dire, we quickly removed all of our servers from the office, relocating upstate where the flooding couldn't damage our equipment," said Berman. "We did have one desk that we left on the first floor of our office space that was damaged, but for the most part, we know to leave all important equipment on the second floor."
Another tip is to make sure people on your staff can fix or handle errors. Multiple staff members should be well versed in how to operate your office equipment. Don't rely on one person to know the ins and outs of the printer. Having multiple staff members who can troubleshoot issues can help your team avoid any major disasters.
If you do experience issues with your office products and technology, you might want to speak with a technology expert or customer service specialist to fix the problem. If it's a one-time error that doesn't require customer service help, go ahead and laugh it off.
Office equipment malfunctions happen to the best of us.
Additional reporting by Saige Driver. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.