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The Office Environment Takes On A Dark Tone

, , , , | Right | CREDIT: rhunter1980 | September 29, 2020

I am a field repair tech. It is around 2006. We get a call from a doctor’s office on a Friday around 3 pm saying the copier had an error message: “replace toner waste container.”

This copier uses a waste container that can hold about 5lbs of waste toner in the back. A tech has to be dispatched to take things apart and do some general cleaning when these containers need replacing.

This customer is a good hour-and-a-half drive from dispatch so I call them, saying I’ll be up first thing Monday morning, unless they wanted to pay an after-hours fee for me to get there the same day. They said it was fine, they had other printers and would see me Monday.

Cut to Monday morning and I walk into their office and EVERYTHING (I do mean EVERYTHING) is covered in a fine black powdery film. It looks like someone dropped a toner bomb in their office.

Me: “What on earth happened in here?!”

Receptionist: “Our building maintenance guy said he could take care of the error code on the copier and he tried fixing it Saturday.”

Me: “How? What? What did he do?”

Receptionist: “He said the error code just meant the container inside the front cover was full and needed to be emptied. So he took a shop-vac and just sucked it out.”

Me: “He did WHAT!”

Receptionist: “I guess it was fine for a few seconds then the vacuum started blowing black everywhere. We’ve been trying to clean up since Saturday but this stuff doesn’t clean up easy.”

Toner is a VERY fine silica-based powder that clings to everything, best way to clean it up is with a static cloth (similar to a super cloth) or with a SPECIAL vacuum that has a filter designed to keep toner in it otherwise you get a cloud of black death. Also being silica based it does NOT mix with water so using a cloth or paper towel with water/cleaner just smears it around.

I glance at the disaster that is their office and immediately go back to my car, grab an entire pack of static wipes, a dust filtration mask, my vacuum, and a pair of latex gloves. Upon returning I instruct the girls in the office that they should all be wearing masks and gloves due to this film being silica-based, then hand out the cloths and instruct them how to use them: give ’em a bit of a stretch and go to town.

Me: “Okay, I need to see exactly what your “maintenance” guy did to the copier. Give me a while to see what he did and get the outside of the copier cleaned up so I can work on it.”

I open up the copier. The “container” the maintenance guy vacuumed out was not the waste tank, it was in fact the developer unit. A copier mixes toner into a developing unit that is filled with developer (a very fine metal powder). So not only did the maintenance guy blast the office with toner he also managed to suck out every speck of developer and made it airborne.

I cleaned everything I could on the copier inside and out and then figured it’d be safe to power up and see the extent of the damage. Upon power-up I immediately got a developer unit error code, no surprise there, so I power down, completely clean the DV unit, and toss in a new bottle of developer.

Power back up. On the next reboot, I can hear everything running and doing its usual start up until I get a laser unit error.

That’s NOT good. I reset the error and reboot the copier listening to hear if the laser spins up and again, error code.

Well, s***.

I figure it’s time to call the boss and inform him of the situation. As soon as I tell him what the maintenance guy did and the error codes the machine is having:

Boss: “Pack it up; the machine is dead and nothing’s going to be covered by warranty or their service contract. Inform the doctor what was happening and if they want a quote for a replacement we’ll be happy to get him one.”

I go back inside and inform the receptionist I need to speak with Doctor about the situation.

Doctor: “I’m told you wanted to speak to me?”

Me: “Unfortunately, your copier is dead and my boss doesn’t even want to attempt to fix it due to what the maintenance guy did. It definitely killed the laser unit and probably more, but we can’t find out until the laser is replaced and it’s about $500-600 just for the laser. If it killed the laser most likely all the other motors in the copier are dead or dying since the laser is one of the more protected sections in the machine. Unfortunately, none of this is covered under your maintenance contract since someone outside our company caused the damage. We can get you a quote for a new one and get it here ASAP if you want, but a replacement with the same features is gonna be several thousand dollars.”

I honestly thought the doctor was going to go ballistic at this but he floored me with the following.

Doctor: “Okay, get me a quote, but I want a better machine then this one with a stapler and hole punch.”

Me: “Okay…? You’re not upset?”

Doctor: “No I already informed the maintenance company that does the cleaning that they’re paying for all damages in my office. I have their employee on camera doing something he’s not supposed to do and I was not asked if I wanted him to work on my equipment. I told them if they had an issue with that my lawyer would be delivering paperwork suing for damages. They said the guy was fired and I should email over any quotes or bills for replacements/repairs. So I’m going to get an upgrade on their dime.”

Me: “Okay… I’ll have a quote to you by end of today.”

Doctor: “I also have three computers that aren’t working, do you think that this could have caused them to stop working?”

Me: “Oh absolutely, if toner and developer got sucked into them it could’ve ruined the hard drive or fans.”

Doctor: “Okay, my IT guys are supposed to be here later today so I’ll just have them do the same and replace them. Is there anything else you needed?”

Me: “No, I’ll get packed up and have that quote emailed over.”

Doctor: “Okay, thank you.”

I returned to my stuff and started packing up, I explained to the receptionist what was going on and apologized for not being able to do much.

Receptionist: “That’s okay, thanks for these cloths though, we’re actually getting stuff cleaned up now.”

Me: “Well have a better day and I’d keep the masks and gloves on till your done cleaning. You can keep the pack of cloths, you’re going to need them.”

Thank god the maintenance guy didn’t actually vacuum out the waste tank because the DV unit had at most about a little over two pounds of DV/toner if he’d have got the actual waste tank… they’d of been replacing everything in the office from carpet to ceiling tiles.

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