Buying Office Equipment: what are the pitfalls

By | Aug 8, 2008

At some point in your career as an administrative assistant, you will be faced with buying new office equipment.  Whether you are the final decision maker or just providing research for that person, you need to consider your options carefully.

Before you start looking for a piece of equipment, think about how you are going to use it.  Some things to consider are:

  • If you are buying an all in one (copier, printer, fax), consider if you’ll need a flatbed scanner. Will you be scanning items that are too stiff to go through the scanner, like magazine articles or IDs? In that case, you’ll want a flatbed. If all you’re going to be copying are correspondence, then a feed scanner will suit.
  • Will you be faxing many multiple page documents (more than 3 or 4 pages at a time)? Then consider getting a fax with faster faxing speed and a large amount of fax memory. If you’ll mostly send and receive short documents and faxing less frequently, you can make do with a slower faxing speed and less fax memory.
  • If you are running a lot of print jobs (especially for marketing type items), you’ll probably want a laser rather than an inkjet for the higher quality and speed. If you are just doing occasional business letters, then an inkjet may fill you needs.

Next think about how many copies/prints you are going to be making in a month. If you are a truly new business, this might be hard to estimate, but if you are already set up and looking to upgrade equipment, keep a tally of all the use in a month.  If you have an all-in-one machine, remember to count the fax pages that come in as well as the items printed and copied.

Now that you have an idea of how much work the machine will be doing and an idea of the type of function you need, start looking at machines. The best bet is to go to a site like Staples of Office Depot or even New Egg (I’m a huge fan of New Egg for tech supplies) and see what they have. Glance through them to find ones you think might be appropriate. Look for things like, maximum monthly run total. Remember though that this is a maximum amount. If you run at maximum all the time, you’ll wear out your machine early. You’ll want to be running at well below maximum.

Once you find a machine that you think will fill your copying needs without dieing a quick death, look at the cost of toner/ink cartridges. Look at how many pages on average each cartridge will provide. Use your monthly estimated copy/print run to get an idea of the monthly cost of maintaining the machine. You may find that a more expensive machine will pay for itself within a year through lower maintenance costs.

One last item to look at before you buy are customer recommendations.  This is one of the main reasons that I like New Egg.  They have a function for customer feedback and rating on each item they sell.  Even if you don’t buy from them, you can get some good information on the individual products.  (Note:  this is not a paid endorsement for New Egg.  I’ve just been buying from them for years at home and appreciate their prices and good customer service.)

When it comes to ordering office equipment. let me tell you, companies want your money! Don’t be afraid to explore around. Go to competitors, show them what are looking to buy, and see if they can beat the cost. Go back and forth until you find the absolutele lowest prices you can get. Remember, the cost of the item in the catalog is often their very highest price.  They will often make you a better deal if you just ask for it.  Let the competitors bid for your business.

Whether you are buying a printer, copier, fax, or a spiffy new All-in-One machine, do you homework before you buy, and you won’t be disappointed.  Remember, when you are ordering office equipment, you want to consider not just the cost of the equipment but the cost of maintaining it. Buying a cheap printer might be inexpensive up front but if the cost of toner/ink is high, or if it will wear out too fast, in the long run it will cost you quite a bit more.

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