Battle for the Best:
Printer Shopping Experience

The printer in my home office has decided it no longer wants to work with me. Sometimes it works, but mostly it doesn't. So on a recent weekend I went shopping for a new printer at four different stores. Would an office supply store have better options than Target? Does Best Buy beat out Staples for selection? Check out my findings after the jump…
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Overall Shopping Experience: Target stores tend to be fairly clean and well stocked and that was my experience on this shopping excursion. The benefit of shopping for a printer here is that I could also purchase other household essentials.

Customer Service: The printers are located just two aisles over from the main Electronics department. There were a couple of Target associates at the cash register in the Electronics department who could offer assistance.

Brands & Quantity Offered: Canon (2), Kodak (1), Epson (4) and HP (5).

Display Quality: There were 13 printers on display, all lined up on one shelf that spanned the entire aisle. Printers in boxes ready to purchase were stocked near their display models. Of the 13 models on display, 11 were in stock and ready to purchase.

Lowest/Highest Prices: Prices ranged from $49.99 for the cheapest HP to $249.99 for an Epson.

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Overall Shopping Experience: Walking into a Best Buy is a little like walking into a Vegas casino. The music and TV's are loud and there are a lot of flashing lights and other distractions. In other words, it can be a little overwhelming if you're going in to shop for only one item.

Customer Service: The printers were located near the Geek Squad area, which would have made it easy to get the attention of a store associate. However, I was never approached by an associate.

Brands & Quantity Offered: HP (14), Epson (6), Brother (6), and Canon (4) .

Display Quality: There were 40 printers on display spread across two aisles. One row of printers was a little difficult to access because it abutted the long line of folks waiting for Geek Squad. I had some difficulty locating boxed printers to purchase. From what I could tell, about 1/4 of the printers were not on the shelves to be purchased.

Lowest/Highest Prices: Prices ranged from $59.99 for a Brother to $279.99 for an Epson.

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Overall Shopping Experience: The printer selection at Staples was pretty impressive, especially since they also offered a few wide format models. The store was clean and well stocked.

Customer Service: There were some Staples associates milling about but I was not approached for service. I could have flagged down an associate if I had questions.

Brands & Quantity Offered: Brother (13), Canon (7), Kodak (1), Epson (8) and HP (26).

Display Quality: A banner hanging over the printer section quickly lead me to it. There were 49 printers on display plus 5 wide format printers on a separate display. Prices were clearly marked.

Lowest/Highest Prices: Prices ranged from $59.99 for a Kodak to $499.99 for an HP.

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Overall Shopping Experience: The OfficeMax I visited was fairly empty and the aisles are quite wide so it was easy to browse the printers. The music was pretty mellow (light rock) and the associates seemed friendly.

Customer Service: There were two OfficeMax associates in the vicinity of the printers but I was no approached for service.

Brands & Quantity Offered: Canon (10), HP (27), Brother (14), Kodak (2), Epson (12).

Display Quality: The banner hanging over the printers simply said "computers" so it took me a few minutes to find the printers. There were 65 printers on display, stretching across a few aisles. Pricing was clear, with special signage for discounted printers.

Lowest/Highest Prices: Prices ranged from $69.99 for a Brother to $449.99 for a Canon.

THE BEST PRINTER SHOPPING EXPERIENCE

The Best: Staples had the most impressive selection - they're the only store that stocked wide format printers. In addition to having the most models on display, they also had the most ready for purchase. The store was easy to shop and the prices were on par with the other stores I visited.

Runner Up: OfficeMax was a close runner up. The actual number of printers rivaled what Staples offered but the fact that they didn't have wide format printers earned them the runner up position. Their prices were also comparable to Staples and the store was organized and easy to shop.

(Images: Jason Loper)

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