Though we found the Sears Website to be an acceptable place to shop for a printer, at least one of the retailer's brick-and-mortar stores was not. Our in-store shopper found minimal inventory on the premises, and none of the specific products we targeted. When asked for advice, the store assistant relied on personal experience, rather than hard data, for recommendations.
Our least favorite retailers for printers were RadioShack (in-store and online) and TigerDirect (online only) . RadioShack had sparse inventories, and many items listed at the site weren't in stock. TigerDirect had an okay inventory and useful product data, but a cluttered interface and high shipping costs turned us off.
The cost of consumables (ink in particular, but also special photo paper in the case of photo printers) is the hardest printer data to identify, so the most useful Websites provided links to the relevant ink cartridges directly from the printer's product page. Unfortunately, all too often, cost-per-page information was difficult to obtain, both online and in conversations with store staff.
Products We Shopped For and Test Questions We Asked
Here are the test questions we asked the retailers' sales associates (along with the correct answers we were looking for) for the printers category:
Q: How can I determine this printer's print cost per page?
A: Find the printer's ink or toner cartridge prices, and go online to look up its page yields. Divide price by page yield to calculate the relevant cost per page.
Q: Which of these printers has the lowest cost per page?
A:Again, price the cartridges and check the page yields on the packaging or online; alternatively, if you buy a printer equipped with high-yield cartridges (in this case either the Photosmart Plus or the Lexmark Interact S605), you'll at least have lower thatn if you ran the same printer with standard-yield cartridges.
Q: Which printer would be best for photos?