Where to Print Documents Now That Your Office Is Closed


Illustration for article titled Where to Print Documents Now That Your Office Is Closed

Photo: Eric Audras (Getty Images)

My reading commute is gone, my home internet lags, and there are no free bagels to hoard, but the most frustrating minor inconvenience of working from home occurs when I need to print a document. It happens rarely, but when it does—let me tell you—it’s a splintering pain in the ass. Needing a physical copy—whether to file, sign or scan and return—reminds me how much I took for granted the office printers that sat comfortably on every floor of my previous workspace, their dozens of reams of nearby paper and endlessly flowing ink making printing a nearly thoughtless task.

Now that offices are closed, where can you go when you need a printer?

There are many reasons I don’t want to buy my own printer, chief among them how scarcely I would actually use it. If I only need to print a physical document twice a year, is it really worth purchasing a home printer? Storing a ream of paper? Replacing ink cartridges that cost as much as the printer itself? Both Marie Kondo and my checking account say no. Here are options that have come through for me in the clutch, through immense trial and error.

Office supply stores

Aside from office furniture and supplies, places like Staples and Office Depot typically have a working print center where you can print and scan what you need. You can come with a USB drive, access files via email or even upload your documents to their cloud in advance for same-day pickup. Simple printing will run you about 10-15 cents per page, or upwards of 60 cents per page for full color. There are also fancier options if you need to print things like booklets, banners or brochures.

Shipping stores

Your friendly neighborhood private shipping service like FedEx and UPS often have printers and computers for customers to use, and at rates similar to those charged by office supply stores. These are typically self-serve and don’t require you to wait in line behind customers there to ship something. Even better, if you need to print often, they may also offer cloud printing and a mobile app that will allow you to upload files on the go. Skip the line and just pick them up whenever you’re nearby.

Print shops

Check with your local print shop to see if they offer as-needed document printing. While many of them are glad to print your documents or offer you a self-service computer and printer, some shops are strictly for the bigger orders of posters, t-shirts and major printing jobs (you’ll find a wide range of options if you just Google “printing near me”). Your two-page contract isn’t worth their time, so call in to see what type of store you’re dealing with. These are usually small, locally-owned businesses, so they might be scarce in your area, but if there’s one nearby that offers public printing, you can also feel great about supporting them whenever you need a quick job taken care of.

Libraries

A great option if they’ve reopened near you, public libraries often have the lowest of prices. Pick this option if you have the most basic of printing needs—black and white, no frills—as your library won’t have all the customization options that businesses tend to offer. The downsides generally include limited hours, older printers and longer wait times for an available computer, but your local library is reliable and there to help. This often applies to university libraries as well, even if you’re not a student. Call in ahead to be sure, but they’re often glad to help if the job is simple enough. As a bonus, you can pick up a few books while you are there and investigate all the other surprising services they offer.

Hotels

A clever hack when you’re in a pinch: Stop by a nearby hotel and use their front desk, business center or concierge. Some have public printing services if you ask, and others might just offer to help you out during their downtime. If you’ve stayed with them in the past or have a rewards program account, be sure to mention it, and chances are they’ll be more than happy to help with a simple print job, maybe even for free.

Co-working spaces

While many office employees work from home during the pandemic, many co-working spaces are still up and running. If you have a membership you can still drop by to print what you need on a regular office printer. If you don’t have a membership, their staff might still be able to help you out. Have the document saved to a USB drive or ready to send in an email, and simply ask if they will print it for you. This option isn’t guaranteed to work, but it’s not unlikely; with most members gone and co-working spaces empty, staff have extra time to be helpful when they can. Just ask nicely.

Online printing services

If you’re not in a rush and can afford to wait a few days, online printing services might be the way to go. The catch is that you typically need to pay for shipping—obviously not worth it for a page or two. But if you have the time and a high volume of pages to print, you can upload them to an online printing service and have the documents mailed back to you.