Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Soaked by Printer Ink

My mother-in-law gave me printer ink for Christmas. Some people are just better gift givers than others. There is simply no better gift for a writer than a full printer cartridge. We writers print a lot of stuff, and most of us are broke. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if printer ink wasn’t apparently made out of liquid platinum and powdered diamonds.

In the shady world of “factory-authorized” parts, there is no group more skilled in the fine art of price gouging than computer printer manufacturers and their ink, with HP leading the league.

I think if we were forced to buy drinking water from HP it would go something like this:
The super-cool stainless steel flip-top sippy straw container would cost 99 cents, and would come “pre-filled” with water, but really only filled 25%.
Refilling the container with delicious HP water would cost roughly $6000 per sip.
The flip-top sippy straw would immediately close and lock if the bottle was ever filled with tap water, and you would receive a corporately polite, yet obviously testy “courtesy email” from HP reminding you that your state-of-the-art HP water bottle can only perform correctly with genuine HP fluids.

We have an HP Photosmart printer that takes six separate ink cartridges. Why? Because I print a lot of high-quality, high-gloss photos that I take on my cell phone camer… No, that’s not it. I really only ever want to print in black and white. We have this printer because friends gave it to us for free when our old one stopped working. Six separate ink cartridges you ask? Why, yes. That would be Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, and Light Magenta. Hmm… Light Cyan and Light Magenta? I guess HP couldn’t figure out how to just use less regular Cyan when the print called for a lighter blue.

Just in case you got the notion that you didn’t need all those different colors, HP found a way to prove you wrong. On the face of each cartridge there is a raised plastic molded shape, like the preschool peg-in-hole star and half-moon shapes. Each color has a unique shape that has to line up with that same shaped hole in the printer body before the cartridge will seat properly, preventing you from substituting Cyan for, let’s say, Light Cyan. I know this is obviously not a ploy to restrict my freedom of choice if I am the type of person who could care less about color accuracy. I’m sure it’s a well-meaning way for HP to protect its good name in case I would have the gall to swap colors and make outrageous accusations about them printing mottled browns instead of vibrant greens. It is obviously not just a way to make me buy more ink cartridges. They would never do that.

Although… My printer did seem to get pretty testy a while back when I tried to put a cheaper refilled ink cartridge in it. (By cheaper, I mean cheaper the way buying one hamburger at a McDonald’s in town is cheaper than buying all the McDonald’s franchises in town.) I received an error message telling me, in essence, to get that interloping piece of non-gold-plated garbage out of there at once, or the printer may be forced to explode just to teach me a lesson about brand loyalty. The Corleone family could learn a thing or two from HP.

Undeterred, I did manage to find the LD brand of “remanufactured” ink cartridges that work in the printer and don’t require taking out a second mortgage to acquire. Take that, HP! My printer no longer threatens me with inaction or malfunction, but I did receive a pretty shady message from its LCD screen the other day.

Warning: Printer ink cartridge expiring.
Please replace, or hit arrow key for more details.
When I hit the arrow key, I got this condescending follow-up message:
The warranty will not be honored for damage due to expired cartridges. Press OK to continue anyway.

It no longer threatens me directly, I guess I should say. We’ve moved to vague threats about possible damage and warranty waiving “if, God forbid, sumptin should happen to this beautiful printer yous gots here.”

Come on guys! You already try to get me to replace the cartridges six weeks early as it is. You start warning me about low ink levels and suggesting cartridge replacement 500 pages before it actually runs out, and even then, I’m not really sure if it did or not, because I never get to see the words slowly get dimmer and then disappear off the page. The last page out of the printer looks perfect and then you just refuse to print anymore, citing an empty cartridge. What am I to do but take your word for it?

“Empty” cartridges or not, this expiration thing is a new low. I mean, really fellas? I’m not buying cartridges fast enough for you? Now you're trying to scare me with threats about disavowing my warranty because I apparently don't use my Light Magenta as often as you'd like? That’s pretty weak.

If you really want me to use more ink, why don’t you just make me print “test pages” every week or so, using a thinly-veiled ruse of “needing to check the printer alignment,” as if that’s even a thing. You could also double down on that idea and require “test pages” every time I change an ink cartridge. And no matter what cartridge I changed, each one of these “test pages” could use an inordinate amount of all the ink colors, so much so that the page is limp and wet when it comes out of the printer, making me afraid to get it near my clothes or the furniture.

Oh, wait… You already do that.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2014 Marc Schmatjen

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  1. I have to admit, I do NOT like the direction hp has gone with its printers and ink. All in the name of making more money... gotta please those stock holders!

  2. Jon, we're all counting on you to take this complaint to the highest level and get this problem fixed! Godspeed!