The brighter side of printer ink

If you’ve ever owned an inkjet printer, you probably know how it feels when the low ink light goes on. It’s fear and loathing and a trip to Office Depot. A lot has been said about the price of ink – it costs more than caviar. Over the life of a printer you’ll spend many times it’s value in the black stuff.

What hasn’t been discussed much is their failure – ink cartridges (emphasis on inkjet) are electronic components, and things do go wrong with them. Usually you just throw bad ones away, and then take out a second mortgage for a new one. You didn’t know they had a warranty, did you?

I’ve owned my present color inkjet printer for roughly five years. During that time I’ve replaced the ink numerous times, mostly when the cartridge ran low. A few weeks ago the printer quit working altogether, and I assumed it was low ink causing the trouble. When I pulled out the black cartridge, it felt light, so I traded a few Krugerands for a new one. Unfortunately, when I put it in, the printer still didn’t work.

As it turns out, the color cartridge, which was replaced several months ago, was the culprit. I rarely print in color, and I think the color has been swapped out only two (maybe three) times since the printer was put into service. This cartridge felt full, and the moment I pulled it out, the printer resumed working just fine. The cartridge, an HP OEM product, was causing the malfunction.

Checking the HP website, I found that these inkjet cartridges actually have a warranty, which states (in black and white):

The coverage lasts until the HP ink is depleted or the “Warranty Ends” date has been reached, whichever occurs first.

The ink had barely been used, and the date on it was 07/24/2011, so I emailed HP. The response was less than helpful – there was nothing they could do since my printer was out of warranty. Huh? So I called. Twice. The first person I talked to was a weekend warrior from overseas who spent most of the conversation trying to put words into my mouth in a quest to avoid assistance. They did a good job. Never one to give up, I called back again during normal business hours, finally reaching a representative who not only acknowledged the cartridges have a warranty, but that they do have problems every now and then.

There’s a policy with respect to these products, and that policy is to publish a pretty specific warranty, and then hope consumers don’t go looking for it. I knew the issue wasn’t the printer’s, nor the user’s, and I thankfully have a replacement on the way.

MG signing off (to avoid printing wherever possible, but being able to do so just the same)

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