Techno-Scammed Again

A couple of years ago, tired of endemic printer problems, I splurged on a big Hewlett Packard Color Laser 2600n. It uses four huge ink cartidges, the black costing $85 and the three color ones $95 each, but I was assured that they held so much ink that they’d last forever and I’d save money in the long run. Now – I print thousands of black-and-white pages a year, and maybe three or four color pages, when I need a Google map. But when the black cartridge runs out on this machine, it seems that I automatically get a message to replace the other ones too, and the machine stops working. So I finally called technical support and got a very nice lady who directed me how to put the machine on “Cartridge Out Override,” or something, though she says it will only work for a couple of weeks. And she explained to me that this machine uses a special “in-line technology,” by which, whenever a page is counted for the black cartridge, one is similarly counted for the cyan, yellow, and magenta cartridges as well. And so it’s built in to the machine, that every time I finish off my black cartridge (or merely every time it clicks off an HP-determined number of allowed pages), I have to go out and pay $370 for four new cartridges. I turned on the “Cartridge Out Override” as she directed, and printed a page in glorious full color: there’s plenty of ink left in those color cartridges that the machine is demanding I replace. I don’t know what’s going to happen after I use the override for two weeks, whether it’s going to turn into a pumpkin or something, but I do know that for $370 every few months I could get a pretty damn nice new printer and treat ’em like disposables. 

The nice tech support lady had to choose her words carefully to avoid admitting that HP’s “in-line technology” is a gigantic scam, and the lady where I bought the machine, whom I’d consulted first, also hinted that HP was making me buy new cartridges for no reason, without quite acknowledging that it was a scam. But boy, what a lucrative scam HP is running!
UPDATE: I’m certainly not the first to notice. Turns out there’s already a class-action suit against Hewlett Packard for this very practice. Glad to hear it.


  1. roger says

    get yourself a little Brother laser for the b/w stuff. you can find them for less than $100 at Staples, etc. solid little printer with excellent quality.
    KG replies: I’ll do it. But for color, I’m reading around the web that the HP cartridges expire whether you use them or not.

  2. says

    This story has an interesting twist related to music and composing.
    Time was you could buy re-filled or new cartridges from third party vendors. But HP put a chip into each cartridge so that the printer would only recognize a genuine HP cartridge. HP then used the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to keep anyone else from making replacement cartridges for their printers.
    So what started out as a way to help poor writers and composers keep control of their art has morphed into the reason you gotta buy $400 worth of ink cartridges every few months.

  3. todd says

    On my Brother printer I can override this by putting black tape over the clear sensors on both sides of the cartridge; thus, it always thinks that it is full of ink.

  4. John Kennedy says

    Kyle, I have the same printer and problem and will try this too. More anon…
    KG replies: Suggestions I’ve been finding on the internet include removing the battery from inside the printer, which runs the timer (doesn’t seem to affect anything else, apparently), and setting the date on your computer back a couple of years to make the printer think it’s before the expiration date. Sitting in London Gatwick airport at the moment, can’t really try them at the moment.

  5. says

    This kind of crap is endemic in the printer market, because most of the profit is made in selling toner cartridges. (Toner for laser printers, ink for inkjets.) It is part of the reason I still have a B&W printer at home and print at a copy shop the couple of times a year I need color printing.
    I’ll second the nomination of Brother printers as workhorses; the same is true of HP B&W printers. I think there are undoubtedly LaserJet II printers from the late 80s and early 90s that are still going strong.
    Your best bet for occasional color printing might be an inexpensive inkjet, but, again, the cartridges are the big ongoing expense. I’d check one of the various review sites to see which makers rip off their customers the least. If you’re reasonably close to a copy shop, that might be a better option still.

  6. says

    I have a Brother HL2040 (from Amazon) that works well, and when it demands new toner, you can just put a piece of black tape over the little hole in the side of the cartridge and print a bunch more pages before it finally really runs out of toner.

  7. 0re0 says

    That is a horrible scam…but I think I can beat it.
    I have a Brother All-in-One printer, and when ANY one of the inks run out (black or colors), the machine is useless. If I run out of Magenta, for example, I cannot just print in B/W. The machine will not copy (obviously), or even SCAN(!?) when any if the cartridges are empty. And you have to buy the cartridges in PACKS. If your Cyan runs out, you have to by a $58 pack of all THREE colors.

  8. says

    Hmm, sorry to hear about the printer woes. I have a basic HP F2180, cost £30, new black and white cartridges are about £15 and when they run out I get them refilled at a print shop round the corner, £5 a time (HP21 is the cartridge model.)
    They can be refilled about 5 times before you have to buy a new one. Not had a problem with chips or anything telling the printer the cartridge is empty or not legit or whatever, it all works fine. I don’t use colour but the same rules apply, just that the cartridges are a bit more expensive.
    A satisfied HP customer, perhaps look for something similar?.

  9. efishm says

    Some 8 or 9 years ago, when laser printer prices first started really falling, I got a B&W HP laser printer (model 1200 I think), for like $300…and have only replaced the toner cartridge once. I print way less than you, probably, but still.
    I have an extra ink jet I keep around for color, but to be honest I’ve never needed it. If you get a laser printer as someone suggested for $100, and a GPS for $150 so you no longer need to print out your Google maps, you’ve already beat your startup price for your current setup.
    Anyway, sorry you have to deal with that. Frustrating.

  10. says

    I wanted to buy a color laser printer, to replace my color HP Deskjet. For two projects. I wanted to re-print my 550 page “book” created from the American Mavericks project from Minnesota Public Radio. I saved all of Kyle’s essays and all of the text interviews as .html pages. They have color photos. I also wanted to print my “book” created from the collected criticism of Greg Sandow, which also has some color.
    The printer was $299.00. But the five cartridges necessary were like US$85 each. Forget it. I did the work painfully slowly on the Deskjet.

  11. Julian Day says

    Man, i have the same problem with my expensive new Canon. Ran out of black ink so tried to print the same document in red – nothing. Blue – nothing. Brown – nothing. Can’t print at all!!!

  12. Eric Shanfield says

    Maybe it’s just that my printer is a few years old, but I have a Samsung ML-1210, and it never tells me anything, it just starts printing lighter and lighter and then runs out of ink after a while; that’s when I know it’s time to replace the toner cartridge! When that times does come, however, I use, who refill old cartridges; I’ve never had a problem with their products and it’s cheaper than buying new ones.

  13. X. J. Scott says

    Wow! Total scam! That stuff drives me crazy. I bet you want to track down the MBA characters at HP that made that decision and strangle them. In which case, that is a reasonable reaction.