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.