HP Printer Ink – WTF?

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Running a business, I like to keep a small stock of spare printer ink cartridges, so I usually have a couple of spare colour and a couple of black ones, just in case. However, after a recent cartridge change, one black and one colour at the same time, the printer has suddenly stopped working. This was after about a month of perfect usage, not immediately after the change. The printer is an HP Photosmart 2610 All in one – and now, it’s an HP Photo-not-very-smart-at-all 2610 none in one!

2 November 2015 – Updated, see (far) below!

So, what went wrong? Who knows, on a day when I needed to print a few invoices for posting and do some scanning ready for a new contract, the machine came up with an error alert – “Remove and check color cartridge”. So I did, not much to check really, but these were new around a month ago, so they should be ok, right? No joy at all. On replacing the cartridge, the same error appeared on the display panel.

Checking the internet, I could see that I was not alone. On the HP forums an employee of HP stated quite categorically that rumours of there being an expiry date on HP genuine cartridges were simply a myth and while there was a date on each one (which was news to me) that was nothing more than a warranty date, and, the cartridges do not expire. Good news indeed because my cartridges appeared to be dated March 2014 which is more than a year ago – I wonder where I bought these from because as far as I’m aware, I bought them fairly recently at least in the last 6 months. Still, they don’t expire do they?

Anyway, long story short, I replaced the cartridge with another new one from the same 2 pack. Oh joy, same error. I tried the HP support web site for the UK and selected to “chat with an expert”, and after filling in all my details and my problem, the web site failed. Sigh! One refresh later and I had to fill it all in again. On hitting submit, it failed again with another database error. I gave up and turned to Twitter to let @HPSupport know. I almost immediately got a reply asking what was up and that the web site was fine.

After numerous back and forth tweets, Teri must have gone home for the evening and Eric took over. None of them mentioned anything about expiry dates even though I’d given them all the details. It has to be said that both were very helpful. In the end, Eric gave me a phone number to try (Monday to Friday 08:00 until 17:00 it seems – that’s no good to me!) I want help RIGHT NOW!

Eventually, I managed to find a couple of PDFs of the files I needed to send off, but I had to use CamScanner on my phone to scan my passport and bank accounts etc for the new contract. I still haven’t got my invoices printed out!

Come Saturday, and I purchased a brand new colour cartridge (334) from PC World, and fitted it. Hooray, no more error messages telling me to “remove and check color cartridge”. Now the error is “Insert black or Photo Print cartridge in right stall” – For the love of f*ck! I have a two pack of 339 black cartridges, which I’ve had for a wee while, not too long though, and I opened one of those. The date? August 2015. Remove all the protective bits and slip it in. Same. F*cking. Message!

So, I’m now rather annoyed at my printer, and at HP in general. It appears that the so called warranty date on each cartridge is actually some sort of expiry date, contrary to what was written on HP’s own forums, by an HP employee (admittedly, his disclaimer was that he was not speaking for HP). I now appear to have a stock of expensive genuine HP cartridges that are totally unusable, plus, the whole so called all in one, is sitting there like a pile of junk because none of the features of the machine will work until I get another new black cartridge fitted into the damned thing. I want to send a fax? No chance. Scan something? Ha ha ha!!

According to HP’s support site, somewhere, I can remove said faulty colour cartridge and print in mono – which had been working until this tale of woe began – but it appears not. The printer simply sits there begging me to “insert a color cartridge’. Sigh.

Given that I have, on occasion, needed to print photos out, and I have a Photo Print cartridge, I tried that too, no joy, the printer doesn’t want to know. Mind you, that’s definitely an old one, I checked the date and it’s September 2006, but what’s the point of having these removable and re-sealable cartridges if the damned things stop working for no bloody reason other that the fact that they have gone past the date stamped on the front?

So, I have in my collection a pile of brand spanking new cartridges, which were not cheap, are mostly unused and have cost me £55.99 for the two 339 black ones, £61.99 for the two 334 colour ones and £28.99 for the Photo Print colour one. Not including the £25.00 I paid in PC World for a new 334 Colour just to make sure that the printer was fine! £175.97 of my money that is now wasted.

HP, I am not happy with you. This is no way to treat your customers and if it turns out that my printer is fine, but there is an expiry date on the cartridges (ie, not a warranty date), them I’m looking for a refund and/or replacement for all of the above. Somehow I doubt that much will be forthcoming, but given that nothing is mentioned about this in any part of the packaging or warranty information – which is printed in such tiny lettering, it’s almost impossible to read – I don’t see that you have any reason to refuse.

Plus – because I don’t ask for much – how dare you build software into your devices that prevent me from using other parts of the so called all in one, when there is no printer ink present. At least, when the software thinks there is none, there is actually a pretty much full set of blank and colour inks thank you very much. Surely it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to write software that would prevent me from using the copier or the printer if I did truly have an out of ink problem, but would let me use the fax and/or scanner, which don’t actually need ink.

And as for preventing me from using my bought and paid for, genuine HP cartridges just because some arbitrary date has been and gone is probably against one or more of the laws of the EU. I’m thinking that I need an update to the firmware on this device to remove said restrictive practices. Failing that, my next printer will not be an HP one.

2nd November 2015 – Update

Oh well, today is Monday and I’ve once more returned to the fray. It seems that there have been numerous problems with any number of HP’s printers/All in ones etc, whereby the tension spring that holds the cartridge in place (I assume) have come loose as a result of a tiny little – about 3 by 6mm (or 1/8″ by 1/4″ for the folks in the US) – plastic tab breaking off.

I decided to have a look and found that while the colour cartridge was fine, the black cartridge’s wire was indeed hanging loose and the plastic tab was lying in the depths of the machine – where all the overflow ink goes. I’m not delving in there! There are new life forms evolving in the primordial gloop that’s in there!

The workaround is to glue up the spring and hope that it has not punched holes in the rather delicate mylar circuit board behind where the cartridge sits. I think mine is ok, but there is a mark near the bottom of the black cartridge’s mylar strip that isn’t present on the colour side. Here’s hoping it’s not serious.

These printers apparently, even while on sale and under warranty, do not have spare parts or any other way of replacing bits – they appear to be build down to a price, and are simply expected to be replaced when they develop a fault. Another WTF!

I would rather pay decent money for something that is substantially built, lasts and works – and can be repaired with spares etc – than buy a cheap printer that will most likely end up in a landfill site at some point. Unless, of course, I’ve gutted it for the stepper motors and silver steel guides etc!

I’m waiting for the Superglue to cure even as I type! Wish me luck.

2nd November 2015 – Update 2

Ok, Superglue, as advised on fixyourownprinter.com , doesn’t work. I didn’t think it would.

I’m on Araldite Rapid now. I should know in an hour or two if this has been successful! If not, the guts of this printer might end up as a small CNC machine of some kind!

2nd November 2015 – Update 3

Araldite Rapid has worked. After leaving it to cure for an hour, I have a printer that works again. It reports a failure to align the heads after replacing the cartridges, but it prints text and graphics fine, so far, so I shall not be worrying.

Conclusions

  • HP appears to have a design fault with the retaining springs – they break out of the plastic tabs and trash the mylar circuit connectors – I was lucky, my mylar was only slightly nicked, so I might have got away with it.
  • HP were taken to court in the USA for their cartridge expiry “feature” and, as far as I can see, they lost and had to remove it from the printer firmware. (Sadly, I can’t get back to the web site with the details!)
  • The dates on the cartridges might be a warranty date, but it might be that after 4 years from that printed date, they will expire anyway. Time will tell – that’s its job after all!
  • Having a fault with the black cartridge retaining spring, displays a message that the colour cartridge is the one at fault. Sigh!
  • Having a printer resources problem, or perceived problem, causes the other features of the all in one to be unusable. A minor software problem, who would have thought? Scanning doesn’t need ink, neither does sending a fax – at least write the software to allow those to be used.

So, the question has to be, are there any decent long lived and repairable printers out there in the world any more?

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