It’s disposable!

Steve writes to the Consumerist:

A few years back I bought my mother an Epson Artisan 800 all-in-one. The Artisan line is generally well reviewed and performs well. A few months ago we had a nasty surprise. Turning the printer on resulted in an error message on the screen that the ink pads were at the end of their service life and to contact Epson for assistance.

The printer was 100% unusable at this time, even for non-print related things like scanning. By whim of a bit of software code, my all-in-one was non-functional. It is worth noting that even immediately prior to this error message the printer performed flawlessly in all respects.

So he contacted Epson for assistance, with the following, um, results:

Upon working my way through Epson’s “support” system I was told by a representative that repairing the printer would cost $180 plus shipping. Considering that a new printer with similar capabilities could be had for the same amount or less, I turned them down. Now, by itself this isn’t so surprising; the printer manufacturers want you to buy new printers all the time so they engineer them to be cheap enough to discard and replaced. Epson’s own web site even says that “Epson recommends replacing the printer” when the ink pads are at the end of their service life. Yup, that’s Epson: A few pennies worth of disposable cotton pad gets dirty and you need to replace the entire printer. I sometimes try to imagine what Epson employees do when they run out of clean underwear.

This, of course, assumes that they actually own any clean underwear: one does not expect attention to minor details like that from the manufacturers of Today’s Crappy Printers™.

I have an HP DeskJet at work that arbitrarily decided last week that the black cartridge was defective. Not empty: defective. I duly replaced it; the brand-new one did not work either. I conclude that HP really wants this printer to die, and was too [insert term for poultry droppings] to say so up front.

Meanwhile, my turn-of-the-century HP DeskJet at home has never failed me. Were they building them better back in the Nineties? What do you think?


  1. fillyjonk »

    1 December 2011 · 9:34 am

    Could it also be a matter of heaviness-of-use (work vs. home)? My “home” HP Inkjet (bought around ’98 or so) is still doing fine; we’ve been through three (laser) printers on campus in less than that time. Of course, I mainly use my home printer for knitting patterns….

    Then again, yeah: I think the 90s vintage HPs were uncommonly well-made.

  2. CGHill »

    1 December 2011 · 10:01 am

    Neither of these machines is exactly being punished — fewer than 30 pages a week, typically.

  3. Brian Stephens »

    1 December 2011 · 10:09 am

    Yes, a thousand times yes. The DeskJet that I bought in 1997 was rock solid, and served me well for many years. Every consumer printer I’ve purchased since that time has been a huge pile of fail.

    I’m reminded of The Oatmeal’s opinion:


  4. CGHill »

    1 December 2011 · 11:12 am

    Everybody sneers at Kodak, but they had the bright idea of separating print head and ink cartridge — and the print head is replaceable without messing with the cartridges, though you have to go through a calibration cycle.

    The other side of that coin: one black plus two color cartridges for $50, as of last night.

  5. Charles Pergiel »

    1 December 2011 · 12:40 pm

    I expect printers will soon come with their own supply of paper, like 500 sheets. When the paper runs out, you buy a new printer.

  6. Jess »

    1 December 2011 · 12:41 pm

    The newer printers have software that constantly communicates with a host server passing on information. It’s needed to “improve” their products, or so they say. HP will examine your computer and tell you all the things they think you should no.

    Personally, I keep a close eye on my new printer at work. It’s cantankerous and has a bad memory. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was in the earlier stages of printer Alzheimers. I’m almost to the point of dropping it off two blocks from the office and seeing if it can find its way back.

  7. CGHill »

    1 December 2011 · 1:28 pm

    This one here, I prefer to drop two stories.

  8. CGHill »

    4 December 2011 · 3:03 pm

    Apparently Hewlett-Packard has something called HP Watch, used to aggregate news and commentary about the company; while the site is not open to the public, it’s also not hiding its tracks, so I know that they’ve read this piece.

  9. Dedicated_Dad »

    8 December 2011 · 12:44 pm

    HP has one of the — THE, BAR NONE — dirtiest tricks EVER in the history of filthy-business.

    HP inkjet cartridges will self-destruct on the EARLIEST of two possible dates:
    (1) one year after you install the cart in your printer
    (2) the “expiration date” on the box the cart came in.

    I’ve had the experience of having a cart “die” with only a couple of dozen pages printed. Pulled out the other of a “2-pack” and it only lasted a couple of days. Call HP for support and learn what I listed above.

    The first “died” because of the “year” thing, the second because of the “expiration date.”

    Apparently this was their solution to stop people from refilling their carts. It was also MY solution to EVER buying another HP printer.

    Best of all, even resetting the PC to an earlier date didn’t solve the problem – apparently there’s something which “fries” the “chip” in the cart when the “magic date” arrives.

    It really is a “drop-dead date”



    PS: For more HP f***ery, google-up “Mopy Fish”
    I can’t even BEGIN to guess how much paper and toner was wasted in businesses worldwide by people trying to get “mopy points” to “buy” crap for their “fish.” It ran easily into the thousands of dollars for my company at the time!

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