Submitted Date 11/13/2019

I'm going to tell you a story about the day I learned the reason or at least one reason why computer printer cartridges are so ridiculously expensive.

I'm a freelance writer who works from home so that I can be with my daughter during these important first five years of development. As the case is in my home, I spend the normal 9-5 workday hours teaching my daughter in preparation for attending school someday while making feeble attempts at keeping the house from looking like the aftermath of a natural disaster. This means I spend my evening and late-night hours working on the assignments I have for my different clients, currently of which I have 3 full-time clients. This actually works great for me because I'm a night-owl who suffers from insomnia so sleep is a fairytale at this point in my life.

Anyway, around 2 AM on one of these extremely productive late-night writing spells, I decided that it was the perfect time to order new printer cartridges I needed now that I'm no longer in the HP ink club. (That stories for a different day). So I look up the printer to make sure I know which cartridge I needed to order because at my age with a 4-year-old in the house I'm lucky to be able to remember anything let alone the 2-digit identification number of an ink cartridge. I figure out which one I need and proceed to shop around online to see who's got the best price because we all know printer cartridges are not cheap.

I quickly discover that the cheapest carrier of the HP printer cartridge I am on the quest for is in fact the manufacturer Hewlett Packard and am swiftly whisked away to their website. I place my order which included free next day shipping and I excitedly wait for my package to arrive. And wait I did because it hadn't occurred to me that the next day-shipping would in fact take two days because it just so happened Monday was Veterans Day. Not a big deal since it was free shipping, what's another day after all the time I've been putting it off anyway?

So, Tuesday rolls around and I'm at my computer working when I decided to check my email. I had a message from HP stating my order had been delivered to my front door, two hours ago. Well, that just figures seeing how nobody down here knows how to ring a doorbell or knock on the door when they drop shit off at your house. I grab the envelope and head inside to tear into the mailer, rip apart the flimsy box so that I can install the cartridges.

I put the cartridges into their spots in the printer close it up and then see the message on the printer, the cartridge is not installed properly or whatever the shit it said. So I open the printer back up, take them out, gently put them back in and snap down the plastic bar that holds each one in place, close the printer, same message. WTF?

I open the printer up again, take out each cartridge to see if they're defective or something. Yes, I peeled the little sticker thing off and yes, I put the color cartridge in the color slot and the black cartridge in the black. I do the ol' Nintendo-blow-air-on-contacts trick to remove any menacing dust that must be preventing this masterful technology from working.

I put the cartridges back into their respective spots, close up the machine but that message has not gone away. I open the printer once more, at a loss as to what the problem could possibly be and that's when I see it, the cartridge number my printer uses is 63, but the number I see before my eye is 62. I ordered the wrong cartridges and the printer wasn't capable of telling me so.

Now you're asking yourself, I thought this was a story about why cartridges cost so much, not about the idiot mistakes sleep-deprived work from home moms make at two in the morning? I will not disappoint my audience as the story will come full circle with these next two tales of the customer service provided by HP employees.

I found my way through the tangled web of HP's site in search of the number for customer service, something I always dread having to do. I don't like making phone calls. Let me rephrase that….I DESPISE having to be on the phone for any reason. I was so glad when you could order food online without having to speak to someone. But I digress.

So I am elated to see they have a chat option for customer service help so I click on the link and send out my destress signal to the awaiting agent eager to solve my dilemma. I wait as she types a response to my request for help exchanging the cartridge for the correct one. After a long pause without a message, it shows she is again typing so I wait.

Eventually, a very generic message containing a typo pops up followed with the corrected version of the generic message stating she was going to help with my situation. Yes, thanks for that reassurance, can we just get to solving the problem without all this chit chat, please? I didn't type this, of course, I just thought it because I'm not a complete bitch. The next thing she types is that she is going to have a sales agent call me to go over the options I have for resolving this problem.

So let me get this straight? I should have just called someone instead of wasting my time talking to you? That part I did type because I am now a bit irritated by the fact I just wasted 15 minutes or so chatting with Sally the Misspell Sloth only to learn there is absolutely nothing she can do about the situation via chat. She again says she can have a sales agent call me, when would a good time be for them to call.

I snapped back with, don't bother, I'm very capable of dialing a phone, thanks for nothing and closed the chat window. Take that!

Well, fuck! Now I have to call someone and as I mentioned, not high on my list of fun activities. This isn't because I don't like people but simply because I have tinnitus and it makes it difficult to understand people over the phone, particularly if they have a thick or unfamiliar accent. I dial the number and sure enough, someone whose first language is not English answers my call. Fortunately, Steve is able to speak clearly enough for my shitty hearing and we proceed.

I quickly explain what happened and said I was directed to call in for assistance with exchanging the cartridges at which point he interrupts with we can't do an exchange because that involves replacing them with the same item, great now I'm dealing in semantics of the English language with someone who probably isn't even in the United States as we speak.

I choose not to go into a tirade about it because I just want this nightmare to end so I let him explain the process of refunding my money and ordering the correct cartridges for my precious HP printer. And this is where we finally learn why printer cartridges are so expensive. I am expecting to hear what steps I need to take to return the incorrectly purchased perfectly good condition, albeit now opened, printer cartridges.

What he tells me is that I don't have to return them so I can just toss them or give them away, whatever. That's right folks! To make up for product loss due to things like exhausted mom ordering the wrong shit they've jacked the price to a nice round $40 or more to cover that as well as to cover the cost of salary for outstanding agents like Sally the Typo Sloth and slick Steve faking that American accent well.

Oh and I almost forgot the best part of this whole long-winded story, the refund will take 3-5 days to be applied to my card and the cartridges I need cost $5 more than the ones I bought so I have to wait for the refund to post before I can afford to buy the correct ones!


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  • Ashley Aker 4 years, 6 months ago

    I understand your frustration but I think printer ink is expensive based on their business model. "Ink jet printers are often very cheap. That’s because they’re sold at cost, or even at a loss — the manufacturer either makes no profit from the printer itself or loses money. The manufacturer will make most of its money from the printer cartridges you buy later. Even if the company does make a bit of money from each printer sold, it makes a much larger profit margin on ink. Rather than selling you a printer that may be rather expensive, they want to sell you a cheap printer and make money on an ongoing basis by providing expensive printer ink." I hope you can find a way to print less? I am a freelancer and I don't even own a printer.

    • Carrie VanHoose 4 years, 6 months ago

      I appreciate your input. I realize there are more logical reasons behind the cost of ink. This was primarily a satirical rant/story I found to be amusing and decided to share with my followers. I hope no one who has read it took it too seriously. The article is really more of a stab at the frustrations of dealing with customer service. I suspect the only reason so many people have read this particular post is due to the title of the article and the fact I shared it on my LinkedIn page. I actually don't use the printer for work so much as I do for printing worksheets and coloring pages for my kiddo. :)