Friday, February 17, 2012

OfficeMax Ink Refills are a Scam

My ink ran out. It does that frequently. Web pages get printed for offline reading.

When I was younger I remember my father trying to refill his own ink and he was mostly successful. I remember a few times when ink went everywhere but that seemed more like the cartridge's fault. I've refilled a couple of Lexmark ink cartridges only to find out that the chip prevents the printer from printing after being refilled. Technically, it guesses how much ink is left and when it says you're done, you're done. I've also refilled a couple of HP ink cartridges with success. You can go online and find kits and save significantly if you print often.

Right now I have and highly recommend the HP Officejet 6500 Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer. It has decent ink life and is pretty quick. What really sets it over the top is the wireless part. Ironically, this wireless printer is the first printer I've ever seen that comes with the A-B USB cable. The other features that I can't live without are the automatic double-sided (duplex) printing and the automatic document feed for the scanner. I'm trying to go paperless so setting a stack of papers on the feeder, walking away, and having it scan, OCR and send the document to any computer in the house has really made going paperless easier.

Back to my ink, I have a bad feeling about refilling my ink myself, especially because I don't want to ruin my printer. Normally I would order ink online. A full set of the XL cartridges is only $20 with shipping. These are remanufactured so the printer doesn't recognize the ink level, but that's not a deal-breaker for me. If you are concerned about running out of ink you can always buy a second set to have on hand. The price for the regular size HP brand color set is $26 + $8 for black. You can almost buy two sets for that price and the XL has 2.5 times more ink. A set of the HP brand XL tanks will run you around $75. That's almost the price of 4 remanufactured sets!

However, the other day I needed to print pretty quickly so I decided to try getting the ink refilled at Office Max. I had to go there anyway to buy a chair with MaxPerks rewards. Locally at our grocery stores we have a service where you can drop off your cartridges and they will refill them overnight. [I Fill InkJets] I only needed the black filled and that service would cost $9 ($28 for the set, not as cheap as buying online). At Office Max the lady took my cartridge, said they could refill it and that it would be $10. I thought it would be filled as I waited but it was pretty late anyway so its understandable that I'd have to come back. I come back the next day to try to retrieve my cartridge; they can't find it. The slip with my name on it is there but no cartridge. They tell me that I should go to the ink section and someone will help me and give me a discount. Now at this point I wasn't expecting to pay more than $10 since that is how much I would have paid if they didn't loose my cartridge. I pick out the right ink, no one comes to help. I go wait by the counter, no one helps. I keep pointing out that I'm still waiting to get my ink situation resolved and no one helps. Finally they check if anyone knows anything about my cartridge and they don't. They figured it must have been recycled because they couldn't refill it. That's funny, these remanufactured cartridges are refilled and this other company can refill them. Oh, and why didn't anyone call me (my number was on the slip) or ask me if I wanted to take my refill business elsewhere. After an hour, they give me a discount on an Office Max branded remanufactured cartridge. The total for one 920XL black comes to $27 (after their generous 10% discount for making me wait). I could have almost gotten it refilled elsewhere and bought a full set online for that price. That's $17 more than I was looking to spend!

All-in-all that does seem like a great business model, Office Max. Lure people in with the promise of cheap ink refills, recycle their cartridges (i.e. remanufacture them for your own ink brand), make them wait with the promise of a discount so they feel obligated to buy the overpriced ink at your store. I'm not the only person who has had issues. When I've been in the store before I remember at least two other people having problems with refills.

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