Thursday, July 24, 2008

Avoid HP LaserJets

Memo to self: stop buying HP LaserJets and HP toner cartridges. I know, I own two HP LaserJets right now, and I’ve owned at least five other HP LaserJets, and I’ve convinced plenty of other people to buy HP LaserJets, and I’ve been using and troubleshooting HP LaserJets since they were invented. That creates a comfort level that has always persuaded me to only look at HP whenever I needed a new laser printer. But when I buy professional-level printers that are supposed to handle at least 25,000 pages per month and I only use them for 10% of that, I expect them to be reasonably reliable. Instead they’ve become disposable pieces of crap, and HP’s support has become distinctly unprofessional.

The almost new $200 HP toner cartridge that dumped toner all over my rug and me this afternoon? The one with the lifetime warranty? HP has no process for honoring that warranty. The pleasant woman at OfficeMax was dumbfounded to discover that HP treated her just as badly. She didn’t really believe that HP had bounced me around for close to an hour without resolving anything until HP then bounced her around for close to an hour without resolving anything. She’d been about to buy an HP computer and monitor herself, and that won’t be happening.

I’ve been growing disenchanted with the HP JetDirect network cards that cost $150 when they should cost $20 and tend to fry themselves after a year or two, the fuser assemblies that can’t handle cardstock despite the printer specs, the terrible HP software that is user-hostile on every level, and the increasing costs of their toner cartridges. But HP’s customer “support” today was incompetent and nasty, and that’s unacceptable.

On the bright side, the copy center in Lisa’s building loaned me their toner vacuum overnight. That was very kind of them, and has mitigated the damage to my rug. And now I know about toner vacuums, which are a handy $300 toy to have in the neighborhood.

Someday I’ll post reminiscences of the early days of laser printers, when BlackLightning created transfer toner and encouraged an aftermarket subculture that wasn’t afraid to tinker. Their quirky and personal Flash magazine was the Make magazine for laser printers. Two decades later, HP has tech support reps who have to flip through a book of phone scripts to figure out what toner is and a switchboard that’s convinced that laser printers and LaserJets are completely different.

Update on 7/28: OfficeMax has decided to replace the defective HP toner cartridge that they sold me, though they’re not sure when the replacement will arrive. American Express will continue with their chargeback procedure until we confirm that OfficeMax has actually replaced the defective merchandise. HP, who over several hours of phone calls refused to provide any way to obtain any warranty service, called me up today to tell me that they decided that their lifetime warranty is only good for 30 days and that they don’t think the receipt that OfficeMax provided is real. And then they threatened to call me again tomorrow. HP’s behavior is not even remotely acceptable. It’s unfortunate that HP can get away with treating people this way, at least until HP declares bankruptcy or HP’s stock plummets even further.

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