A lot of major corporations these days are doing some pretty sketchy things. Recently HP confirmed that they are definitely on the list of companies who don’t mind doing sneaky/slimy things to their customers just to make more money.
I’ve been wary of HP for a long time, mainly because of what I see when I install an HP printer. They use the same subversive methods as a lot of other companies do, in trying to sneak software on to your computer. If you just go through the “default” installation process, you’ll end up with the “Shop for HP Supplies” icon on the desktop, the Yahoo toolbar in your web browsers, and a few other things that most people would decline if they were aware of the option to decline. To avoid those things you have to find the “customize” link during the installation and UNcheck all those things you don’t want. It’s the same slimy method used by the people that put malware and adware on the computers of unsuspecting people.
But a few weeks ago, HP really let their true colors shine through.
A little background first. Do you know why inkjet printers are so cheap these days? It’s because all the profit is made through the ink cartridge sales. HP doesn’t really care if they practically give away the printers, since they are planning on making such a huge profit on that darn ink.
To put this in perspective…
Human blood costs about USD $1500 per gallon. Not that it’s expensive to acquire, but the processing after the acquisition is what comprises a lot of that cost. That makes paying $3 for a gallon of gasoline seem really cheap. But regular black ink – the kind you purchase by the ounce wherever you buy your inkjet cartridges – comes in at a whopping $2700 per gallon. No wonder HP wants to sell a lot of that ink! And of course they want you to keep buying it regularly.
What HP really hates is when those high profit margins are cut into by the non-HP ink cartridges. You know, those third-party cartridges that are much less expensive but in many cases produce just as good a result as the high-priced “genuine” HP ink cartridges.
So, HP came up with this scheme to make their printers actually NOT WORK when a non-HP ink cartridge is used. And they even took it a step further by implementing a time-delay feature. They sent out what they called a “security update” this past March, which had the “printer time bomb” in it, but didn’t activate it until just last month (September). When this was activated, users who had third-party ink cartridges in their HP printers found themselves with a printer that would only display error messages. HP effectively broke their printer.
Obviously this resulted in a LOT of very angry and frustrated customers. And rightly so.
The good guys in this situation is a group called the Electronic Frontier Foundation (you can learn more about this great organization at www.eff.org). EFF wrote an open letter to HP very quickly, pointing out the problems with what HP had done. The major points of the letter are:
- HP deprived its customers of a useful, legitimate feature. HP customers should choose HP ink because it’s the best, not because their printer won’t work with a competitor’s brand of ink.
- HP abused its security update mechanism to trick its customers. People expect a “security update” to be a necessary patch to prevent security problems, not a tool to deliver an anti-feature. This means that many people will now doubt the patch process (as they should).
- The time-delay feature was a bait-and-switch. People bought HP printers with the assumption that they would work with third-party ink cartridges. Now they are left with a less-useful printer, and perhaps a pile of useless competitor cartridges.
In response to all the backlash to this stupid move, HP has been forced to announce that they will offer another firmware update (optional of course) that would reverse the one that broke a lot of printers last month. But in true “corporate” fashion, they defended this dumb move by saying they only wanted the “best printing experience” for their customers, and they were trying to protect consumers from “potential security risks”. Yeah right.
What should you do? I can only tell you what I’ve done and what I recommend:
- I use a Brother all-in-one printer and love it. No more HP printers for me.
- Sign the EFF petition here to tell HP what you think of this.
- Get away from buying ink cartridges completely, by using a laser printer. My Brother is a laser printer that only uses black toner, which is MUCH cheaper than ink, and I only replace the toner cartridge maybe once every 12-18 months (that might be different for you, depending on how much printing you do). You can also get laser printers that print in color if you need that.