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Hewlett-Packard Hates the Environment and Your Wallet

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... or maybe they just have it out for me. I'm not sure. Read on and let me know in the comments.

This story starts when I as a junior in high school. Realizing that I'd have to write a number of papers in college, I went out an bought one of the best laser printers printers on the market. I used $600 of my money from working at Papa Gino's and bought a Hewleet-Packard LaserJet 4L. I knew it was a lot of money upfront, but it was 7 years before I had to buy any more ink... and I printed all my papers and many friends' papers. I still have the printer today. It works like a dream... if only I could get it to work with today's computers that tend to only have USB ports. (I've tried a converter cable, but I haven't been one of the 4 people on the Internet who were able to get it to work.) I'm not the only either as you can still buy the printers on Ebay.

When I couldn't get that printer working, my wife and I realized that we should move on to something newer and better. We chose to go with one of the All-In-One printers, copiers, scanners, fax-machines, and dog groomers (just checking if you were paying attention). The other benefit I got was the ability to finally print in color. I wanted that Dororthy stepping into Oz experience. Of course since Hewlett-Packard did a great job before, they earned my business again.

We sprang for the HP L7650, which was around $300 (Having a blog is a great way to keep track of your purchases). Like my previous HP printer, it's still in good working order. So what's my problem?

Unknown to me, the L7650 has printer heads that require replacing every two years. There is an expiration date on them. We were able to get more than two years out of them, but a couple of weeks ago, my printer just shut-down and said, "No more. I'm not going to use these print heads any more" It wasn't going to use those printer heads any more. At least you get a warning with low ink.

My wife and I went on Ebay to look to see how much the printer heads. You can save a good amount of money buying printer ink on Ebay, so it was a natural place to look. The cheapest printer head was $55 after shipping. I probably should have mentioned it before, but the printer requires two printer heads - one for black and yellow and another for magenta and cyan.

The cheapest solution to getting this printer back working was going to $110. If I wanted to get genuine HP parts, it would be $140, plus shipping. I looked at OfficeMax online and a HP J4500 was available less than $80. We called up HP and asked if there was anything they could do. We don't want to recycle a perfectly good printer that simply needs two parts the size of a deck of cards - it is a waste and it's not environmentally friendly. HP told us that was the only option. Also, the ink cartridges that they used less than three years ago can not be used in any of the current models. I didn't realize that ink cartridge technology advanced so fast. (I'm being sarcastic as I think HP simply discontinues sizes every now and again to keep you throwing out and buying new ink every time you change printers. It only stands to reason because they have what seems to be a hundred variations of catridges.)

I'd like to say that we did the smart thing and voted for another brand with our wallet. However, that HP J4500 that we went with was by far the cheapest that fit our needs. It really is a shame that the printer companies decided to go with the cheap razor and expensive razorblade model... especially when they make it cheaper to buy new razors and dispose of old working ones.

Posted on April 12, 2010.

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17 Responses to “Hewlett-Packard Hates the Environment and Your Wallet”

  1. HP is famous for making really good printers at ok prices, but then charging a fortune for ink and replacement parts. Anyone have a Total Cost of Ownership analysis for printers? Kodak has even started advertising one reason to buy their printers is that their ink replacement cartridges are much cheaper than HP, therefore their TOC makes their printers a much cheaper to own. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know. I own an HP and cringe every time I have to buy replacement ink.

  2. Cathie says:

    Uh-oh. I’ve had an HP all-in-one for about 5 yrs. It’s cantankerous, but still works, mostly (she said, knocking wood.) I do hate replacing the ink cartridges, though.

  3. BRB says:

    That is so funny that you are talking about the 4L. As soon as I read that at work, I looked over and sure enough that is the printer sitting on the front desk at our college, funny!

  4. Jes says:

    Our small office just threw away two one-year-old HP printers. HP is an evil company and I wish there was a way to run them out of business. When I took my warrantied printer (that gave out after three months) back to Staples, they said they had no responsibility, I’d have to send it back to HP in the original packaging. Well, first of all, our tiny quarters have no room to store bulky boxes and second — is there an address on the HP Website? Several smart people wasted a lot of time looking for one. Last time my printer gave out, I went to Wal-Mart and bought a Canon for $30. So far, so good. I’m sure it won’t last that long, but I won’t mind throwing out a $30 printer as much as I do a $200 printer.

  5. Jeff says:

    I have a gripe with HP of a different nature. I’m a Mac person and bought an HP C6380 All-in-One printer about 8 months ago. It works fine but I do have to replace the cartridges often.

    My gripe is that this particular printer (and I think other HP printers) don’t have compatible scanning capabilities with Macs. My scans come out all distorted and are basically a waste. I wish I had known this before I bought it. I basically am losing 1/3 of the machine’s capacity because HP doesn’t consider their Mac customers.

    I won’t be buying a HP again. Anyone have a solution for my scanning problem?

  6. Jon Anderson says:


    You don’t just mail something back, and you usually don’t need packaging except for some in-store returns.

    Next time you’re in a situation like that, look up the support line and call the company, they will be able to let you know what to do.

  7. Jon Anderson says:

    Sorry to double-post, just remembered my roommate’s luck with a laser printer…

    He was looking for a nice laser printer, but wanted one cheap. He found a LaserJet 5100, the same model we had in the office, for $50 on eBay that was giving an error code. It was listed as having a used toner cartridge in it.

    We looked up the code, and found out that it was usually caused by a faulty fuser design. The fusers had been recalled. He ordered the printer.

    The seller dropped the toner cartridge during packing, breaking it, so he put in a new one to replace it. (Over $100 value) When we got the printer, my roommate called HP about the fuser problem, and they were happy to help. In order to process the recall, the printer needed a warranty, so they threw on a one year warranty for free!

    In the end, we had a high-quality laser printer with a brand new toner cartridge, fuser and warranty for $50! Of course, the risk was pretty high too – there was no way of confirming the error was caused by the fuser until we had the printer.

  8. Sam says:

    I’m kinda baffled…… you can still get PCs with LPT ports – all you have to do it check the back ports before you buy one. All of our new machines here @ work have LPT ports – I thought only Dell left the LPT ports off? However, I don’t support many home users anymore so maybe I’m out of the loop.
    The 4L is a good reliable model. If yours has a network card you could just hook it up to your home router/network.
    At work, we’re still running a good handful of 4l’s with little problem other then the occasional fuser and rollers wearing out. Most of ours printers are 2300s and 4100s and they run fine – they were made to run 15+ years. The ones on the market now aren’t made like that. At home, I have a HP2100 hooked up to my new PC with a regular LPT cable and it works fine – it’s a bit slow but I don’t need to print my tax return that fast :)

    Multi function & color printers are high enough maintenance that every company I’ve worked for or with in the last 5 years doesn’t mess with them. If our users want to do docs/spreadsheets in color it’s cheaper for them to go to Kinkos then for us to deal with the constant maintenance & wasted color ink.

    Our PR dept is talking about getting one of those Kodak printers for their prints & I’m curious ot see how it does. If it does well then we may get 3 or 4 more for other depts that take photos.

    Jeff – Half our network is Macs. the solution to our Mac printing problems – get a windows machine or email the print job to someone with a windows machine. Dell’s are even worse with Macs so I’d recommend avoiding that route. I don’t know about Brother printers with Macs….

    • Lazy Man says:

      Maybe that’s my problem, I bought a Dell because it was a really cheap price and a very compact box that wouldn’t take a lot of space in the office. It seems like quite a waste to get a whole new computer to hook up a printer.

      I don’t think I can network my 4L from 1993. I don’t see any Ethernet or anything like that.

      For our home tasks, a few times a month, it doesn’t make much sense to all out to Kinko’s (i.e. FedEx Office) each time.

  9. Jon Anderson says:

    Lazy Man,

    I think on the 4L there is a spot you can insert a JetDirect card, which will add a network port. I haven’t priced used ones, but I can’t imagine older models are too expensive on eBay. Once you have that set up, you can install it on any computer on your network. This means that you don’t have to have it plugged into an always-on computer in order to share it.

  10. NatalieMac says:

    It’s not just HP – it seems that inkjet printers have very much become disposable products because no matter what brand, it’s nearly always cheaper to simply buy a new one than to outfit one with brand new ink cartridges. This is just shockingly wasteful to me. I’ve tried those refill kits where you get to just refill your cartridges with ink, but some of the cartridges are programmed with chips that tell the printer/computer that they’re out of ink, even after they’re refilled. It’s such a scam market.

  11. jclimber99 says:

    I’ve had an HP Laserjet (forgot model#, pretty basic, about $200 when I bought it) for about 4 years now, running on the same toner cartridge. It’s USB so no issue hooking it up to my Mac. After spending way too much money on inkjet cartridges I threw out my inkjet and have been using this laserjet ever since. I don’t think I will ever buy an inkjet printer again, no matter how cheap.

  12. Sam says:

    Jon Anderson – yes, you can add the network card to those printers. The cards are probably on Ebay – like a model 410n should work fine yet still be pretty cheap. The newer 420n network cards have gone down recently but I haven’t checked to see how much – if it’s within $10 it’d probably be worth just getting a 420 if it is compatible.
    HP usually makes their network cards pretty interchangeable although I noticed on 2 new ones here at work you can’t swap the network cards out so there’s 2 more disposables… Anything that costs over $100 new should last a while & be fixable – guess that makes me old fashioned. I’m still steaming that the Dell laser printers we bought say in the manual they are not made to last more then 3 years.

    I get tired of this disposable mentality. It really fires me up when I hear about global resources getting tight all the while we’re throwing metals & plastics into the landfill because there’s no way to economically recycle expired technology and other various broken equipment.

  13. I love these old workhorses! My job keeps throwing them out in lieu of newer printers (expensive and made of plastic!) so I now have three of them. I have one of the USB to DB25 IEEE-1284 Printer Adaptors and it works great for me, so I guess I’m the fifth person who it works for. ;-) Actually yesterday, my HP LaserJet 4 got a CODE 57 SERVICE message for which I can buy a kit to fix for $40. But I needed a printer now, so I put it into the closet and took out another one, this time it’s the HP LaserJet 4M Plus. It’s page count is 489,360. If you do a google site search using this search criteria you will be able to download a service manual – it’s 453 pages long. [ LaserJet 4 Service Manual site:www.hylink.com ] These are awesome printers. Also, my son just a couple weeks ago discovered the printers have network cards already installed so we are able to network through our wireless. I hope you are able to get your old baby running again!

  14. rogerthat says:

    As a former business person in the ink/printer business, I will give my input. Stay away from HP and Lexmark, as mentioned they will destroy your wallet with their ink prices. Brother or Canon are your best best, you can buy aftermarket ink cartridges for less then $5 brand new, HP and lexmark have a paten on their ink cartridge print heads, so anything you would buy aftermarket is actually used and refurbished.

  15. Sam says:

    Rogerthat – only if you use inkjet.

    I used to work for the regional Brother warranty repair depot (we also fixed all other brands of printers) and while some of the Brother devices were good (great fax machines), I found the HP laser printers to be the best printers when repair and life span were figured in with the cost of the toner – total cost of ownership.

    Brothers were sturdy from an abuse/traffic/dirt stand point – you could accidentally knock one off a desk and not only would there be no cracks but it’d still work. They work well for mechanics and other not so tech friendly type environments too.

    That said, the only printer I’d tell people run away from quickly (other then all inkjets) would be Dell printers. Very problematic – all the other brands do OK regardless of quirks.
    Inkjets are just made to break. It bums me out because it wastes peoples money in addition to wasting resources.

  16. I have an HP Deskjet 930C that is at least 10 years old. I don’t know exactly how old it is because a friend gave it to me when her mom died and she wasn’t sure how long her mom had owned it.
    It’s still working quite well. I went back to school four years ago and the printer got me through; in addition, as a (now former) apartment house manager I’ve printed tons of letters to tenants and the building owners over the past five years.
    I keep expecting it to die but it’s hanging in there. When it does give up the ghost, When it does, I’ll be ready: A couple of months ago I got an HP all-in-one for free after rebate. Hope it doesn’t give me the same problems yours has.

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