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Lamont Wood
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Still Some Flaws In The Ink Refill System

The mystery of why refill ink is hard to use leads to the mystery of what the vendors are thinking.

The mystery of why refill ink is hard to use leads to the mystery of what the vendors are thinking.Last month I described the adventure of getting an HP97 three-color ink cartridge refilled in order to avoid paying full price for refill ink for an HP 7210 inkjet printer, a unit not like countless others in SMB offices

After rushing home from OfficeMax with a refilled cartridge (thanks to the Phoenix Ink kiosk they had in the corner) I put it in the machine and it commenced printing as well as it ever did. But I noted that it did not launch the usual cartridge alignment procedure that it normally launches when you put in a new ink cartridge. At the PC end, the printer status screen showed that the cartridge was about a quarter full, or no different than it was before the refilling.

I wrote this off as a mystery of technology.

Then, a month later, the machine kept signaling, "Check HP97 Cartridge." I checked it and could only determine that it was still there. There was nothing obviously wrong. But the printer status screen on the PC showed the cartridge was flat empty.

During the refill process the refilling device was supposed to alter the cartridge's serial number so the printer would see it as a new one and, presumably, reset its gauge. I theorized that this had not happened.

So I went back to OfficeMax, where I found that the ink refill kiosk was out of order. Unable to do anything with the refilled cartridge, the clerk just gave me, gratis, an OfficeMax remanufactured HP97 cartridge. That was very nice as refilling cost $24 while the remanufactured cartridge cost $39.99 (i.e., the same as a new one from HP.)

Back home, I installed it and the machine noted that it had detected a used cartridge. It then launched that alignment procedure that it neglected last time.

After that the machine seemed fully functional-except that the ink gauge showed the new cartridge was only a quarter full.

Another mystery.

If the vendors are trying to make off-brand ink hard to use, they're succeeding. But they are also demonstrating an attitude toward the customer that you would think they would not want to associate themselves with.

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