So I was a bit surprised recently when I went to get toner for our printer.
A bit of background first though. When we arrived we knew that we would be printing out lots of stuff. So obviously we needed to buy a printer. We went out to check out our options. Thankfully in several of the malls here they have whole sections of stores all grouped together all selling electronics, so it was pretty quick to do so. We hit a few different stores, all of which seem to sell the exact same products, and discovered that our options were a bit more limited than we had been accustomed to in Canada. Cumulatively between all the stores we had a choice of about a dozen popular models. As expected, most of these models were fairly inexpensive inkjet printers. Unexpectedly there were also several options to convert those inkjet printers to use refillable tanks for the ink, rather than having to buy new ink cartridges. Seems like a really good idea (if it works properly). Can you imagine what the printer manufacturers think of that? There go their profit margins! No more ridiculously overpriced ink cartridges! (I have heard a statistic that ink jet ink is the highest price consumer product on the market per mL!)
There was also the choice of several laser printers, including one particular fairly inexpensive model from a reputable manufacturer (available in pretty much every store). Back in Canada we had gotten used to the speed and convenience of a laser printer, and seeing as how all of our printing would be in black and white it seemed like a good idea. So we bought the laser printer.
It worked great for the past 6 months. We printed out hundreds of pages without an issue. Then the toner started to run out. One of the tricks that the printer manufacturer used in selling this printer was that the cartridge that comes with the printer only contains about half the toner that you would get if you were to buy a new cartridge. I guess it helps to keep the costs down and the profit margins up. So I didn't really think anything of it when it started to print lighter and lighter.
Well, I figured I would get back at the printer manufacturer and not buy a new cartridge. Instead I would go to one of those places in every mall that offer to refill printer cartridges. I can just imagine the shock on the face of the CEO when he hears about that! I am sure that he immediately sent out a memo, something like this:
PRIVATE INTERNAL COMPANY MEMO
TO ALL EMPLOYEES
IT HAS COME TO OUR ATTENTION THAT STEVEN OISHI HAS REFUSED TO BUY A NEW PRINTER CARTRIDGE, CHOOSING INSTEAD TO GET THE OLD ONE REFILLED. BECAUSE OF THIS I MAY BE FORCED TO SELL MY PRIVATE JET AND MY PORSCHE (the red one, not the black one, the green one or the yellow one). THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!
THERE WILL BE AN EMERGENCY MEETING OF ALL STAFF THIS AFTERNOON TO COME UP WITH STRATEGIES TO GET HIM TO CHANGE HIS MIND. ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY!
Okay, maybe not. But I still figured that I could save myself a few thousand pesos and have one less thing to go in the garbage. So I took it to the place to get it filled. The ladies working there told me the price and asked me to come back in about an hour. I was a bit surprised. I figured that you just need to pull out the plug on the cartridge and pour in more toner. I thought it would be really simple.
So I went and wandered around in the mall for a while. After about an hour I went back to pick up the cartridge. They weren't done, so they asked me to come back in about 15 minutes. No problem. So I wandered some more. I came back in 15 minutes and they still weren't done. And my printer cartridge was in pieces and they didn't seem too confident that they knew how to get it back together. Hmmm. By this point I needed to get home, so I told them I would come back later to get it.
A couple of hours later I received a text from them saying that it was all done. By this point they had been working on it for about 4 hours. I went in a bit later to pick it up. Everything seemed fine, so I paid and went home. I put the cartridge back in the printer, turned it on, did a test print, and discovered that the test print looked horrible! There were black streaks all over the page (front and back) and the writing was difficult to read. So I took the cartridge out to find that there was now toner all over the inside of the printer. I'm not sure if they overfilled it or what happened, but I was not impressed.
I spent about 2 hours that evening cleaning out the printer, cleaning the printer drum, and trying everything I could to get it to work properly. In the end I was unsuccessful. And mad.
So the next day I went back to the store and showed them the test pages I had printed. They took the cartridge and cleaned it off a bit. They told me that should fix the problem and to take it home and try it. So I did. I drove back home, put it in the printer, and guess what? No change.
Very frustrated I went back, figuring that this cartridge was shot and planning to just go buy a new one. I would even leave the old cartridge with the ink people so they could recover the toner they had just put in. I just wanted a refund and I would leave relatively happy.
Yeah, it doesn't work that way. They would be happy to refund my money, but in order to do that I had to fill out a form, then the cartridge gets sent off to their head office in Manila (I guess to see what the problem is?) and I can expect to get a cheque in about a month. Not impressed, but what can you do?
So I filled out the form, left the cartridge with her, and left skeptical that I will ever see that money in my lifetime. But we still needed our printer to work, so off to the electronics stores we went. As I mentioned, there are lots of electronics stores all grouped together all selling roughly the same things, so finding a new cartridge wasn't a problem. The first store we went into had them. I asked the price. Now thankfully I had gone into another store the day before to check the price, because this store was a lot more expensive. Unfortunately the other one didn't have any in stock. Go figure, the place with the lower price is sold out.
I politely declined and proceeded to the next store, where they again had the right one, this time at a much better price (400 pesos saved just by walking to the next store). We went home after a quick stress relief ice cream sundae at McDonald's (not a Slurpee, but it was okay), put the brand new cartridge in the printer, did a test print, and discovered that it worked perfectly!
Moral of the story? Don't mess with the CEO's Porsche.
PRIVATE INTERNAL COMPANY MEMO
TO THE CEO:
I MAY HAVE FIGURED OUT A WAY TO SOLVE OUR PROBLEM. THE CLERK AT THE INK STORE IS MY COUSIN. SHE WILL TAKE CARE OF IT FOR US. HER ONLY REQUEST IS A RIDE IN YOUR PORSCHE AND A FLIGHT TO MANILA ON YOUR PRIVATE JET.
Steve's Post Script: The day after writing this post, but before I got it posted, I received a text message from the ink people. Apparently they want to bring the cartridge, which I had left for them to send to Manila, to my house to try it in my printer and see if they can fix it. I figure they are either being extra diligent about their customer service, or they think I am trying to scam them out of 1400 pesos. Either way it's really annoying. I just want a refund. Not a repaired toner cartridge. I already bought a brand new one! Just a refund. I will keep you posted when I find out what happens!