1. Their printers are regionalized. That means if you move from one region to another, you are royally screwed.
2. Their ink cartridges are time locked. You can not store inks in large amounts (like, because of 1.) since they will seize to function after two years.
So, be warned and don't buy HP. (Or Epson, for that matter.) Buy a Canon. I was very happy with my Canon printer. End of story.
Here's the extended story for those who like to suffer vicariously:
When we knew we were moving to Moldova, we bought a MacBook Pro in the US and I am super dooper happy with it. It's the best move I've ever done, Apple makes it so easy and fun to buy their products that you just want to throw your money at them, their techs are knowledgeable and honest and fun and just the most sympathetically bit geeky. For the super dooper MacBook I needed a new printer and (the only failing of Apple, really) the Apple site recommends various HP Photosmart printers. (Remind me to write to Apple about this!)
So we bought an HP Photosmart Premium C310 printer in Germany. I received the printer, unpacked it and stuffed it into the move. I never even tried the printer out - I thought it better not to have inks installed when bumping it around in my car roof box.
I admit I forgot to buy replacement cartridges. I forgot loads of stuff, and the inks were among them. Not to worry, I thought, I have one set and they do last a while, and we'll probably find some cartridges before too long.
Wrong assumption no. 1: The ink cartridges that come with HP printers are so-called setup cartridges and only have tiny amounts of ink in them.
I ran out of ink in the second week here in Moldova. Shucks! One cannot buy HP cartridges (or any other cartridges, to be fair) in Moldova. Doug's office employs a refill service - a guy with inks and a syringe who goes around, refilling people's ink cartridges. Unfortunately, that didn't work so well for our cartridges. Also, the printer got a bit huffy - at that point, I found that amusing. ("These cartridges were depleted. If you have purchased these cartridges, they may be counterfeit...")
I really did want genuine ink. I print photos and this is a photo printer and I want good quality in my photos. A US friend of ours was coming to Moldova on a business trip and he kindly asked whether he could bring something for us. Why, yes, we said, for sure! A quick check on the American HP site revealed that the inks had a different name (564 instead of 364) but we're used to that and didn't think any further about it. The 564 were named the correct ones for our printer C310a by HP, so we ordered two XL batches, paid rather a lot of money for it, had it shipped to our friend and received the coveted cartridges on Tuesday.
Wrong assumption no. 2: Only because HP says that the cartridges are correct doesn't mean they actually work in your computer. Because you asked HP in the wrong country, stupid!
I was a happy camper. Out with the old, depleted cartridges, in with the spanky new ones! And print all those files I needed to print out for the homeschool.... "These cartridges are not intended for use in this printer as it is configured." Freeze touchscreen, no go, nothing budges.
I was flabbergasted. My first thought was we ordered the wrong inks. Oh! The name is different! Those are not the right ones! No, the husband says, I checked. So we checked again and there it was, black on white: 564 for use in HP Photosmart Premium C310. That's what we have! So why, oh, why??
I called the tech support. Oh, a very chipper Alvin C. says, your printer is regionalized to Europe, those are US cartridges. We have to change the region on your printer. No worries, we can do that. Where are you? Moldova? Where is that? Um, okay... But you have US cartridges? (I don't understand! That's three countries, it's too complicated!) Well, perform the following four steps...
I my relief to have this issue solved quickly, I only had a fleeting thought of "regionalized printer? How assinine is that!".
So, he said, do this and this and print out this page. "Um, you know, my ink is depleted? I can't actually print anything out!" I tried anyhow and got a print report that was barely readible but I could make out the numbers. The tech support asks me to read to him lines 12, 17, and 43.
So I read to him: "Line 12: Total borderless pages printed: 8. Line 17: Admin Password: Not set. Line 43... Um, my report only has 29 lines?" He didn't accept that. He apparently thought I couldn't read the print-out due to the low ink levels and didn't believe me when I said that I was very certain there was no line 43 on that page. He'd refer me to a higher level. I confessed to disgruntlement and the question whether he thought this was at all worth it? Wouldn't I just be handed around until I gave up? He ignored this completely, and gave me a case number and told me I'd be contacted. "Give a two-hour time frame when you are available tomorrow." Ok, I gave him a window for the next day. Also, I could just go ahead and call HP Switzerland. Why? Oh, just because.
The next morning, I had a huffy email in my inbox - they tried to reach me and I didn't answer?
Puff, I thought. It's hours until the US wakes up, how about I try the Swiss tech support? I did that and was transfered and then they hung up on me. Puff, I thought again, I don't get why Sitzerland in the first place, so let's call the German HP support. I did, and I heard the most amazing things.
First, since I'm in Moldova I am not allowed to reset the country zone to US, I will have to reset it to Moldova, and purchase my cartridges in the Ukraine. "But I'm not in the Ukraine, I don't have an intention to go there solely to buy ink for my printer and I really do not want to set the region to Moldova. Can you set the printer to the US zone?" No, apparently they cannot. Only the tech support in the US can do that. Towards the end of the conversation I said, "I know it's not your fault but you have to admit this region thing is completely stupid. I really don't understand the reasons for that." He said it was for climate reasons. "Um, you know, if zone 1 reaches from Florida all the way to Alaska, I really cannot accept that as a reason. I can only conclude HP does this to rip the customers off." He stuttered a bit. Then he pointed out that the regionalization can only be done three times, gave me another case number, and we parted our ways.
I tried to transfer the ink from the US cartridges to the European cartridges and discovered that the ink actually sits in a sponge which makes it close to impossible to extract the ink without extraordinarily large amounts of bubbly air. I got enough black ink out and in to print out the normal, 23-line status report.
That same evening, I tried the tech support in the US again. I had made the experience that including our residence in Moldova in the equation unnecessarily confused the techs, so I simply didn't mention this little fact. I want to regionalize my computer to US zone, please, I typed into the tech support chat. Sure, no problem, was the answer from Asia B. I tried to keep things easy and transparent, so after five minutes I said, Oh, and I have a Mac. Surely that can't be the source of the problem, no?
It turns out that the regular HP chat help line is for Windows OS only. For Mac, you have to actually call another number. But we'll try, Asia suggested. I was game. So we tried.
Three hours and three more levels of tech support later, having explained and re-explained my case over and over again, we were where we had started. My printer didn't react to any of the secret touch-sequenes and would not print what is called a "10 tap test".* Since the HP techs need line 43 (which lists the serial numbers of the cartridges) we cannot do anything. Pressed, the tech admitted that sometimes, certain printers just had this problem and would not print the 10 tap test. Would I mind being referred to a higher level yet? I declined. After over three hours on the chat and on the phone, I was beat. I gave them an eight-hour time slot for the next day, got a case number, and went to bed, seething.
The next morning, another huffy email from a tech support who could not reach me -- after I had stated I didn't want further contact on that day. He'd try for another three days, or I could call him back. Friday was a crazy day where everything went wrong and we also had guests and I needed to make dinner and dessert and all that, so I thought I'd not call him and wait for his call that evening. Only, he didn't call.
Upon reflection, I wrote HP an email explaining why I feel obliged to warn my friends and readers about HP products and their assinine anti-globalization strategy. I have a printer they can't get to run, I wasted loads of time on a tech support that was really nice and patient and forever gracious but ultimately ineffective and thus worthless. I spent money on cartridges I cannot use, nor return since they have been opened. If you think it through, HP basically forces me to use the ink refill service even though they point out it's counterfeit.
I am having my mother send me cartridges from Germany. That turns the printer from a paperweight back into a printer but I am very unhappy with HP, with the printer, with their service, and this had been the first and very last HP product I've ever bought.
I am not really consoled by the fact that I'm not the only one to run into this problem and quite astounded that so much negative feedback has not bothered HP one bit. A company that shows such a open disregard for their customers really deserves to be boycotted.
(Again, note that the region change can only be done three times. Also, outside the warranty, HP charges you quite some money for this.)
*I know, I know. The curious mind needs to know: We tried two different sequences: bottom left, top left, bottom left, bottom left. Or, bottom left, top left, bottom right, top left. (Pushing the non-lit buttons for "home", "return" and "cancel".) I cannot tell which one is the correct one, as none of them worked. I have heard, though, that once that report is printed, the printer will lock and can only be unlocked by the HP techs with more secret hand-shakes and dancing around the camp fire. Use your discretion.