Sometimes saving money can cost you money

Update: Um. I just replaced the ink cartridges at Costco. I paid $50 for two black cartridges and a color. They’re slightly smaller, but $10 cheaper than what I paid for the ones that didn’t work. Doh. Now I really feel stupid. But the good news is my printer is working fine with the new cartridges. Whew. Now I just have to fight with 123InkJets to get my refund …

In June, our printer ran out of ink for the first time. Since Tony is a grad student and teacher, he does quite a bit of printing, and he pays 8 cents a page on campus. Obviously, it’s cheaper for him to print at home, so we needed to replace the cartridges as quickly as possible.

Because ink jet cartridges cost somewhere between an arm and a leg and your firstborn, I decided to go through 123InkJets, which sells remanufactured printer cartridges. I was also interested in the green aspect of cartridge recycling. I had a MyPoints offer that earned me 10% off my order and 350 points. My total for two black cartridges and a color one was $60 with free shipping. I thought it was a steal.

I was a little nervous because I’d read conflicting reports about remanufactured ink cartridges online, but it seemed like the reviews were 50/50. Many people were happy with their experiences and convinced that the warnings about remanufactured ink cartridges were part of a grand conspiracy by printer companies to rip off the consumer.

When reading reviews, I usually follow the mantra that the majority of reviews are written by unhappy customers. Unless the company has somehow gone WAY above and beyond the call of duty, satisfied customers generally don’t bother to write reviews. Since there were a number of positive reviews, I decided to go for it.


About a month later, the first cartridge stopped working. The error message says, “Cannot recognize cartridge.” It won’t let me do anything. It won’t print, clean the nozzles, or do anything beyond a frustrating beep and a flashing “alarm” light when I press any buttons.

I thought maybe it was out of ink, which was disappointing since I’d used it for such a short time, but I figured I’d gotten what I paid for. I changed the cartridges. The brand new one doesn’t work, either.

After over a week of troubleshooting, attempting to make it work, and coming thisclose to taking a baseball bat to the thing “Office Space”-style, I’ve given up. I contacted 123InkJets for a refund, but the biggest customer complaint seems to be poor customer service when it comes to refund requests. My chances at actually getting a refund are slim to none.

The worst part? Costco currently sells brand new ink cartridges for about $5 more than what I paid online for the defective remanufactured ones. They’re a little smaller, but since they probably work, it’s a better deal.

Now I’m afraid the remanufactured cartridge has somehow damaged my printer and voided my manufacturer warranty. I can chalk the $60 for the printer cartridges up to a stupid mistake and file it under “live and learn,” but I’ll be pretty depressed if I’ve broken my printer, too.

The moral of the story: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Sometimes it’s not worth it to save $5.

Has anyone else had a bad experience with remanufactured cartridges? Is my printer damaged?!


4 thoughts on “Sometimes saving money can cost you money

  1. Christina

    I’ve never tried the refill cartridges, but I did buy mailing labels for my printer at the Dollar Store… and let me tell you, I almost broke my printer with those things…. what a nightmare!

    You’re right, sometimes it’s worth it to spend a little more money.

  2. Kacie

    Sorry you had such a bad experience :(

    I’ve used refurb cartridges with my printer before and it’s been fine. I don’t know why some printers are so finicky.

    Hopefully the batch I just bought will be ok!

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