I’m done playing phone games with HP

Lisa Bernstein’s HP printer cartridge doesn’t work — and apparently, neither do the company’s phones. How can she get HP to honor its warranty?

Question: I’m writing because I’ve wasted hours unsuccessfully trying to get help from HP regarding a black printer cartridge for my HP Photosmart Premium printer that doesn’t work.

I’ve owned the printer for three years, and I’ve bought and installed numerous black and color printer cartridges. I recently purchased a black printer cartridge that did not work when I tried to print.

I called the HP customer support and technical support phone numbers, went through a system of responses to get to the department that should have provided assistance, waited on line for over 20 minutes, and finally was able to speak to a HP representative. I was told I could receive a refund or exchange of the cartridge, because the one I bought was under warranty.

A representative said he would give me the information I needed in order to request the refund or exchange, but the phone line disconnected.

I then called back and went through a second lengthy process and hold time, and the next representative that I spoke with refused to provide me with information for the refund or exchange. I asked to speak with a supervisor, and he at first refused to put me through to one, but then took my phone number and said he would have a supervisor call me back.

I’ve made multiple calls back to HP, with the same results. No one can authorize a refund. I am writing to you to ask if you could provide any assistance or advice.

Lisa Bernstein, Washington

Answer: Sounds as if HP had absolutely no intention of replacing your faulty printer cartridge. In your case, it’s operating what I like to call a fortress call center, which is meant to repel customer inquiries, not resolve them.

HP’s warranty promises it will “either replace products under warranty that prove to be defective or refund the purchase price” when it doesn’t work as advertised. All the phone games suggest it was doing everything it could to avoid meeting those obligations.

For reasons that are unclear, you overlooked one of the most obvious fixes to this problem: returning the cartridges to the place from which you purchased them.

I’m particularly concerned about the first call, which was “disconnected.” While that’s not unusual, I find it highly suspicious that the conversation would end just as you’re getting what you wanted. Kinda makes me wonder if someone didn’t intentionally hang up.

I’ve edited your letter for brevity, but I should note that you spent a lot of time trying to call HP back and speaking with representatives in India who often refused to give you their last names or any way to contact them back.

I usually recommend writing a company when you have a problem with a product, but for product returns, a phone call works — or should work — just fine. According to my math, you wasted slightly less than three hours of your time trying to get HP to honor its written guarantee.

A written appeal to an executive might have helped. I list the HP executive contacts on my site. An email might have worked best. At HP, they follow the format firstname.lastname@hp.com.

Based on your account of your printer cartridge problem, I’d say you were just being jerked around by HP. But I’m sure the company has its own side of the story, since it records all of its customer calls for quality assurance purposes. Wouldn’t it be great if you had access to those recordings?

I contacted HP on your behalf. Shortly afterward, you received separate calls from HP managers in California, who gave you their full names and direct phone numbers. Each one sent you a replacement printer cartridge. I guess the extra cartridge is to make up for the trouble.

Is HP using its phone center to deny refunds or exchanges?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • Raven_Altosk

    I’m gonna bet dollars to donuts the “support” people are an outsourced company in India who are paid by call volume and not whether or not they actually address problems.

    Glad she got her cartridge (and then some) since this is inexcusable.

  • sirwired

    While I’m sure HP doesn’t have a policy written down to deny warranty claims and refunds, they have sucked at customer support for YEARS. There is no excuse for an operation this incompetent for this long; the higher-ups know exactly what is going on. (In my case, it took them over two months to fail to mail me a warranty battery replacement and refusing to usefully escalate or call back. Eventually one of their “case managers” used a corporate AmEx to buy a battery from their own online store (paying themselves full retail price, shipping, tax, etc.) and have it shipped to me.)

    But in all fairness, the inability to call somebody back that works for L1 support is 100% standard, even in call centers that know what they are doing.

  • John Baker

    This strikes me to be like a recent incident my parents had with a luggage manufacturer who offers a lifetime warranty*. That asterisk is that they won’t cover abuse or wear and tear. How do they define abuse? Anything that causes their product to break since their lab testing shows it won’t.

    Nice save Chris

  • MarkKelling

    I have bought many printer cartridges over the years. Some worked fine, some not at all. I have always gone back to the place of purchase and got a replacement for the bad ones no problems. I never thought to call the printer manufacturer directly.

    I feel the OP made this more difficult than it needed to be. Unless the cartridge was purchased directly from HP, why bother them and waste your time? Take it back to the place of purchase with the original receipt and get it replaced. It will take a few minutes of your time to do that, but it is still going to get you a same-day replacement of the defective part and ends up saving lots of time and frustration overall.

  • MarkKelling

    Lifetime warranty except for wear and tear? Do they only replace of repair luggage you keep in the original carton unused?

  • sirwired

    My luggage is from Briggs and Riley. Their warranty basically consists of: “If there’s enough of it left so we know it’s one of our bags, we’ll repair/replace it.” It’s pricey, but worth it. (And cheaper than the overpriced junk from Tumi with a lesser warranty.)

  • Billie keirstead

    Standard procedure for HP. I’ll bet the cartridge they sent her doesn’t work because it is really the print head that needs to be replaced. Remember, she said she had replaced several black cartridges. Same thing happened to my HP printer 2 days out of warranty. Getting a replacement took months because they first didn’t have one, then sent one that didn’t fit, finally got the corrct one for 100 bucks. Also experienced at least two “dropped” calls. Worst company ever. I will never purchase another HP,product.

  • Stephen0118

    I like HP Products and I usually don’t have issues with them. However, their tech support leaves something to be desired. For the record, I’m very computer savvy and I do tech support for a living. I don’t mind agents overseas as long as they know what they’re doing. I had a similar issue with my printer where the ink status said something like attention required. I tried cleaning the cartridge itself and even trying a different cartridge to no avail. I called their tech support line and went through their chat line and they gave me the runaround basically saying that I didn’t do what I’m supposed to do correctly. I had to write directly to HP corporate telling them the issue and they were apologetic and told me that I had to clean the circuit board on the printer itself (behind the ink ‘holder’). That fixed it.

  • AJPeabody

    In the words from a James Bond flick: “Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.”

  • polexia_rogue

    “A representative said he would give me the information I needed in order to request the refund or exchange, but the phone line disconnected.”

    somewhere in a call center—
    “please hold whole i get the information.” call center guy goes to his boss “hey boss, I’m kind of new here, how i give someone information about a refund?”


    “uh?…ok” and thus is why the line disconnected.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I just dealt with HP support a couple months back. They are in India. Interestingly enough, however, I had zero issues getting a hold of live people. Waits were pretty minimal on the two calls I had and they were well-versed with their warranties. Sounds like I got off lucky or the OP fell through the cracks.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I too am curious why she went to the manufacturer. I have never done that. I’ve always returned things to the point of sale, and never had a problem. Chris mentioned that he edited her letter down…perhaps there’s an explanation in there for why she went to the manufacturer instead of the point of sale.

  • jim6555

    Chris suggests that the customer should have returned the cartridge to the place where she purchased it. What if it was HP who sold her the cartridge. I have found that I can’t get discounts on new HP cartridges at Office Depot, Staples or even Walmart. They all charge the same price. I purchase my ink cartridges on line directly from HP. they charge the same price as the stores that I mentioned but don’t charge for sales tax in my state or for shipping. Usually, the cartridges arrive on the second day after I placed the order. I find that doing business this way is much more convenient than having to drive to stores. Fortunately, I’ve never received a bad cartridge and have never had to experience the difficulties that Lisa encountered.

  • Bill___A

    I just bought four Briggs and Riley bags. Their support is top notch.


    i spent over an hour on the phone to India and the phillippines trying to speak to someone about my 8 month old printer making grinding noises when it prints and the HP cartridges i bought from them… my computer and printer tell me the cartridges are counterfeit after being sent to many departments all over the world i gave up NO CUSTOMER SERVICE OR RATHER CUSTSOMER NO SERVICE JUST PHONE TORTURE WITH NOTHING RESOLVED NOT SURE WHERE TO GO NEXT PATHETIC….OUTSOURCING

  • Jeff

    I’m surprised Mr. Elliott didn’t contrast this case with my experience with HP. I also got a defective product (a refurbished printer), tried HPs help number with no success, but then used Mr. Elliott’s trick of emailing executives to obtain help. They were immediately helpful, and probably over compensated me (though technically I guess my time alone was worth more). I think that what this means is if the Indians at the help desk can’t “help” you, elevate it and you’ll get actually help from HP.

  • Cybrsk8r

    “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck” – Obi-Wan Kenobi.

  • Chester P. Chucklebutt

    I thought that was from “Wild Things”.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Some stores, now mostly defunct, try to nudge the customer to return items directly to the manufacturer instead of them.

  • Cat

    I believe the black ink cartridges not working has been a problem at HP for many years. I got rid of my HP printer a couple of years ago. At that time there were many complaints on the internet and even on their message boards about the cartridges not working. I often bought replacement ink in a set and the store could/would not make a refund for only one part, they said to contact HP. That was a frustrating dead end. I think over the years they have gained a real talent is misdirecting, transferring, delaying and derailing customer service requests.

  • BMG4ME

    I work for a competitor but there is no way you can convince me that this is the way that HP does business. If it were, then HP wouldn’t be one of our top competitors.

  • TMMao

    Similar experience a few years ago however I used their online support to get assistance (or lack of it.) This was a mail-order so returning the cartridge for another would have cost $$ in shipping. The brand new color printer cartridge wasn’t printing cyan so all images had a magenta tint. It was obvious to me that the cyan portion of the printer head was clogged but the support staff ran me through numerous detailed diagnostic procedures over several days to determine if it wasn’t the printer that was malfunctioning. In the end, not only did they want the receipt, but also the production code of the cartridge, which was black ink sprayed onto a black plastic surface and almost impossible to read. Despite providing all of the required info, the replacement cartridge never arrived and I vowed never to buy from them again, which is still true to this day.

  • PolishKnightUSA

    Although this advice is a bit late for the customer and the forum, here’s my 2 cents: Don’t buy HP printers. They made AMAZING ones 20 years ago that became the de-facto standards for printers. Then, about 10 years ago, they raced for the bottom and have been there ever since.

    I bought a Brother HL1440 10 years ago and it’s still kicking. Fantastic brand. Another suggestion: avoid inkjets. They are fraught with problems and expenses. Research a decently priced color laser printer on sale and pick that up (but NOT hp!!!) I saw a Samsung at pricegrabber for $230. It’ll print thousands of high quality pages at a fraction of a penny per page. Color laser pages are not only better looking but more durable.