The Read&Delete Way to Save Money and Look Really Stupid at the Same Time

October, 2001

Greetings, cheapskates!

This month, the Read & Delete missive covers a topic near and dear to the hearts of most citizens of the free world: namely how to save money on inkjet cartridges. Nearly everybody who owns a computer has a printer-- and most of the printers out there are ink jet printers-- and all inkjets use ink. (incredible logic!) Inkjets also run out of ink at the most inopportune times -- such as while printing a document. Color inkjets are worse because when the color cartridge gives out half-way through the job, you end up with graphics by Timothy Leary.
      This situation does not bode well in a business environment, especially in the marketing department. This is because everybody in marketing knows the GREAT SECRET OF SALES: to the marketing department it doesn't matter if the product is unsafe, or the sales presentation is a web of deceit and the business practices are out and out criminal, as long as everything on the sales literature prints out perfectly. The mantra of marketing: "Look at this graphic. Does it look all right to you?"  

     If you want to have some fun, tell somebody in marketing that the color printer is down for the rest of
the day. It doesn't matter when you tell them -- you could do it in the middle of the company Christmas party-- for that matter it doesn't even have to somebody in your own company-- the results will be exactly the same. Their faces will get all puffy and red, they will start to sweat and hyperventilate and in about ten minutes their heads will implode. For them, printing is serious business.
      At home it's not quite as heart-rending when the inkjet runs dry. It usually happens right in the middle of printing some important document, such as the office football pool, or an Osama bin Laden cartoon. So you get a little ticked off and accuse the kids of running down the cartridge by attempting to make a printed copy of the Internet, or sending birthday party invitations to Mormon Tabernacle, or something like that.  So then you hop into your car and drive over to the office supply store, where you discover that the incredible bargain color inkjet printer you bought last year for $75 needs $60 worth of cartridges. Just as your lower lip begins to quiver ever so slightly, and your dander starts mingling with your gall, when the 'how dare they' is about to escape your lips-- you see the answer to all your troubles right before your very eyes.
       What is it? Why hanging right there on the pegboard is the Holy Grail of cheap solutions-- the inkjet cartridge refill kit! Only $15 and it says it has enough ink to refill the cartridge THREE TIMES! 'Huzzah!', you shout, grabbing one kit for color and one for black. It's time to celebrate! The instructions say-- just squirt a little ink back into the cartridge and away you go. For a mere $30 you've beaten the Man out of $180 in plastic bottles.  Plus, you rationalize, 'it's totally environmentally responsible'. You are recycling. Nothing will end up in a landfill------yet.
     Unbeknownst to you-- hiding behind the shelves in the store is a little toothless old hag wearing dark robes and a crooked pointy hat, watching you with her beady little eyes. She cackles heartily to herself as she watches you pick up her 'Kit of Despair' -- knowing full well that you will be caught in her clutches before the end of the day. As you glide swiftly to the checkout counter, a newfound spring to your step, your exuberance blinding you to the cold ominous shadows that are now closing upon you, you innocently ask the cashier, "does this stuff really work?" She replies with a slightly crooked smile and a strange gleam in her eyes, " Why yes, it does its job very well-- very well indeed." You give her the money, and she gives you your change, a receipt and the Package of Doom. Outside in the parking lot, as you drive away, the demons dance. Now it's just a matter of time.
       After you arrive home, you show your new prized possession to your spouse. "Look honey," you bubble, "I got this for our inkjet printer. I save d us a bunch of money, too." Your life partner looks it over dubiously, then glances towards you with one eyebrow raised. "Are you sure it will work?" "Sure I'm sure," you fib, "Look here, it comes with complete instructions." At first glance, the instructions appear normal, but under close scrutiny they seem to dissolve into a series of vague suggestions, left open to wild, speculative interpretation. Even the diagrams don't quite  match YOUR inkjet cartridge, but it's close enough for you to try it out. You don't realize it yet, but these instructions are enchanted -- able to 'morph' themselves into an unlimited number of plausible sounding combinations- but on the whole about as easily navigated as the Labyrinth.
     Now it's time to get to work. You unpack the kit on the kitchen table, with plenty of newspaper and paper towels nearby--just in case. You decide to start with the black cartridge -it's the easiest one to fill-- according to the enigmatic directions. Using a small drill (included with the the kit) you make a small hole in the top of the inkjet cartridge, and you prepare to squirt in the ink from the squirt bottle. Four squirts and you'll be done. One-- two-- say, this is pretty easy-- no trick to this at all --- three- --- wait a minute--- there's ink squirting out the BOTTOM of the cartridge----- better blot it up with the paper towels---- OK look at the instructions again -- still leaking-- faster--- now coming out the top---- blot it up. According to the instructions you're supposed to put a piece of tape on the --- wait a minute-- that instruction wasn't there a second ago--- GOOD HEAVENS---- there's ink running EVERYWHERE----- all over the table -all over your hands--- You can't blot it up any more-- the towels are soaked--- you can't touch anything -- the ink-- it's on your clothes-- the floor--- where is it coming from? There's almost a gallon running onto the carpet! That little bottle can't hold this much ink--- gallons -- unless-- (gasp!) it's not ink at all! It's nothingness! That bottle is the entrance to a BLACK HOLE! Now you've done it! You have breached the universe. You're being absorbed into another world! HELP! HELP!-----------

Ok, OK. So my story went a little over the top. I do it every now and then. 
I like hyperbole. Even Orson Welles went a little far with one of his stories one Halloween. The point of the whole matter is that I have not yet  found an inkjet cartridge refill kit that didn't leak. Ever. After cleaning up spill after spill using these "money-saving" kits on my HP printer, I have decided that it would be cheaper to buy 4 new inkjet cartridges-- and another two printers-- than it would cost to replace the carpeting after my sons run around the house with the 100 ml bottle of black ink. I wrote all this to tell you that if you don't mind getting indelible ink all over the place in order to save a few dollars- go ahead and refill your own inkjet cartridges. Don't say I didn't warn you. Believe me- you'll end up scrubbing your hands with a brillo pad and trying to get ink out of some favorite garment (unless you are naked at the time) just for trying to be cheap.
Anyway, if you get stained with enough different colors of ink, you can go trick-or-treating cleverly disguised as a race riot. Happy Halloween.

Gotta go---- scrub, scrub, scrub!

Neil