Dear Lexmark,

I’m sending you this (which you may never see!) this way because, as far as I can see, there’s no way to send email–and after my experience with your telephone tech support yesterday, I’m not trying that again.

Here’s the situation: I have a Lexmark Pro205 multifunction printer, purchased just over a year ago after my previous all-in-one (a different brand) stopped working, I purchased the Lexmark because of your five-year warranty, given that my all-in-ones of various brands never seem to last more than two years.

Given that I mostly use black ink (I normally have color inks locked out) and was printing a fair amount at the time, and that the black cartridge seemed to be about half used up in late March 2011, and that you have an innovative recycling rewards program for supplies ordered directly from Lexmark, I ordered two black 100XL ink cartridges so I’d have them on hand. Then my printing slowed down, and I got better at saving ink. (I must have purchased another cartridge with the printer; it doesn’t seem possible that the first one lasted this long.)

Long story short: The black cartridge finally give out  a couple of weeks ago. I replaced it with one of the two cartridges I’d ordered, both still in original sealed foil packaging (within cardboard).

The new cartridge never worked properly. Sometimes a page would have one or two rows of dots missing (just enough to be annoying), sometimes a page would have whole sections missing. After trying the test page and deep-cleaning routines, with no luck, I replaced the cartridge with the other cartridge. Which is working perfectly.

It was at that point, looking back through receipts, that I realized I’d ordered the cartridges so long ago. So I thought to send you email saying “I have this problem, but if cartridges really only have a limited shelflife–even though there’s no expiry or sell-by date that I can recognize within the mass of nearly-unreadable tiny black-on-grey type on the package–then I guess I’m just out the price of a cartridge.”

But you don’t have email support. So I wound up calling. After being transferred twice, each time being given a new more direct 800 number, I finally wound up at what I assume to be an India call center, with a person whose phone was apparently so bad that I had to shout into my landline phone, held half an inch from my mouth.

And who, after I’d repeated the printer model number for the fourth time, and explained the situation, and said yes, I’d gone through the standard diagnostics…then said “we only guarantee the ink for four months after purchase” (again, with undated packaging). It was apparent that no RMA would be forthcoming. I’ve put the useless cartridge in one of your postage-paid recycling envelopes and will send it back.

Then, the tech wanted to lead me through a list of Steps To Take To Solve Problems–and simply would not accept my assurance that I’m literate, that I know how to use computers and printers, and that I had the manual. After a little while, I hung up on the tech.

The monetary loss isn’t big. I guess I’ve learned a lesson: Don’t ever buy Lexmark supplies in advance, and don’t buy them from Lexmark (since that requires advance planning). Go to the local store (unfortunately, the OfficeMax that shafted me on the purchase by reneging on its MaxPerks offer) and buy the ink only when the printer runs out.

What would be lovely: if you replaced the cartridge, but since I use the printer sparingly, the new one might even be worthless by the time the one I just installed is used up.

What would be nice: If you had an email option for support, for those of us who can wait for a response and are just fed up with dealing with phone techs who go by the book and waste our time and energy.

What I expect: Nothing.

Why I’m writing this: Frustration. Companies that take orders on the web really should have email support as an option.

Sincerely,

walt crawford, waltcrawford at gmail dot com

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