HP have long been fighting a battle against refill cartridges, especially in my part of the world. But I think they’re going too far in this case — abusing customers and damaging their credibility and brand in the process.
Recently I received spam in my inbox from the website www.hporiginalsupplies.com, in Indonesian, inviting me to the HP Original Supplies Zone, where it said I could receive information about original HP products. (The email said I had received it because I had participated in HP promotions before. The only way that they could have received that particular email address was through my official dealings with HP, when at no time do I recall giving permission to be spammed — which raises its own concerns.)
The email itself contained some links to HP.com but its images etc were mostly hosted on the hporiginalsupplies.com website. I could find no easy way of confirming this was a legit HP site — the website was registered by a local webhosting company called Master Web Network. So no way of telling there. And as you may have found if you clicked on the link, the home URL itself throws up only a blank page; only this one, for unsubscribing, seems to.
It took a while for the HP guys to figure it out too: They came back to me today to tell me it is legit. It’s a website for an “electronic direct mailer” or eDM for “the HP Original Rewards program in Indonesia…. HP Original Rewards is an HP loyalty program designed for Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) for the purchase of original HP print cartridges.”
To their credit, HP acknowledge that the “eDM doesn’t comply with HP’s brand standards” and have promised to do something about it. But that’s not really what troubles me. What troubles me is this:
Why is HP setting up website addresses with its brand name in without following the usual brand procedures — a way for consumers to check whether it is, indeed, an HP site through the usual methods.
Why is HP sending out spam, sorry, eDMs? OK, this is just Indonesia, but hey, we’re still people, right? I don’t like being spammed at any hour of the day by anyone, but especially not by a big player who doesn’t even bother to identify themselves properly.
What makes this worse is that we’re talking about HP trying to persuade people to buy non-fake, non-refilled disposables. But how would I know that isn’t a company pretending to sell legit goods? The malls and streets here are full of exactly that: HP boxes and containers full of goods that aren’t, or are no longer, legit HP products.
I can understand HP’s difficulties here. It must be hard to launch these kinds of promotions while keeping an eagle eye on agencies and promoters you may outsource the work to. But if you’re trying to get the message across to consumers that they should be buying your genuine products and not falling for fakes and knock-offs, you shouldn’t be spamming them from a domain that itself looks fake and dodgy.
Good piece in the MercuryNews.com on HP’s decision to cut back on telecommuting: “HP believes bringing its information-technology employees together in the office will make them swifter and smarter. The decision shocked HP employees and surprised human resource management experts, who believe telecommuting is still a growing trend.”
Speaking as a telecommuter still in his morning sarong, I’m disappointed. But from a manager’s point of view I can understand. Telecommuting inhibits the natural transfer of skills and experience from the old timers to the newbies: The piece quotes the architect of the HP division’s change, Randy Mott, as saying that by bringing IT employees together to work as teams in offices, the less-experienced employees who aren’t performing well — which there are “a lot of” — can learn how to work more effectively.
Then there’s the problem of folk abusing the telecommuting option:
[O]ne of HP’s former IT managers, who left the company in October, said a few employees abused the flexible work arrangements and could be heard washing dishes or admitted to driving a tractor during conference calls about project updates. The former manager, who declined to be identified because he still has ties with HP, said telecommuting morphed from a strategic tool used to keep exceptional talent into a right that employees claimed.
Shame, because reversing telecommuting in a company that may have attracted better talent because of its telecommuting opportunites is not as easy as HP may think:
By August, almost all of HP’s IT employees will have to work in one of 25 designated offices during most of the week. With many thousands of HP IT employees scattered across 100 sites around the world — from Palo Alto to Dornach, Germany — the new rules require many to move. Those who don’t will be out of work without severance pay, according to several employees affected by the changes.
As one employee tells the paper’s Nicole C. Wong: “I like my flexibility. The only reason I’ve stayed with HP this long is because I’ve been telecommuting.”
IT’S BEEN one of those weeks when everything technical seems to have died on me. My Canon computer scanner started burping when I tried to scan in my bank statements, possibly because it couldn’t believe the overdraft charges I was facing. Then two of my label writers stopped working. Then some of the keys on my Nokia cellphone started misbehaving so that all my text messages looked as if they had been tapped in by someone who really hated the letters M, N and O. Then two separate flash-memory devices–gadgets that let you store and move data between devices, like photos, or documents–failed. Then my HP printer made a noise like someone chewing a cheese grater. When I took it to the local HP repair shop they told me they’d stopped making that model about 25 years ago.
Could all this be a case of built-in obsolescence, I wondered? How come all these things seemed to be designed to fail? Was it a coincidence that they all seemed to stop working a few months (OK, in some cases a decade or two) after their guarantees had expired? Was this all part of a grim conspiracy to turn us into permanent consumers?
I’ve written before about how printer manufacturers gouge us by selling us cheap printers but expensive cartridges. But either I’m missing something or these guys won’t stop at anything to make a bit more cash: I noticed for the first time yesterday that, with my HP DeskJet 640c, if I change the settings to print from colour to black (or vice versa) the software will automatically change my Draft output setting to Normal — meaning I’ll use more ink. Where is the justification for that? I can’t think of any, but I bet I’m not the only one who only notices the change after I’ve printed a page or two — if then. Sleazy.
Remedy? Bypass the HP printer software entirely using something like FinePrint — it also helps you print more onto less paper. Oh, and refill your cartridges using the wonderful Inke. Then the printer manufacturers end up being the patsies, selling you a cheap printer but not making any money off you with overpriced ink.
Somewhat bizarre ruling from a U.S. jury in favour of what I think are some rather dodgy practices on behalf of printer manufacturer HP. The Herald-Sun reports that the jury concluded that the average consumer purchasing a Hewlett-Packard printer did not expect that the cartridges provided with the printers would be the same as full replacement cartridges. It also concluded that Hewlett-Packard adequately disclosed to the average consumer that the cartridges provided with the printers would be half-filled with ink. This despite the fact that the only disclosure is on the inside of the box, according to techdirt.
Similar lawsuits have been brought in 32 other states against Hewlett-Packard, and the company has won 13 of them, all before the cases went to trial. The trial in Orange County Superior Court was the first of the class-action suits that went to a full trial.
HP have gone crazy, announcing “a strategy to radically simplify technology to help people “enjoy more” – a move that extends HP’s leadership in imaging, printing and home computing into the fast-growing digital photography and entertainment markets.”
As part of this, they unveiled more than 100 consumer products including a see-through vertical scanner, whatever that is. Actually it looks quite cool. More here.
Interesting new website from BargainSpots.com, Inc., “a company devoted to helping consumers make informed decisions before buying handheld/wireless computing devices”: PDAReviewSpot.com.
The site provides links to written reviews and price comparisons of the latest models of mobile computing devices by such manufacturers as Palm, Hewlett-Packard, Handspring, Sony, and Toshiba, among others.