Retail Inkjet Solutions Bringing Ink-Cartridge Refilling Stations to French Supermarkets

Left: Intermarche supermarket. Right: Jean-François Vergez of Intermarché with RIS InkCenter (PRNewsfoto/Retail Inkjet Solutions)

Retail Inkjet Solutions (RIS), of Carlsbad, California, reported recently that the French-based supermarket retail chain Intermarché has signed up to deploy RIS InkCenter ink-cartridge refill equipment in select locations in France.

Intermarché’s strategy is said to be based on strong sales growth from successful trial installations of the RIS on-site Refill Service for ink cartridges. Intermarché customers drop off their empty ink cartridges at the service counter, and, while shopping, store employees refill the cartridges using the RIS InkCenter machine. The result is said to be “a high-quality ink refill for up to 70-percent savings versus the cost of buying a new cartridge.”

Retail Inkjet Solutions’ InkCenter kiosk is currently deployed in more than 670 participating retail locations across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe, in retail installations that include Costco Wholesale, Sam’s Club, Fry’s Electronics, Intermarché, Auchan, E.Leclerc, Metro Cash & Carry, Saturn, Maplin, and select University Bookstores.

Vince Hormovitis, vice president of sales and business development at RIS, commented: “We’re thrilled to announce our Refill Service expansion with Mr. Jean-François Vergez of Intermarché. Together, over the past year we have shown his customers the significant savings that come from refilling their branded ink cartridges while helping to protect the environment. Refilling empty ink cartridges instead of discarding them contributes to a cleaner planet, a tenet that is very important to the French culture. Intermarché is becoming known as an ink destination. With Mr. Vergez’s help, we look forward to expanding the ink cartridge Refill Service to more Intermarché locations in the near future.”

Jean-François Vergez, owner of Intermarché Muret and Fonsorbes, commented: “In today’s market, ink cartridges are consumables. I know my customers very well. Refilling their cartridges instead of purchasing new ones matches their expectations as well as the trend of the French market. It is important to me to bring new, exciting concepts and value to my customers like the Refilling Service, while doing my part to make the planet cleaner. The InkCenter is profitable for my customers but also for my business.”

According to RIS CEO David Lenny: “Since starting the RIS InkCenter refill trial program at select Intermarché supermarkets in southwest France, it has been exciting to see the initiative grow from start-up to a very successful inkjet cartridge refill business in such a short amount of time. At RIS, we are very pleased to now make this announcement that solidifies our partnership into a new long-term agreement with such a reputable retailer in France. This will ensure we continue to deliver our high quality ink refill experience to Intermarché customers at a fraction of the price of purchasing new inkjet cartridges. Aside from the savings, customers can drop their cartridges off and do their shopping while the cartridges are being refilled – which is very convenient.”

Our Take

We tested a selection of ink refill solutions for a large majority of contemporary HP printers and found that indeed, it was an easy task for anybody with a few of the right tools (hammer, punch, syringes), the ability to follow instructions and a bit of dexterity. However, it turned out that once a cartridge is re-filled, the biggest obstacle was the state of the cartridge before it was re-filled.

We also found that the documentation included with every kit contained extensive troubleshooting documentation on what to do if the printer subsequently rejects the cartridge as “counterfeit or used.” This happens if the cartridge was run completely to the point of exhaustion before re-filling and that the easy way to rectify it is to reinstall a functioning HP original ink cartridge and then swap it out for the refilled item. This means that if you go the re-filling route, it is a good idea to keep a set of working HP original ink cartridges on hand.

An alternative method is to replace the cartridge security chip with a third-party chip (not provided with off-the-shelf kits) and this stretches the chore beyond the threshold of inconvenience for a majority of DIYers. Plus, we suspect that the security schemes employed by the other printer vendors vary from HP’s and may involve different means to the ends.

We wonder how this will be handled by RIS and Intermarché and other retailers. Will they keep third-party security chips in stock and teach the in-store refillers how to install them? Will they test the re-filled cartridges before returning them to the customer? Will they let the customer take the re-filled cartridges home only to find that they will not work unless they have “good” ink cartridges on-hand. Will they proactively educate or warn customers of the potential consequences? Will they keep re-chipped empty cartridges in stock? Does that cabinet shown in the photo above contain previously re-chipped empties or re-filled and tested cartridges? Will you get your original cartridges back (probably not).

Only time will tell.

If you should decide to go this route, here are our recommendations:

  • Keep a set of functioning OEM cartridges on hand.
  • If you have an HP Instant Ink capable printer, sign up for HP Instant Ink (if available in your region) and save considerably, have extra-capacity ink cartridges automatically shipped to your doorstep when required, and no muss, no fuss or worries about all of the above.
  • Ultimately though, next time you upgrade your printer buy an ink-tank model and reap considerable savings over any other existing solution and/or potentially dicey re-filling solutions.

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