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Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/09/2013 6:34 PM

It's a busy morning at Cartridge World in Aylesbury, part of a chain of almost 200 outlets across the UK that sell branded and refilled printer cartridges. It's a thriving business. The shop has seen turnover double in the past five years.

But store owner Martin Dyckhoff says customers come to him time and again with the same complaint: the branded inkjet cartridges they have bought run out of ink too quickly.

The sky-high price of printer ink - measure for measure more expensive than vintage champagne - has been well documented. Less well-known is the fact that the amount of ink in the average cartridge has shrunk dramatically. "Newer cartridges contain a fraction of the ink a similar product contained a decade ago," Dyckhoff says. "The amount can be minuscule."

For example, the Epson T032 colour cartridge (released in 2002) is the same size as the Epson colour T089 (released in 2008). But the T032 contains 16ml of ink and the T089 contains just 3.5ml of ink. It's a similar story with Hewlett Packard (HP) cartridges. A decade ago, the best-selling HP cartridge had 42ml of ink and sold for about £20. Today, the standard printer cartridges made by HP may contain as little as 5ml of ink but sell for about £13. (Read full article here.)

I recently posted about my distaste for "shrinking" grocery store items (sneaky, sneaky) allowing for profit increases in a subtle manner. I was, just now, searching for inkjet cartridges and stumbled across the above article. It's been a sore subject for years with articles complaining about various aspects of it years back -- ex. this one. HP tried to explain the increasing cost in statements in this article. But it doesn't address the drastic volume reductions or the consumer "boots on the ground" experience with cartridge lifetime. This is just another instance of deceptive business practices, in my opinion, which really irritate me. Not much else to say, except "I hate that thing." Sort of Nixon-esque. (Links to audio clips. If you don't have a plugin that will play WAV files... sorry.)

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#1

Re: Printer ink cartridges: why you're paying more but getting a lot less

09/09/2013 8:21 PM

I think this is part of a much larger problem, and I also think it's eventually going to come back and bite us.

SolarEagle already thinks I'm paranoid, and he might be right.

I don't know all of the dynamics of it, but it seems to me like the #1 thing that most companies are interested in selling, is stock in their company; with the actual products and customers becoming a pesky necessity. As long as they are able to create the impression that they have great products and happy customers, people continue to drive up the stock price.

Here's an example, and it's actually a company that I've had good luck with.

http://www.nasdaq.com/symbol/amzn

They've never turned a profit though, and it doesn't seem to matter.

http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-businessmen/ceos/jeff-bezos-net-worth/

The FB guy is another one...overnight billionaire from a company that hadn't made a dime of profit. It confounds me. These valuations are made of vapor, but it's still real money, and people are getting crazy rich on nothing but impressions, feelings, and stock sales.

As far as the printer cartridges, I think that companies, (across the board), are willing to do anything to put themselves in a favorable light with stockholders; including screwing the customer.

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#6
In reply to #1

Re: Printer ink cartridges: why you're paying more but getting a lot less

09/10/2013 8:11 AM

I'll agree and add that the value of the stock is considered more important than employee or departmental productivity as well. Note how stock prices always rise when a company announces that it is "consolidating", even when the cost of that consolidation, in severance payouts, relocation costs, the costs of new hires and the eventual loss of productivity, far exceeds the savings projected in closing or moving a plant or office.

I'm starting to lose track of how many jobs I've lost due to such "consolidations". I can honestly say, though, that none of these companies actually saved money in the process. All of them lost some good talent along the way.

Maybe it's not a good idea to pay corporate management in stocks!?

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#8
In reply to #6

Re: Printer ink cartridges: why you're paying more but getting a lot less

09/10/2013 8:30 AM

"I'm starting to lose track of how many jobs I've lost due to such "consolidations". "

Quite! You should read my comments on "6 ways to make your resume stand out" posted in CR4 recently.

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#2

Re: Printer ink cartridges: why you're paying more but getting a lot less

09/09/2013 8:39 PM

We have seen the enemy, and he is us. (Pogo?)

Mark is right. Products are no longer purchased for their utility as much as for the shinyness.

Bill Gates perfected the art of selling half finished products and duping the same people who just bought them into finishing the last 20-40%.

The latest printers require the latest cartridges, ragardless of the value of the ink inside.

We are slaves to technolog, where honesty and ethics have no place.

One only has to look at American politics and business to see this. Politicians don't care about voters, big business doesn't care about consumers.

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#3

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/09/2013 9:32 PM
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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 5:16 AM

For ten more bucks, you can get a new printer with your ink, which I did last time.

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Canon-PIXMA-MG2220-All-in-One-Inkjet-Multifunction-Printer-w-Bonus-Accessory-Value-Bundle/24457082

I did it because I needed a new printer anyway, but this makes no sense to me.

The HP guy says that they rip us off on ink to pay for R & D.

http://blogs.computerworld.com/16162/hp_explains_why_printer_ink_is_so_expensive

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#5

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 7:43 AM

kamarat's link to a printer costing 29 dollars(US) is a find example. The manufacture is selling their printers at cost. Trying to make their profit off of the ink.

Another problem is that in order to increase definition the ink needs to be thinner then the old inks. This maybe the reason for the small volume on the ink cartridge. They may have a problem with the pigments in a large volume settling out.

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#7

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 8:24 AM

Some years ago I had the excellent Canon I-470 inkjet printer. It was perfect. I saved a fortune on cartridges by buying refill kits and refilled them dozens of times. Eventually the cartridges did leak out into the works and the whole thing became unusable. But when I added up how much I had saved, it far exceeded the cost of the printer. When I tried to buy another I-470, I found it was no longer made, replaced instead by that hideous "biscuit tin" shaped monstrosity.

More recently I bought a Brother printer and found I could buy replacement cartridges on line (all colors) for about $1.50 each. Already I have saved far more than the cost of the printer and its still going strong.

The despicable H.P. are the worst offenders. At a company I worked for, we had several different types (though very similar) of H.P. printer, and each one had it's own specific cartridge, differing only by a "flat" or notch on the cartridge to prevent you buying a batch of the same type and hence getting a discount from the dealer. Never touched their products since. What goes around, comes around.

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#9

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 1:16 PM

Where I come from we don't like paying retail or being ripped off! Like others I've been through HP, Canon, and Epson printers and never purchased a second one once the price of the cartridges exceed the price of a whole new printer.

Then I discovered factory refurbished printers. I like Brother, they make an excellent multifunction laser printer line, but a toner cartridge is $67 and a drum cost around $115 (1 for every 3-4 toners). But every so often I can buy a refurb printer that contains the same genuine Brother expendables. I get a new starter cartridge and a new drum, for around $40-50 total.

That's 75% off the cost of the toner and drum if purchased separately, plus I get a spare printer as a bonus, go figure.

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#16
In reply to #9

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/11/2013 10:13 AM

Hear, hear!

I used to work for Brother tech support, and RAMConsult is right. Its refurbished printers are almost new; Brother replaces defective parts and cleans up the machines.

The kicker: each machine is then TESTED throughly, as opposed to new machines that get only sample-tested at the factory. In this sense, refurbished machines are actually than new ones.

Another BIG plus: free service, forever! No taking out your credit card to get tech support by phone, ever.

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#10

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 1:50 PM

Thanks for the comments. I appreciate them all.

I agree with kramarat's diagnosis. Too many people have gotten the idea that making money off the movement of money (interest, dividends, etc.) is shrewd. Maybe so, but not very productive. (Lazy, even?) It's why I don't like Day Trading, which has now become almost, Nano Second Trading. I wish there was a minimum required time for ownership of stock after purchase, even if it were only a month. Speculation would be driven more by true worth of a stock, I think. I would also say that products sold in multiples, when only one is needed adds to the inflation of sales volume, which serves to show shareholders increased sales/profits.

I agree that refilling cartridges can save money, and I bought a kit one time, but I don't recall doing it. I've used Walgreens and Office Max to refill cartridges but have had problems with no or incorrect cartridge ID causing the printer to not want to work with them. Overrides have been possible, but maybe not in the newest printers.

The mention of essentially giving printers away reminds me of the glucose meter market for diabetics. The meters are given free by some doctors and hospitals. The strips, though, are quite expensive. It's a similar deal (or not, if one means good deal).

I just happened to watch the classic movie from 1960, Spartacus, this weekend. Somehow it seems appropriate to the discussion. I also saw a repeated segment on 60 Minutes about the impact of robotics on jobs. (I couldn't get the segment to play at the CBS web site. The YouTube version works.)

We wonder what, if anything, can be done about the rampant dysfunctioning of culture. The Arab Spring, as it is now tabbed, supposedly demonstrated the power of smart devices and social media. Why doesn't that spill over into broad issues such as these? Why hasn't there been a coordinated uprising against greed? Does it exist in too many areas to make any one attempt futile, like battling a hydra-headed serpent?

I would suggest the poverty level hasn't reached enough people and/or the right people. Younger people should be the technologically savvy drivers of such a backlash. But many jobless young people (at least in America) can move back into their parents house to live, if they ever left. The pain gets numbed by that safety net. Counter to this way of thinking, the young people in other countries aren't necessarily poor. But they act, whereas here it seems diffused.

Pogo? Yes.

Anyone here fans of Max Headroom? Every time I watch that series (there were only 17 episodes) I'm struck with how prescient it was for the time and how much of today's world it anticipated. But then so did George Orwell, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and other writers. Have we become the Eloi without even realizing it? Slaves that can't recognize they are slaves anymore? Has slavery always existed in one form or another?

I used to tell my wife, when outsourcing became serious enough to be affecting our economy, that it would only be a matter of time before foreign workers would understand how they were being used and controlled before the whole cycle of characteristics of unionization -- strikes, collective bargaining, etc. would come home to roost on the doorstep of the companies who thought they were being clever. You have to wonder if Walmart has something in the fine print that South Africans and other countries don't realize. It certainly should sting American employees of the company. Anyone here seen the documentary, The Take? (The article about Walmart accepting unions in other countries shows that business in many other countries, have not been as successful as U.S. counterparts in doing away with unionization. Will that change as companies, such as Walmart get more of a foothold in business ownership there? Is that part of the plan?) Some would say that unions served a need in our past, but that they became stagnant and greedy and hurt business growth. Could not the same argument be made for business growth? How big is too big to serve citizenry as a whole? At what point does greed and dishonesty become too mainstream, as in my view, more the norm in the banking industry?

It appears to be a natural phenomena of human nature that wealth accumulates in concentrated pockets and only increasingly. The artificial person(s) in the form of corporate structure has only accelerated the concentration. Serving the shareholder under current practices of stock ownership exacerbates the problem. It seems inherent that accumulation of money leads to further accumulation in a geometric manner. Shouldn't there be some mechanism to address that disparity? From an electronic engineering perspective, negative feedback leads to a more stable circuit, not prone to wild oscillations. Should wealth be an entitlement?

If we say it has always been that way and always will be, we certainly surrender any chance of change. When treated as a game -- Monopoly, for instance -- the accumulation happens, but in the end (when all but one player becomes, essentially, bankrupt) a new games starts with everyone having an equal chance again, or the board gets folded up and we return to real life. Business is becoming a nightmare that we can't wake up from.

Sorry for going off. I was minding my own business as all other good slaves do until I started looking for printer cartridges yesterday. We all have bouts of waking up, but, so far, the drugs we are on are very effective at returning us to slumber.

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#11

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 5:25 PM

At some point, I think that some company is going to wise up and realize that there are a lot of people that don't need multi-color, photo quality prints, and will release a basic machine that prints in cheap black ink, and is intended for text, simple maps, etc.

They'll make a fortune.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 7:04 PM

One can hope...

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#13
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Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 8:04 PM

I was fine with a dot matrix printer for years. It was just text. I also liked the carbon copy paper that I could use with it.

Oh...that's right; now we just have to print off extra copies and use more ink.

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#17
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Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/11/2013 11:28 AM

Funny you should mention dot matrix. I thought about mentioning it, but figured most of us are so spoiled with the resolution of laser and inkjet, that it would be harder to go back.

I inherited a large dot matrix plotter years ago from a guy I was doing PCB layout contract work for. It weighed a ton! It literally took 2 people to move it around. He had bought the last ribbons and paper rolls available for it and thought I could use it for check plots. It was a mistake to take it. I only used it a couple of times. The software he was using lent itself to easier checking by having both the schematic capture program and the PCB layout program up at the same time. They were linked so you could highlight a connection in either program and see it highlighted in the other. When I pointed this out to him he started checking boards the same way. He had already bought a nice HP plotter to replace the dot matrix, though. Needless to say, he didn't want the dot matrix back. I ended up throwing it away. It was hard to do, because, functionally, it still worked. I couldn't find anyone who wanted it. Supplies are the kicker, as mentioned by Slow Old Poop below.

I wonder if the next leap in printer technology will maybe be truly optical without ink, bypassing the need for a drum. Of course, the "paper" for it would probably be costly. We're had no matter the product. That's why I like hammers. The only problem I have is, then, too many things begin to look like nails.

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#14

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/10/2013 10:58 PM

I've been using HP 6P laser printers for 20 years. We keep buying "reconditioned" ones (they clean the outside, I think, and put in a new cartridge) for dirt cheap ($50 or less) whenever one fails, and we buy cartridges on the internet for $25 or less. It puts out 6 pages a minute of nice clean copy. We have seven 6P printers on hand. There must be millions of these solid, reliable, cheap printers out there, still working away.

Alas, HP finally figured out a way to put an end to 6P popularity--they didn't provide a driver for Windows 7! Oh, there's a driver all right. It works sometimes. I have 6P printers on four of my Windows 7 computers. Three work, but it took forever to make them do so. I can't get the 6P to work on my newest Windows 7 machine, no matter what I do. It seems like the newer the computer, the harder it is to make a 6P work.

I bet there's no way a 6P works on Windows 8!

I think HP is trying to get rid of the old 6Ps because they last too long, are reliable, do a good job and people like me think, "Why buy another printer? These work fine!"

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#15

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/11/2013 9:12 AM

I have not bought an ink cartridge this century. I buy laser-jets for 40USDs +/- 10 which usually last a year for about what my neighbor pays monthly for ink. When the toner starts to run out I buy cartridges or a new printer, which ever is cheaper. Even at the end of the last century cartridges had ink soaked sponges. They keep increasing the density of the sponges. We can't make a color print.

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#18

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

09/11/2013 12:00 PM

I thought I would see if "drumless" printer technology exists -- either in reality or hypothetically. As I began to look I came across this paper analyzing and comparing predictive models for technological change, in general. I just love/hate these papers. Will any of us slog our way through it all? (The "Summary of Findings" section cuts to the chase.)

How does one verify that the formulas match any given case? (The authors do explain.) Do we consider scientific discoveries as technological advancement? Could we have predicted the discoveries of Newton, Einstein, and their contemporaries? We really do seem to have some deep-seated need for being able to predict; to be able to reduce all action/activity to a formula. The topic of prediction could be a whole other thread.

O.K. Since the first post of this reply (before editing has expired), I found this article about technologies predicted to change graphics communications. None of them seem revolutionary, in the sense of a truly new technology of printing. Paper with visible dark markings for communication may never be superseded. A physical representation of communications is valued above all other forms.

And another one...

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#19

Re: Printer Ink Cartridges: Why You're Paying More but Getting a Lot Less

10/01/2013 11:36 AM

I would buy remanufactured ink cartridges, because the are cheaper and works just as fine.

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