The people who make the humble printer cartridge must see us coming and laugh all the way to the bank!
As many have discovered to their horror, refills are so exorbitantly expensive that a printer cartridge costs far more drop for drop than fine Champagne, vintage port or Chanel No 5 — a typical family running a busy printer can easily spend over £200 a year on ink alone. But that, is just the start of it.
If you think that you are getting through your ink cartridge more quickly than ever, you are probably right. Over the past decade manufacturers have actually reduced the amount of ink inside them.
At the same time they are making it as hard as possible for you to buy cheaper second-hand, recycled and refilled cartridges.
In a world of scams, dodgy deals and consumer cons, surely the great computer ink rip-off is one of the most un-reported about.
We never used to have this much trouble with typewriters!
But the days when companies sold long-lasting products that rarely needed replacing or servicing are gone.
The 21st century business model is to sell consumers stuff on the cheap, and then force us to come back again and again for outrageously expensive accessories.
Not a week goes by when one of the big supermarkets (Tesco, Asda or Sainsburys) advertise an HP, Canon or Epson all-in-one inkjet printer, copier and scanner for less than £30.
It seems, at first glance, a fantastic bargain. But what you may not appreciate is that the ink cartridge or cartridges that work with the printer cost north of the £30 you have just paid.
Within a few months the owner will have spent twice the cost of the printer on ink alone!
The cost of ink is truly astronomical. A typical HP cartridge costing £13 contains a measly 4ml of ink — the equivalent of more than £3,000 a litre. In contrast, you can buy a bottle of very decent 1995 Dom Perignon champagne for £150.
I’m sure HP, Canon and Epson, insist their prices are reasonable. A cartridge isn’t just a plastic box with ink inside, they would say. It’s a sophisticated device that sprays the ink on to paper and cleans itself, they would claim.
Some of this may be true. But it’s also true that the ink inside those sophisticated cartridges is being sold in ever tinier quantities.
In 2004, HP’s best-selling cartridge, the HP45, had 42ml of ink and cost £20. It could print, according to HP’s website, 930 pages. Today, one of the same company’s best-selling cartridge has just 5ml and sells for £13. It manages only 200 pages. You don’t need to be a computer whizzkid to work out that doesn’t represent great value for money.
If you want more evidence of how greedy the big manufacturers have become, look at the phenomenon of XL — or Extra Large — refills. XL is a marketing gimmick that allows manufacturers to put more ink in standard sized cartridges. HP makes the HP 300 black cartridge with 5ml of ink for £13, and the XL version with 16ml for £20 to £25.
It’s brilliant marketing. First we are persuaded to buy ‘standard’ cartridges that are half full — and then to pay £10 more for 10ml more of ink in those cartridges, even though the additional cost to the manufacturers is pennies.
Consumers can fight back by buying second-hand cartridges that have been processed and cleaned before being refilled. They cost half the amount of the branded inks. But printer manufacturers go out of their way to make it difficult to reuse their cartridges. Modern cartridges have electronic chips inside them, which stop the printer working when the ink is running out.
Once the chip has decided the cartridge is empty, the cartridge is useless — and the chip has to be replaced before the cartridge can be used again.
The trouble is, computer companies try to make sure that, if recycling companies replace the chips, their printers will either refuse to work, declaring that the cartridge must be a counterfeit, or flash up signs on the computer, warning that the ink cartridge could cause irreparable damage.
Manufacturers say this is a sensible measure to stop piracy. But recyclers say that it restricts competition.
So what can we do, short of going back to typewriters and ink quills?
For a start, it’s always worth buying the XL versions of ink if they are available. They may be expensive — but page for page they do work out slightly cheaper.
And you can save maybe 40% by shopping around for a quality refurbished, second-hand refill. But make sure it’s from a source with a good reputation, as there are a lot of cowboys and poor quality products in circulation.
Do be careful though, about DIY refill kits! Available from supermarkets or online. An ink cartridge ideally needs cleaning out before it is reused and may need resetting or even the existing chip replacing. And you may find the quality of printing goes down if you refill them at home, not to mention the mess it can make.
But unless you’re made of money, some would say, it’s probably best to use a pen. Although! There is now another way, please let us explain…
Some clever people, have worked out a way, to provide you with the latest wireless multifunction printing technology, which come with an unlimited amount of ink cartridges, for just £9.99 a month. WOW!
This is a game changer, if your interested, go have a look at Infinity, its supplied and supported nationally, by a company called MY Total Office Solutions, who have been around 14 years. They also have an online website you can order form 24/7, it’s www.neverbuyinkagain.com.
(Picture and details credited to the Daily Mail)