Remember the days when a personal printer cost upwards of AU$1,000, but you could buy ink cartridges and replacement ink refills for under AU$25? And, the manufacturer would even throw in a spare set of ink cartridges – in addition to the one already installed inside your new printer! Those days are long gone. Printer manufacturers figured out a way to reverse the value proposition: Sell printers cheap…but ding the customer on replacement ink.
Here’s how it works.
Doing some math
So, let’s see how this whole “value for money” thing works out in the long-term. For the purpose of this math exercise, we’ll use the example of a Cannon printer and associated Canon printer ink cartridges.
Let’s say you are a small business owner, or even an independent consultant working from home, and are looking to buy a printer. You do your research and settle on a Cannon printer – let’s say it’s a Canon MAXIFY MB5560 Multifunction Colour InkJet printer
The one you’ve chosen has all the features you want – and the pricing isn’t bad either: At AU$213.16, some might say it’s a steal. And they might be right – because someone is about to steal from your wallet! But to uncover the “crime”, you’ll first need to do some more math.
The printer uses 4 cartridges, with different standard page yields (Black = 1000 pages; Cyan = 700; Magenta = 700; Yellow = 700), producing an average print yield of 775 pages. If you are a typical busy business/professional user, you’d probably end up requiring a new set of cartridges every three or four months – if not sooner. So, how does the Canon printer ink math work out for you?
Well, if you fall for the “genuine” spin, and buy a set of Canon ink cartridges from a typical computer store, chances are that (at AU$111.76 a pop) you’d have paid more for replacement ink in less than a year than you paid for the printer. Now isn’t that a steal!
Big payoffs for printer makers!
There’s no doubt that the ingenious strategy of “cheap printers and expensive ink” pays off – big time! But for printer manufacturers. The manufacturers know that once you’ve purchased their devices, you’ll likely use them for at least 5-years or more. So, what’s in it for them? Well, in the case of the simple example of the Canon MAXIFY MB5560, in 5-years of use, you’ll pay AU$1,005.84 ($111.76 x 9 because you get the first set of ink cartridges for free) for replacement ink.
Now, for the math reveal!
Original investment: AU$213.16. Replacement cartridges: AU$1,005.84. That’s a 372% rate of return for Cannon over a 5-year “waiting” period. But, when you add the original outlay (AU$213.16) to the mix, consumers pay much more than 372% to the company. It’s no wonder then, that consumers and business partners are suing large printer manufacturers like Canon and HP for unfair business practices around forced use of their proprietary ink cartridges.
Taking a stand
The best way to make the printer ink math tilt to your favor is by buying your replacement printer ink online. Depending on the brand of printer you use (Canon, HP, Lexmark, Panasonic) and the type of cartridges you buy, making the switch online might potentially save you upwards of 40% of your replacement ink costs.
Now that’s a real steal – for you, the little guy…not the Big Guys!