What a Racket
June 9, 2004 2:10 PM   Subscribe

The average PC printer's ink costs more than 16 times as much as an equivalent amount of vintage 1985 Dom Perignon champagne.
posted by brookish (36 comments total)
Perhaps, but it tastes much worse.
posted by bz at 2:12 PM on June 9, 2004

and both become useless if left in sunlight too long.

I don't understand why there hasn't been an uproar about how sensitive inkjet ink is to UV rays. I understand that you can buy UV resistant ink, but you'd think it would be standard. Most ink even fades regardless of if it was in sunlight or not.
posted by tomplus2 at 2:20 PM on June 9, 2004

"Dear Sir, I am deeply disappointed by your product review. You completely neglected the point - how does printer ink, compared to a 1985 Dom Perignon taste? Bouquet ? Legs ? Residual sugar ?

You, sir, are a fool.
Signed, A. Gourmet"
posted by troutfishing at 2:27 PM on June 9, 2004

I fear that we're not exactly comparing like with like, are we?
posted by dmt at 2:32 PM on June 9, 2004

dmt: along those lines, your namesake is also quite pricey!

or so i hear.
posted by plexiwatt at 2:37 PM on June 9, 2004

I fear that we're not exactly comparing like with like, are we?

No, we're not. We're comparing some of the very best of a product, made with extreme care and the finest ingredients, to common-gutter ink.
posted by Space Coyote at 2:37 PM on June 9, 2004

I thought for a minute this was a dfowler post.
posted by xmutex at 2:40 PM on June 9, 2004

Is it really news that printer makers sell the machines cheap because they can gouge the hell out of consumers for the refills?

I'm surprised it hasn't gotten to the point where they just give away the printers as long as a refill contract has been signed.

I've given up and now just draw everything I need "printed" out with my crayons.
posted by fenriq at 2:59 PM on June 9, 2004

No, we're not. We're comparing some of the very best of a product, made with extreme care and the finest ingredients, to common-gutter ink.

I never liked Dom Perignon either
posted by crank at 3:00 PM on June 9, 2004

But think of it like this: that ink is at its best right now, and will only depreciate. In 20 more years, the ink will be worthless but the Dom will be near priceless. Its important to consider the longview when making a major investment like buying printer cartridges
posted by ChasFile at 3:19 PM on June 9, 2004

Hold on; this comparison isn't based on ink at all: it's based on ink cartridges. I bet that the champagne would be much more expensive if it were distributed in 1 ounce packages, each outfitted with a precision microfabricated dispensing system.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:19 PM on June 9, 2004

mr_roboto: You mean like how it was done at my cousin's wedding?
posted by ChasFile at 3:24 PM on June 9, 2004

or these guys. (anyone every actually try it? I got it for someone as a gift once.)

And re: the topic - I love my printer and yet I curse it every time I have to buy another overpriced cart. there is even a whole business of electronic cart resetters, something is not right in their business model)
posted by milovoo at 3:32 PM on June 9, 2004

The thing that continues to surprise me, given that printer cartridges can obviously be made to be refillable, is that it's not something the environmentalists are all over. Printer cartridges are a big brick o'plastic that ends up in a landfill. Why the companies that make them are permitted to actively block consumers from reducing, reusing and recycling them is beyond my comprehension.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:36 PM on June 9, 2004

You should have been at the wedding I was at last Saturday ChasFile. Couldn't get halfway down a glass before some flunkey appeared bearing gifts.
posted by i_cola at 3:41 PM on June 9, 2004

Yeah, but a family will only throw out one of those bricks every 6 months or so. Nothing compared to the other crap that's thrown out.
posted by smackfu at 3:47 PM on June 9, 2004

My wife has an Epson printer we bought in the U.S, and brought with us to Japan. When it ran out of ink, I looked up the compatible Japanese model number and what cartridges it used. When I bought the cartridges, I found I could not use them in the machine, and I would have to use cartridges made for the U.S. model, which just happened to cost 3 times more than the domestic ones. (About $12 vs. $36)
Fuck that.
It took me about 30 minutes of google-fu to find a free app to reset the chip on the cartridge, and another 3 minutes to swap the chip to the cheaper cartridge - which now works perfectly. Swapping means basically prying it up and sticking it on the new cartridge - very technical.
Now I just have to keep doing this chip swap thing everytime I refill, but for $24 it is worth the hassle.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:48 PM on June 9, 2004

HP and Canon offer pre-paid mailers for recycling inkjet and toner cartridges [at least in the US/Canada]. Not sure if the other brands do that.
posted by birdherder at 4:03 PM on June 9, 2004

The EFF has been fighting the way that printer companies abuse intellectual property law to prevent competition in the ink cartridge business. Detailed briefs here and here. (last link is PDF).
posted by fuzz at 4:14 PM on June 9, 2004

I'm pretty sure LSD is the most expensive thing sold. If one hit costs $20, and most hits contain 50 micrograms, or 50/1000 of a milligram. If you had a printer cartridge of LSD, you could get half of North America high.
posted by geoff. at 4:16 PM on June 9, 2004

We could get pretty esoteric about this.... I work with a lot of biomedical research chemicals that go for hundreds of dollars for microgram quantities.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:36 PM on June 9, 2004

At present, antimatter costs $62.5 trillion per gram.
posted by pemulis at 5:04 PM on June 9, 2004

geoff: if one hit costs you $20 then you're talking to the wrong people. Gimme 15 minutes and I could find it for $3.

But then, I know a lot of seedy people.
posted by Dark Messiah at 5:47 PM on June 9, 2004

At present, antimatter costs $62.5 trillion per gram.

At present, a flux capacitor costs $18 kagillion each.
posted by ChasFile at 6:22 PM on June 9, 2004

obviously, I meant to say:
"At present, a flux capacitor costs 1.21 jigadollars each."
posted by ChasFile at 7:00 PM on June 9, 2004

Uh-huh. (Sun-Times link no longer works).
posted by scarabic at 7:24 PM on June 9, 2004

I'm surprised it hasn't gotten to the point where they just give away the printers as long as a refill contract has been signed.

You mean like this?
posted by kaefer at 7:56 PM on June 9, 2004

I thought we were paying for the computer chips inside the ink cartridge more than than the ink itself.

Don't get me wrong, I do truly believe that the manufacturers are guilty of price fixing, à la the oil industry.
posted by Down10 at 9:07 PM on June 9, 2004

Er... doesn't the manufacturer get to fix the price of their product at whatevertheheck they want it to be? They charge $30 a crack wholesale, you're gonna pay at least $30 a crack retail plus the markup.

It's not like the manufacturer is selling the cartridges for a buck and then insisting Staples sell it for fifty bucks.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:47 PM on June 9, 2004

fff, the manufacturers have managed to make it illegal for anyone else to make ink cartidges that work with their printers. And they put code in the chips that makes the cartridges impossible to refill with anyone else's ink. Tampering with that code (like bashos_frog did) is a violation of the DMCA. No competition means that they can fix the price.
posted by fuzz at 1:19 AM on June 10, 2004

This is why I put in my resignation at Epson last week... *sigh*
posted by web-goddess at 3:00 AM on June 10, 2004

kaefer - xerox phaser uses solid ink sticks, not liquid like an inkjet. although who knows if the sticks are cheaper than the liquid - at least they don't have computer chips on them. we looked into these for my lab but bought an hp inkjet instead. (we were replacing an old dye-sub phaser, made before xerox bought the company and no longer supported.)

web_goddess - sorry the job didn't work out for you, hope in this economy you know where you're going next. personally, i never used an epson product that didn't infuriate me. if it wasn't the hardware, it was the software - from interminable warm-up times (10 minute warm-up cycle to print two lines of text) to horrible interface design (had to use 3rd party software to force the scanner to keep the backlight on even though there was no slide film tray in place - and autoradiography films do not fit in that tray!) i never had one that worked right. canon on the other hand hasn't ever let me down...

last printer i bought (lexmark) was indeed cheaper than the replacement cartridge for my older printer (canon). which is strange, given that the lexmark came with one black and one color cartridge - so logically shouldn't it have cost twice as much as the single replacement cartridge? ahh, that's the rub, folks. the first hit is always free...
posted by caution live frogs at 8:56 AM on June 10, 2004

I ran into this a few weeks ago when I had to buy ink for my printer and realized that it's practically cheaper to buy a new printer than to buy ink refills. Obnoxious.

Even more obnoxious was that after I got the ink installed, I found out that the printer was dead, and it really would have been far cheaper to just get a new one.
posted by djwudi at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2004

This sort of thing makes me look at that new 24 ppm Xerox color laser printer for $995, and say, "hey that's a pretty darn good deal."

The Epson inkjets make spectacular art photo prints for limited edition digital paintings tho. They're worthwhile for that - because you pay about $3 per print, and sell them for $50 each. Nice profit margin. :)
posted by zoogleplex at 11:27 AM on June 10, 2004

That first hit is likely a bit smaller than the rest, by the way. The bundled ink cartridges frequently contain 50% of what comes in the retail carts, if not less.
posted by speedo at 11:54 AM on June 10, 2004

Amusing: Comparative Price of Liquids.
(as mentioned in our earlier thread about the price of gasoline)
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:53 PM on June 10, 2004

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