Learn about printer ink, what it contains, why printers are inexpensive, and the massive markup in prices for ink.
Episode #10-03 released on August 18, 2019
Printers are dirt cheap, usually multifunctional and still a necessity for many people, including myself. However, there are a lot of practices that are borderline deceptive and immoral. Ink cartridges are sold at a premium with black ink, often, costing more than colored ink, despite being comprised of a very tiny amount of ink within each ink cartridge. On top of everything, most of the ink is comprised on water and ethylene glycol with a small amount of pigment.
What is a Loss Leader?
A loss leader is when you sell something at a loss expecting to turn a profit by the sales of accessories, services and other products. In the case of printers, the reason they are dirt cheap is because they are sold at a loss, and printer companies expect to turn a profit by selling ink, not printers. This is not a new concept, the PS3 was sold at a fraction of the cost to build it.
Why is Ink Expensive and ink cartridges chipped?
Ink is expensive because of a few things, the first being, the loss leader sale of the printers. Making ink itself isn't as expensive as they would make you believe since printer companies are not the only ones that sell ink cartridges. The reason why they can get away with it, is by committing to anti-competitive tactics like chipping ink cartridges so only cartridges sold by the printer manufacture are guaranteed to work with your printer.
Is chipping ink cartridges anti-competitive?
Many companies would make you believe that it isn't. The reasoning being that you will get a better color match, the ink will always be pure, and the cartridge will not, supposedly, damage your printer. The truth is a little vaguer in reality. Concerns about purity would naturally lead to standardized sources of paper. If purity was so important and color accuracy a real issue, then why not control paper stock on top of ink? The issue is you cannot chip paper, but you can chip an ink cartridge, and have it programmed to use less of the ink than is present in the cartridge. Also, chipping ink cartridges, also, makes it harder for other manufactures to create a replacement product. Harder, not impossible.
How much does ink really cost?
We will never know how much ink should cost a consumer; however, we can take a guess at a possible markup for the cost. Buying through Amazon Prime Canada, the two kits for my Canon Pixma MX922 come out to a price before tax and shipping of $98.97. The cost of ink by Inkfirst on Amazon Prime is only $30.95, for a kit of 5. If you do a little math, the cost of a single kit would be $6.19 by InkFirst. This means the markup for printer ink for that specific model is nearly 1600%. For context, the profit margin for a bag of chips is usually 40%.
To be honest, I am aware that all companies need to turn a profit, but the justification for something costing multiple times more than the competition cannot be made. Especially, when 95% of the product is just water with ethylene glycol to prevent printer head blockage, dyes to color the ink, cyclohexanone to allow the ink to stick to the paper, and butyl urea to prevent the fibers from reconstituting resulting in warped paper. As a result, I challenge you all to look up the price of the genuine cartridges and the competition and tell me what the minimum markup is based on the price of the ink sold by the cheapest option. Then share this episode with another friend or family member and challenge them to do the very same. In my sources are the links to my cartridges, from manufacture and competition, and my source to the contents of printer ink and what each component does.
Host : Steve Smith | Music : | Editor : Steve Smith | Producer : Zed Axis Dot Net