Sunday, September 03, 2006

$72.00 in Ink for your $85.00 Printer.. Huh??

It was bound to happen sooner or later. There I was, standing in line at Staples pondering why it was that I had entered the store in search of ink cartridges and was now about to walk out with a brand new printer. This is my story.

Approximately 5 years ago I bought an Epson C80 inkjet. It was not the sexiest printer, but it had several things going for it: great quality photo printing on matte paper, great quality black text at high print speeds, and pigment based inks. It did not produce the same quality glossy photos as some of it's dye-based brethren, but almost all the prints I made on it were normally displayed under glass or stored away. And many times, a matte photo actually looks better under a glass frame than a glossy photo anyway. The big benefit of using pigment based inks being that the prints are significantly more resistant to fading than many of those created on a dye-based printer. Hang one dye-based and one pigment-based print on your fridge for a year. You will see the difference.

Regardless, the C80 was a great printer. It finally started to go south about a year ago. So at that time I weighed my choices of moving upscale to the Epson R800 or R1800 printers. These are full-on photo printers with pigment-based inks but much better glossy output than the C80 and significantly better photo resolution. In fact I inspected prints from these printers at a photography shop and was blown away. But I really didn't want to pay $499.00 for a letter sized printer. So at that time I decided to purchase the latest C88 printer for 400 bucks less(!!) and wait for the R800 prices to come down (a year later and they still haven't !!!) Anyway, the C88 seemed to have similar specs to my original C80 printer albeit with lower quality construction. I have used this printer happily for the past year or so.

Now since moving to Linux - you knew it had to be involved here somewhere didn't you ;) - I've been a little hesitant to pursue the whole printing issue. It hasn't been on the top of my list. Consequently I didn't do a heck of a lot of printing. Well now that I actually have time to investigate it, I find that my print heads are out of whack, almost empty, semi-dried out and not working well at all.

So off to Staples I go to get some replacement cartridges. By the way, this printer (like the C80) has separate ink cartridges for C,M,Y, and K. It turns out that they don't have any cartridges for the C88 left in stock. Except for a single cyan cartridge. Hmmf. Out of luck.

The next day, I head to a different Staples store. Making a bee-line straight for the printer cartridge display (these stores are so bloody identical aren't they), I find to my utter amazement that they are out of C88 cartridges as well! There are tons of cartridges for the larger more expensive Epsons but the little rod hangers are completely devoid of plasma for my lowly C88 printer.

Turning around and about to walk out, I decide to peruse down the printer aisle just to see what the current printing options are like, and lo and behold I see my Epson C88 on display for $99.00. But more importantly, just beside it, I spot a printer labeled Epson C88+. Not sure what the '+' means (still not) but it's on special for $84.99!

Now as everyone knows, Epson, HP, Canon etc. are just like Gillette in that they're making money off the blades and not the razors so to speak. So a quick tally in my head gives (3 colour cartridges at $16.00 each and a single black cartridge at about $24.00) puts me at $72.00 to refill my existing printer. Is the extra 13 bucks for the new printer (which comes with ink) worth it? I for one am willing to pay a little extra to avoid aggravation. Heck, the name even says '+'. That's gotta be good!

So I decided to save myself another trip to Staples later this week and quite possibly further aggravation, by buying the Epson C88+ almost solely for the ink. It was bound to come to this I guess.

Interestingly, here's my best recollection of the conversation I had with the clerk immediately after he got the printer box from way up high on the shelf:

clerk: "There you go sir."

Me: "Thanks."

Clerk: "Are you interested in purchasing our extended service plan?"

Me: " Uh, nope. Thanks."

Clerk: "But it will get you service and maintenance for a full year"

Me: "No, really I'm not interested in the warranty. I'm interested in spending
the least amount possible today ."

Clerk: " It may prove worthwhile if something goes wrong with the printer."

Me: "The printer itself is only ten bucks more than the ink. So every time I need new ink I could replace the printer itself if it's not working right."

Clerk: "Hehe, yeah I guess so."

Me: "Thanks for your time."

So there you have it. I've been waiting for a time when it's cheaper to buy a new printer than the replacement ink. That time is almost here.