The Great Printer Ink Rip-Off

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Once again, we have another somber reminder about how inkjet printers tend to prematurely warn users about being out of ink. PCWorld ran comprehensive tests on some of the key printer brands on the market, noting details such as weight and at which point the printers actually shut down.


While one can argue that they will never buy printers that forcibly shut down despite having ink left, the unfortunate truth is that this is an attribute that would hardly be mentioned on the box.


I recall an incident in which a branch manager complained to me about the hassle he had to go through because the inkjet printer in his office "needs to have its cartridge changed every day." A quick investigation revealed that the department had hooked up a retired low-end inkjet printer for its own use. However, the department's usage requirement is far above what the puny printer was designed for. The result: That particular branch was spending close to $200 per month buying new printer cartridges.


How is the SMB, with its limited IT resources, to prevent similar waste in ink cartridges?


Given that it is a well-known fact that printer companies recoup their costs from ink cartridges, a simple but permanent solution would be to move away from inkjet printers to more economical laser printers.


Another strategy that might work well would be to centralize the purchase of printer consumables such as paper and printer cartridges/toners. I'm not saying that you force your users to draw out one printer cartridge at a time; they can draw a month's worth of supplies. However, paper must be signed for, and cartridges must be exchanged on a one-to-one basis. This will help close "backdoor" avenues where funds are wasted on inefficient printer cartridges.


Of course, another idea would be to reduce, or even eliminate, the need to print. We will leave that for another day.