Monday, 26 January 2015

The Price of Technology: Inbuilt Redundancy

One aspect of living in a modern consumer society is the inbuilt redundancy many of the devices we use exhibit (I'm sure I'm not the first to grumble about this - but I'm going to anyway...).

I've been ordering third party inkjet refills online from for a few years.  Its service is excellent. Prices are 60% cheaper than genuine cartridges (for much the same quality, their generic inks are made in the US), product arrives in only a couple of days, and I don't pay postage on orders over $50.  Even better, late last year I got hold of a discount offer coupon, so ordered $150 worth of inks - probably enough for a year or more.  I thought that was good economics.

The cartridges arrived but two weeks later the Canon multifunction printer (a Pixma MX715) stopped working. Error 'U052', a clear sign (according to the Internet) that the print head was dead, and only three years old.  Some might say that's all you can expect from devices like this.  A quick search for a replacement MX715 came up empty - there had been at least two generational upgrades since that model was released.

A search for a suitable repair company proved a joke - despite advertising "we repair all inket printers" or words to that effect, the three companies I called didn't want a bar of it - not enough money in repairing home-use printers I guess.  I eventually tracked down a Canon service agent via a call centre in Manila.  Amazingly it was just round the corner in the same suburb, but, not surprisingly the quote was $165 for labour, plus the replacement spare part ($60). I checked - the latest model multifunction unit is costs $139.  

Direct Office Machines clearly advertise Pixma repairs on their site, but would not take my multifunction in for repair...
I'm sure many of you have been there - but my problem was the veritable stockpile of ink cartridges  I 'd got on the cheap.  The new multifunction units take a new type of ink tank - of course. They look very similar in shape and size - but they are not the same. Doesn't that piss you off?  Inkjet inks were recently quoted as being one of the most expensive liquids on the planet, dwarfing the per volume cost of many famous perfumes.  It's become a market that's very carefully guarded.  

In 2014 the global inket ink market was worth over $6 billion whereas the overall market (inks, printers and media) was valued around US$33 billion - which is forcasted to rise above $60 billion by 2019 - so you can appreciate Canon and Epson were never going to listen to my complaints about ink costs, or anyone else for that matter. 

Remember the propaganda put out by Epson and Canon a few years back trying to discredit the quality of generic inks, including adding digital chips into the cartridges to prevent other vendor's products being used in the printer?  Admittedly some of the earlier refill products were dodgy but now I think most quality refills are actually very good - I have been using them for years and have been very happy with the results.  Generics might not perform 100% the same as a genuine ink, but at $9.50 versus $27.50, per cartridge, I'm quite prepared to bring my expectations down 5% to save a bucket load of cash over the period of a year or so.

Years ago, whenever I was invited to a press launch of a new printer range, I used to take the opportunity to berate the producer, usually Canon, for the high cost of inks. 

I travel to Japan a lot and there, inks for the same model printers are about $10, less than half the price charged here.  When asked, Canon's take on that was because the printers themselves were expensive compared to Aus.  Not so, in fact, at the time I did a lot of research on the topic and discovered that they were usually the same price, or cheaper.  Sad truth is that in this market, among many others, we are being royally shafted at every possible opportunity.  Though I'm talking about the inkjet market, we all know this is a familiar story when it comes to many other prices overseas.

We keep buying the stuff at ridiculous over-inflated prices so companies continue flooding the retail market with new products that, frankly, we really don't need.  Wouldn't it be nice to have an inkjet printer that lasts 10 years?

At the end of the day, once again, thanks to Wholesale Toners, I got a full refund on my ink mountain and a new printer for $89.

Small wonder brand name cartridges cost $27 each.

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