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Sunday, July 6, 2014


Our ancient Dell J740 inkjet printer flaked out the other day. Note my terminology. It didn't 'break' or 'quit working'. We replaced the black ink cartridge and the computer started complaining, something about how the printer couldn't recognize the new cartridge. I fooled with it for about an hour (jump through hoops, cycle the power, pull and plug cartridges, Google, research, read) all to no avail, so I went to Amazon and ordered a new Epson for $60. Yes, I could have spent more time with it, and yes, it is possible that I might have been able to get it working, but how much is my time worth? And how long would it be before it flaked out again and I would have to jump through these hoops all over again? No, thank you. I'm tired of that.
    I think we probably got our money's worth out of it, especially since (if I recall correctly) that it was a freebie that came with the computer. Never mind that it probably cost us a quarter for ink every time we  printed a page that we could actually use. Most sheets that come out of a printer are a waste because
  • something went wrong and
  • your printed the wrong thing, or
  • it came out too small, or
  • too large, or it
  • printed all 17 pages when you only wanted page 7, or
  • it was a test page because it was being stupid, or
  • you tried to print when you knew you were low on ink and one cartridge ran out in the middle of the page. 
Of course, how do you know when you need to replace the cartridge? I mean it starts warning you that you  are low on ink after you have printed three pages, so how much ink is actually left? Is there enough for one page or ten? Or even 20? Who knows? Print until it goes bad, which given the low volume of printing we do could be six months or more. Stupid printers, they should never run out of ink.
We have had the old printer for at least ten years, which is beyond ancient in terms of today's technology. Dell quit selling cartridges for it a few years ago. Since then I've had to resort to fly-by-night outfits on Ebay. That's not really fair, making a disparaging remark like that, the cartridges I got that way all worked, and were probably cheaper than what Dell used to charge. Well, until this one, but I don't think it was the cartridges fault. I think it was just the printer's time to roll over and go to printer heaven.
The new printer is wireless, which means I don't need a printer cable, though it still needs a power cable. It also means I had to root around for the password for our wireless router. Fortunately I knew where I could find it as I had to go through this same rigamarole a few weeks ago for another piece of electronic crap, er, gizmo.

The new printer is also a scanner, like most printers are these days, which might come in handy. Or it might just lead to wasting hours trying to accomplish something that could be done in five minutes with a pen and a stamp.

Old printer on top of boxes from new one.

As typical, the printer was packed in a box by Epson and then that box was packed in another box by Amazon. I'm looking at this situation and I'm wondering how does anyone make any money off of this? Packing materials are not free, especially if you are buying new material by the truckload rather that trying to pack one sweater to send to your nephew in a box that held your latest electronic gizmo from Amazon.

Then there's:
  •  the little bits that come with the printer, like the owners manual, and quick setup poster, and the CD. Now admittedly, if you are buying these things in lots of ten thousand, the price per item is pretty low, but we are still talking nickels, not pennies. 
  • shipping, shipping across the ocean in a container with ten thousand of his (or is it her?) fellow printers, and shipping from the warehouse to my door, which is probably a hundred times more expensive.
  • warehousing, which means unpacking the container and putting the boxes on shelves in the warehouse.
  • interest on the money used to build the printer until it is sold.
I'm thinking Epson is probably only getting about half the retail price for the actual printer. Thank God for Chinese slave labor and for Chairman Mao holding the value of the yuan artificially low.

I wonder how long it will be before printers come pre-packaged with a lifetime supply of paper, ink and power. Set the package that Fed-Ex delivered on your desk. Don't bother unpacking, the package is the printer. Do some hocus pocus to get your computer to talk to your new printer, and then print until it dies. Unpack the new one that arrived this morning, because the old printer knew it was about to die and automatically ordered it's replacement. Consume, consumer, consume!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Like you, I was pleased to not have to replace a printer until after its 10th birthday - with an all-in-one HP DeskJet F2210 that cost $24 in 2009. However, Hunky Husband just replaced his HP LaserJet 4M that had already celebrated its 20th birthday (working great with his old computer but didn't play nicely with his new computer) with an all-in-one HP LaserJet Pro400.

You and I probably won't have 20 years with our latest purchases, eh? (Of course, at age 76, I don't expect to get to celebrate it if my printer lasts to 2029!)