Why Printers Are The Worst : Planet Cash : NPR

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Hewlett-Packard Co. ink cartridges will be on display at the J&R Music World store in New York, USA on Wednesday, February 18, 2009.

Andrew Harr / Bloomberg via Getty Images

DeLores Williams still remembers the day her printer stopped working. It was a Saturday in September 2016. As so often, she went to her home office to print photos of her grandchildren. But when she clicked Print, she didn’t hear her printer working. At last it was time. But what came out were splotches of color.

Other people across the country have had similar problems. In addition, they all had printers from the same company, HP.

Williams called HP Customer Service. She spent hours with them on the phone fixing bugs. Once, she says, they even told her to buy a new printer that they would sell at a discount.

But there was nothing mechanically wrong with Williams’ printer. The problem she had was human made and committed by HP itself. It should keep pulling them back to get more printer ink.

Printing companies have a special business model. They sell printers – those marvels of modern engineering and technology – at extremely affordable prices. The reason they can do this is because they are making the money elsewhere: ink sales. Printer ink prices are exceptional. At times the price per ounce has surpassed the Russian caviar or the fancy champagne.

With margins like this, it’s easy for third-party ink sellers to undercut printer companies’ price. And that’s a problem for the printer companies. They went to great lengths to prevent their customers from entering their contests.

On the show today: printer companies’ decades-long search for more ink.

You can read Cory Doctorow’s article here.

Music: “Groove Safari Archeology”, “Successful Secrets”, “Collectible Kicks” and “Smooth Return”.

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