October 21, 2005
The next time you dig into your pocket for $40 or $50 to buy a couple of cartridges for your inkjet printer, just remember -- the printer manufacturers don't enjoy charging such outrageous prices. They're only doing it to make you happy. Really. HP said so yesterday when it sued Cartridge World for supposedly violating a patent on its ink formulation.
The article included a quote from Pradeep Jotwani, senior vice president of supplies for the company's printing group: "HP spends millions of dollars annually in R&D to create innovations that benefit our customers, and we are rigorous in our protection of this investment." Thanks, Mr. Jotwani. Could you maybe be, like, oh, 50 percent less rigorous?If ink cartridges cost about half of what they do, I think I'd probably spend just about the same amount of money on them as I do now, but I'd be a whole lot happier with my HP PSC 1610 printer because I'd get a whole lot more use out of it. And I might even consider buying one of your snappy new PhotoSmart 8250s I recently saw such a favorable article about. Forgive me, Mr. Jotwani, if I harbor the unworthy suspicion that you're a lot less interested in protecting my interests than you are in maintaining margins on your cartridges that look like they should make your business more profitable than bank robbery. There has been a spate of stories in recent months that try to illustrate the price of inkjet ink. The British Consumer Association's Which? magazine published an article that said a color HP cartridge costs $50 (actually, it said £29) or (put another way) £1.70 ($3) per millilitre. That, the article said, is seven times more expensive than the cost of vintage Champagne: A 1985 Dom Perignon costs 29p per millilitre. (The math is a little fuzzy -- actually it's only about six times more expensive -- but the point is made.) The Chicago Sun-Times published a story recently that said if you filled your car's gas tank with inkjet ink it would cost you $175,000. It doesn't say what kind of car or what kind of ink, which mostly just proves Mark Twain's point that there three kinds of untruths -- lies, damn lies, and statistics. The relevant point was made in a New York Times article on "Why Do-It-Yourself Photo Printing Doesn't Add Up." The conclusion? It's still cheaper to get your photos printed at the drugstore than it is to print them at home. You could change that, Mr. Jotwani, all by yourself. You could actually benefit your customers, rather than just making PR statements and using lawsuits to protect your profits when you can't compete legitimately in the marketplace.
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