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The Truth Behind Ink & Toners


Today's modern home and office printers are predominately based on one of two popular technologies, Laser or Inkjet. While manufacturers of printers will play up the assumption that the cost printers evolve around the machine, the true cost of printers is not in the printers, but in the supplies. With either technology, the cost of the ink and toners, are usually one half the cost of the printer or more. But if you stop to consider, it's difficult to come to the conclusion that more than half the cost to manufacture a printer would be the printer cartridge. Especially considering that more and more of the cartridges you buy as the printer gets older, including ones sold as OEM, will be remanufactured empties that get recycled. Yes, even original equipment manufacturers remanufacture and resell the cartridges. The only difference is that OEM's don't discount or distinguish between first run and remanufactured cartridges.

It all seems like a bit of slight of hand trickery. How did a whole industry conspire to build their profit model around something that some may see as being a bit underhanded? The truth is it's nothing new. The "razor and blades" model has been around for over a hundred years. Have you ever gotten a free razor in the mail? Back around the turn of the century (from 1800's to 1900's) King Camp Gillette invented the safety razor. But rather than sell razors and refill blades on a fixed mark up from cost, Gillette came up with the novel idea of giving away the razor handles and then selling the blades at a very high profit margin. The blades cost little to produce, but it would be something that the customer would have to buy over and over again throughout the life of the razor, making up for the initial cost of the handle and creating a steady flow of income for the company.

The profit model for modern printers is based on this same basic idea, they give away the printer at an extremely low margin or even at a loss but make up for it in years of ink and toner sales. But you can't really blame the manufacturers. When the average consumer shops, they generally just look at the initial, "out-the-door" price. Just give it some thought. If you were shopping for a new laser printer and you saw two competing models with comparable features from comparably reputable brands, if one were selling for 1150 and the other were 1350, you would probably buy the 1150 model all things being equal. But they would not be equal, because the replacement cartridges for the cheaper model would be 180 and the cartridges for the other would be 130.

Assuming you went through a cartridge a month, after a year, you would have spent a third more on the cheaper printer. Since they are similar printers, if we assume the manufacturers production costs are the same, the manufacture who sold you the cheaper printer not only got the sale, but made much more money in the long run. The manufacturer of the more expensive printer would just be left with a lot of unsold inventory. So, it makes little sense for any manufacturer in this industry not to play this game.

So is there any way around it? Actually, there is. Thankfully, though it is illegal due to patent restrictions for third party manufacturers to produce new copies of cartridges for printers made by other manufacturers, there is no restriction that would stop a company from collecting depleted cartridges, breaking them down to their individual parts, replacing worn or broken parts and remanufacturing them to the original manufacturers specifications filled with fresh new ink or toners. It is an accepted practice in the industry and as I stated earlier, even most original manufacturers of printers will also practice this. Why do you think they include a return label in the box? Being environmentally responsible is a great argument, but the truth is, including a label and having you pay to return your cartridges to them, fits well into their production models.

It is such a widely accepted practice, that every major office supply distributor carries their own brand of remanufactured inks and toners that they order as private labels from third party remanufacturing companies. They will even have collection points in their stores to feed back empties into their system. However, few are willing to bring you ink and toners at price points comparable to Monoprice. Monoprice offers you the best prices for remanufactured cartridges that are rebuilt from the ground up from collected original manufacturers' empties.

This doesn't just apply to inks and toners either. Many retailers also follow a similar model to the "razor and blades"in the form of the "loss leader"pricing model. They will sell you computers, television and other electronics at low prices and then pile on the extras at inflated prices. Monoprice, brings you cables, mounts, adapters, accessories and more all far below what you would expect to pay at the brick and mortar stores, breaking the cycle of getting consumers on the back end.