Ink Cartridges Are A Scam


Okay, there’s a story. Flashback almost a decade ago, I’m working at an unnamed telemarketing centre as a “technical support assistant” for an unnamed computer company’s laptop division. Y’know when you call customer support and nine times out of ten the person you’re connected to is from a different country, and you can’t understand them, and they can’t understand you? I was that one time in ten when you’d reach somebody from the States and actually get the help you needed much faster. And you might have noticed – if you’ve ever had the misfortune of ever calling into technical support – that they spend around 20% of the time actually fixing your problem and about 80% of the time…trying to sell you stuff. That’s because they’re trained to. The tech company you purchased that laptop from also needs to sell other products to stay afloat, often times overpriced mouses, backup drives… Antivirus software is a big one because it’s easy to get computer-illiterate folks to buy into; Anything to make an extra buck while trying to fix the broken thing that you’ve already shelled out many for. So anyway, one day, I’m sitting at my desk, getting yelled at by an irate customer from Georgia and a note comes across my computer’s alert system. Every few weeks the manufacturer has to liquidate old products, because they’re about to get replaced by new models, and it was our job to try to sell these old products at full retail price to customers unaware they were about to go on sale. A bit shady, but par for the course. The Georgia dude eventually hung up on me and a second later I was connected to a woman in Nevada who had a really simple question: She had just purchased her laptop and she didn’t know how to install her word processor. I quickly walk her through the process, chatting her up to see if I can sell her something, and I learn that she’s about to head to her freshman year of college. [Posh accent] “COLLEGE, you say? Well, dear madam, have you a PRINTER to produce HARD COPIES of all the ENGLISH ESSAYS you’ll be writing?” (I…didn’t actually ask her like that.) “Oh, I…hadn’t thought about getting my own printer.” “WELL THEN, I can order a model this MORNING and have it delivered RIGHT to your DORM on the MORROW!” So I pulled up our internal store page and accessed the printer section. So, a quick little ditty about that page: When I, the tech agent, pulled up a product I was presented with two prices, one in red and one in black. The black number was the retail price: This is how much you would sell the product for over the phone. The red number was the manufacturing price: In other words, how much it cost the company to make that product. Now, why did it tell us this figure, I have no idea. I think it had something to do with the fact that the bookkeeping folks used the same internal system as the retail folks? I-I don’t know, I’m sorry, I get distracted a lot. So I’m scrolling through the different printer models and talking to the girl about all the various features that each one of them offers and at the bottom of my screen I catch a glimpse of replacement ink cartridges and my jaw drops. We were selling packages of standard capacity multi-colour ink cartridges for $59.95, and the cost of manufacturing? 23 cents! I was stunned. I mean, so stunned that I put the Nevada girl on hold and called my supervisor over. I pointed at the screen and asked him, “is that really the cost of manufacturing?” He took a glance at the screen, laughed, then nodded, “yyyyyyyup.” I looked at him in disbelief. “That’s a total scam!” And he said, “Eh. What can you do about it.” Which leads us to today. Today, I am doing something about it. So this is an ink cartridge, and inside of it is printer ink, the most expensive liquid in the world, right behind king cobra venom, scorpion venom, Chanel number five, insulin, and mercury. So first, some disclosure, I’m only gonna be hating on inkjet printers like this one. Laser printers get a pass. This is my mom’s printer. This is about the fifth one that I’ve bought this week. It excels in two areas: Number 1, the ink cartridges always need to be replaced, and number 2, it’s always broken. Seriously, this thing worked for like a hot minute and then I started getting the good ol’ white lines everybody and their cousins probably experienced. I called up technical support myself and the first question they asked me was, “have you replaced the ink cartridges recently?” So let’s talk about the wonderful scam of ink cartridges. Here’s the inside of one of these babies. Pretty easy to manufacture, just some plastic bits, the ink goes here, but they market for about 50 bucks. Now the line that we’re fed is simple: “Ink cartridges are expensive because ink technology is expensive.” HP reportedly spends $1 billion annually to develop printing technology, but what really has changed about these fellows in that time? Actually, not much. Like I said, plastic shell filled with ink. Turns out all that technology is housed in here. Ever notice how these cost usually cost the same amount as these? Doesn’t that seem insane? Well, what if I told you that it was all in the design? You might not know it, but most printers are sold at a loss, and the money is made back from the cost of printer ink. This is a marketing ploy known as the “Razor & Blades Model”, where one item is sold at a low price in order to increase sales of the complementary good, which is often a consumable that must continually be resupplied. In a nutshell, “give ’em the razor, sell ’em the blades.” The ploy here is, “give ’em the printer, sell ’em the ink.” Mark up the price of the consumable, and before too long, the printer itself is paid for. But, turns out the methods used to recoup those costs haven’t always been so noble. Right, so tonnes of ink cartridges are manufactured with this little chip on them. Printer companies like to tell us that this little thing’s purpose is to “monitor the quality of the ink!” “The chip lets you know when your printer is running low on a particular colour!” “The chip can facilitate firmware updates to improve performance!” All of this is baloney. The chip is designed to get you to spend more money. For example, say you’re running low on cyan ink. The chip will tell the printer to stop operating, Even if every other colour type is full, until that single colour is replaced. But here’s the rub: A lot of the time the chip says you’ve got low ink, you actually don’t. False low ink notifications are really, really, common. In fact, the next time you get one you might find that if you take the cartridge and perform a little techno-voodoo to reset the chip, you’ll actually have plenty of ink still inside. What gives?! Imagine if your car’s gas tank had a chip inside of it that forced the vehicle to stop operating completely once you hit half a tank. There would be rioting in the streets because as a consumer, you should have the right to drive that sucker until it’s bone-dry and then refill it at your convenience, right? Well, what if like cars, I could refill my ink cartridges after they’re empty? OhohohoHO, the chip is designed to prevent that as well. Many printing companies designed their chips to detect when the consumer was attempting to refill a used cartridge, and it responded by – you guessed it – disabling the printer completely. In fact, just last year, a major court case over that very issue between Impression Products and Lexmark went all the way to the top and the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the little guy, reaffirming a consumer’s right to repair and modify products after they’ve been purchased. It makes no sense that something like that had to go to the highest court in the land, but in the printing world, exploitation of consumers is the rule of the day. For example, did you know that many printers purposely mix a little cyan ink into every black and white document you print? That’s right, wile you’re thinking, “hey, I’ll just print black and white to save my colour cartridges”, printers are designed to use a bit of colour without telling you, and as we’ve mentioned before, if even one of those cartridges registers as low ink, the entire machine is disabled. [Crowd goes “oh”] Oh, but the companies say this extra little bit of colour gives it a “purer black”. [Distant] “That’s not how it works?!” Oh, and whatever you do, don’t try to circumvent any of these things or if your printer breaks, attempt to make any repairs, because most manufacturers will void your warranty the second you start tinkering around in the internal components. And believe you me, they’ll break. Again, and again, and again. Printer heads will be misaligned, dirty, damaged, dead-on-arrival, and for every diagnostic you run, every test page you print, you’ll be using up those lovely ink cartridges more and more and more and more. You literally get to pay to make sure the thing you’ve already bought still works on a regular basis. Isn’t that great?! Yes, no matter what company you go with, all of printers suffer from the same eye-gouging issues: The ink costs too much, it always needs to be replaced, the printers always have driver issues, wireless never works, the interface on every model is impossible to figure out… Personally, I think it’s time we said enough. Enough with paying a ridiculous amount of money for a product that costs next to nothing to manufacture, a product that doesn’t work half the time, and the other half when it does work, it’s restricted by the manufacturer to make sure you can’t get full use out of it. A product that changes yearly. A product that is designed to stop working and force customers to purchase another product, even if there’s nothing broken about the product in question! Take this thing, for instance. This is my mom’s printer; she uses it to print letters. It wasn’t printing them right so she went out and spent 60 bucks on new ink cartridges thinking that would fix the problem, and after struggling for a day figuring out to install the bloody things, she tried printing the letter again, but the problem still wasn’t fixed. I got to hear about it over the phone. So then I drive about half an hour to get the printer and take it home where I waste the rest of the new cartridges’ ink to run a bunch of inconclusive diagnostics to try and figure out why it’s not printing correctly. By the time I determine that the printer has a common yet for some reason unrepairable hardware issue I discover the cheapest option is to just order a replacement, but I CAN’T order a replacement, because they update their printer models each year, so now I have to go buy the new-and-improved model, and I can’t use the old ink cartridges in this new-and-improved model because the new-and-improved model uses a whole different ink cartridge type, so I have to spend another $50 on these new-and-improved ink cartridges (which, it turns out, just have a slightly longer piece of plastic on the inside) and by the time I get this new and improved printer ready, I discover the new-and-improved printer’s drivers aren’t compatible with my mom’s computer, so I’ve got to go on the printing company’s obtuse website and use their auto-detect tool (which doesn’t work) to try and find a driver that IS compatible, and in order to locate the compatible driver by hand, I have to determine if she’s using a computer that runs on a 32-bit operating system or a 64-bit operating system, which many of you at this point may realise, is not the kind of information that moms usually know the answer to, so by the time we figure THAT all out, and get the printer working properly, we’re left with an obvious question: Why is this still a problem in the 21st century? We shot a CAR into SPACE. I’ve been waiting to do this for a while… [Sighs] That felt better. We can do this, people. Together. Share this video today, and start a revolution. Tell these companies that enough is enough, we want affordable ink, we want printers that work, and we want printers that last. Think I knicked my cheek. Thanks to these Patreon backers for their continued support. Do you want to find more content like this? Then…look harder. I dunno.

100 Replies to “Ink Cartridges Are A Scam

  1. Merriam-Webster backs me up, you goobers.
    “plural; mouses : a small mobile manual device that controls movement of the cursor and selection of functions on a computer display” ✌🏻

  2. 0————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–0

  3. Wow you just blew my mind. I've been having so much printer trouble recently and now I know just to smash my printer into bits.

  4. my old Canon MP830 still works…the screen died, but it prints fine. I just have to control it from the PC. I bought it used for 20 bucks. It batch scans in great quality, too. 'never bought retail ink. I thought I was getting a good deal at 10 bucks a set, but this video helped me realize that it could potentially be much cheaper with the Reset Switch.
    I think I bought it in 2007 or 2008.
    My roomie used to sell electronics and she said that the Canons were the only decent printers.

  5. I figured they were marking up the cost of ink considerably, but, wtf?! That’s a HUGE mark up!!! 😱😱😱

  6. Go ahead. Tell them you're fed up and not going to take it – then they'll look at their sales figures and wipe the tears of laughter with all the cash their detractors sent their way. Like EA, they will only care as long as they stop making money. what are you going to do, buy another company's printer? (Also, no, most laser printers are the same with the chip and stuff – and not all ink jets are the same, but Brother printers are embracing the profit and so I can't recommend them as much anymore – it is too convoluted to figure which ones are unchipped.)

    Still, keep fighting the useless fight. They'll surely listen to your complaints while paying out a huge bonus to them with the cash you still spend on their products. (So maybe do a video where you recommend consumer friendly printers to buy – if there are any.)

  7. We could start a black market for ink cartridges that are sold at reasonable prices that have chips that tell you when your actually out of ink

  8. … so ehat if I make a printer that is cheap and simple, and sell the ink at a way lower price (like 5 bucks a pack) making it so more people print, use more ink, get others to switch to my printer, and make a printer monopoly…. after which the prices will shoot up because I am a power hungry money hoarding bastard and I will get rich 😀

  9. Just buy the cheap one and when ink runs out, simply return it and say it quit working. Get a replacement and use its ink up. Return for refund and go to next box store. Rinse and repeat. I haven't bought a printer or ink in years using this method.

  10. I mean, now we know but that changes nothing. I still need to print those damn documents.
    I'll just print them in a library, I guess.

  11. Here's the new line some people are using: "Printer ink costs so much in order to discourage people from wasting paper and leveling rain forests." So it's basically a non-government tax being imposed by for-profit corporations to curb human behavior.

  12. I was more than happy to receive a very old printer from my aunt many years ago, because I got 2 extra ink casettes!!! And guess what: Still working nicely, and haven't spend a penny!

  13. I figured this out about 15 to 20 years ago. I then started going to thrift stores and buying the the HP Laserjet 1020's and other like models for less than $10.00 each. No secret chips, no drying up of printheads, no stupid fault messages. I can live without color printing. I buy cheap refill laser cartriges for less than $20. I have 3 of these HP1020's sitting on a shelf. I thought they might wear out or break so I bought several. So far in 20 YEARS THE FIRST ONE I BOUGHT IS STILL WORKING! Well spent $7.50. Got it on 1/2 price sale day at the thrift store. LOL all the way to the bank! (P.S. Some of the printers had nearly full cartridges in them!)

  14. I've discovered every single thing you've mentioned in this video myself.
    I always felt alone.
    I love that you made this video.

    Guess what I do?
    I buy black but inject food coloring for the other colors. It works. I'm not recommending it to anyone, I just need the prints for school stuff. But it works.

  15. In asia we make printer mods, create ink tank outside printer so you can print above normal capacity, even some other create reseter too for counter printer, nowdays these printer manufacture follow to create outside tank for sell more printer because cant afford modder who sell package only 20-30 dollars 😁

  16. Thank you! I'm currently at an impasse with my HP because THEY DISABLED THE INK CARTRIDGE REMOTELY when I pulled out of their auto ink system. My Brother ran out of ink immediately after putting new cartridges in. Don't really know what to do!!!!

  17. Imagine if someone were to produce a printer that used ink cartridges that costed a dollar… Imagine the number of people who would buy that…

  18. I refused to buy another printer after my grand new brother model in 2013 broke less than a year after buying it. Epson was a better one

  19. I just ordered 10 remanufactured ink cartridges on Amazon for my Epson printer for $18.78. The same 10 cartridges ordered through Epson would have cost me $232.70.

  20. I don't know if this is because of Brazilian legislation, or anything, but I got an HP inkjet printer that's already, idk… 10 years old, and it's working just fine. The cartridges are alright and when they get empty, it's real empty, like no matter what you do ink doesn't come out of it empty. They're not very expensive, and the printer never stopped working for a lack of cartridge, it just tells me "your ink is low", but continues printing until eventually the pages start to come out completely white. I also only ever instal the black cartridge cause I don't print in colors on the inkjet, and it just keeps working fine. Never had a driver problem, despite my driver being old as fuck, and never had the white stripe problem while the cartridge is still new. Seriously, this only ever happens when the ink is almost over. I've had all the problems you described in the video with other brands, like epson and canon, but this HP one has been the best printer I've had so far and it just never failed on me 🙂 (I feel like somehow i just jinxed myself really bad by typing this comment, but what's done is done now lol)

  21. There's no reset button on the ink cartridge, I have the exact same cartridges, where you put the paper clip there is nothing to push

  22. 5.555.333 Views and a Thumbs Up from me.
    I threw my last printer out a decade ago. When I really need to print something, I use the internet cafe. Those still exist, and hopefully they will for longer than those pesky consumer ink printers.

  23. This is almost as interesting as the tax on toilet paper. Good old wiping my ass with money for an additional fee stacked on top.

  24. My parents had the same issue with our ovens. We had one over we used 99% of the time, and the other oven 1% of the time. The oven we mostly used had issues with the computer chip, and 2 months later, the oven we never use has the same issue. Like they were timed to blow

  25. I knew these facts 15 years ago. Anyone who dealt with printers in the past and has had to replace cartridges or repair the "old" printer can tell what's going on. First time I found out about this was in 2004 when I opened a brand new, newly purchased ink cartridge, wasn't working with the printer even though I spent days finding out the correct models. Internet back then was a far cry from what it is today. So when the printer told me that my filled up brand new ink cartridge was empty I sliced it open and lo an' behold the ink sits on one single side of the cartridge in a separate compartment and in the rest of it there lies pieces of plastic to give it weight. Also if you ever opened up a printer before you could tell that the individual pieces of hardware inside are much more expensive than the whole printer combined.

  26. I get my carts on eBay refilled with new chip for 1/4 the price of new, HP bitches about it, but you bypass it and move on. Doing that for years now, still have the same printers.

  27. Interesting vid.
    They've got us over a F-king barrel. I was gob-smacked once when I couldn't 'fool' my printer in to functioning in b/w, just because I was out of colour. Tried everything. This is what's topping up the world's land-fill sites..

  28. i agree with everything you said except the part about mixing cyan into blacks and whites. ive been painting for 10 years and i always mix a dab of blue into my blacks and whites to mess get certain saturation. Great video except,

    That is how color works….

  29. I've got hp instant ink where they basically supply the ink for a set number of pages, and oh my god it is so much cheaper!

  30. Dude, Go buy a cannon ts3100 from walmart. And never look back. You can refill the 243 244 245/xl 246/xl and its super user friendly. I own one and on a 245xl black printed 500 pages (onesided). And i can refill that cartridge for a 3 pack refill kit on amazon for like 8 bucks multiple times using a razor knife and some tweezers.

  31. Once my parents went to the store to buy more ink cartridges and they came back with a brand new printer that came pre-filled with ink because it was $20 less than a single black ink cartridge.

  32. I just have to wonder – what can we do? I mean we can't stop buing printers, right? I wish you would talk about the not original – ink cartridges out there. what about photo printers – do they really make a difference?

  33. Damn.. It makes me really angry that I'm only finding about this now; after buying 3 printers when I was in college (because yes they somehow always end up getting broken; not to mention the freaken cartridges that cost ugggh) but yea, definitely sharing this enlightening truth.

  34. Can you do a video about how Comcast is a scam, the government is a scam, Microsoft is a scam, Apple is a scam, Google is a scam, Pharmaceuticals are a scam, health and car insurance is a scam, etc

  35. The worst is Canon that uses two different black cartdriges IN THE SAME PRINTER. And when one of them is empty, it DOESN’T USE THE OTHER ONE AND YOU CAN’T PRINT.

  36. I've put a hammer to a new mobile phone that refused to work…yep, life is too short, tech stuff has One job to do and that is to work…Full marks to this vid..boycott the the crap scammy electronic stuff (if you can, tough old long research road is this)

  37. The only things I can think of to say about the printer manufacturers violates Google's code of conduct and is in no way respectful in any way whatsoever.

  38. In japan, you just go into one of the 24/7 convenience stores that are average 5 minutes from your home, and you can print, scan, fax, laminate, do everything.

  39. Just bought a printer with 20 refilled cartridges for 80 bucks. Will throw it away and buy another one when it's used up. It is the only thing that works.

  40. I love what you're portraying in your video.
    But i have a question.
    Don't you stop and breathe in between sentences?
    I can't breathe listening to you.

  41. It's a logical consequence of selling printers with a LOSS.
    The first Epson Stylus Colour 500 cost ƒ1.100.- (that's €500.-)
    Today we buy colour inkjet printers for €39.95-€69.95
    This means they would have to sell for €440-460 of INK to compensate for the LOSS they make on the printers. A lot of people buy a printer for €39.95 and recycle it when it runs out of ink and buy a new one. Just look at what this business policy does to the environment. We are creating JUNK. I switched to laser printers some years ago. They are not without problems (if you buy a color laserjet), but after my HP started malfunctioning I switch to the cheapest black and white Samsung and… NO PROBLEMO. (I only really need it for texts). I think I paid €69.- for it years ago.

  42. moral of the story: buy an ancient usb-only printer that doesn't connect to the internet so it can never be remotely disabled for using non official cartridges

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *