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HP & Staples Collude On $8,000/Gallon Ink? 442

Posted by kdawson
from the that's-no-razor-blade dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "HP and Staples are facing an anti-trust lawsuit over replacement printer cartridges. According to the lawsuit, HP paid Staples $100 million to refuse to stock competing ink cartridges. HP could make that back in short order when you consider that printer ink can cost $8,000 per gallon and certain printers deceive users to waste as much as 64% of their ink."
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HP & Staples Collude On $8,000/Gallon Ink?

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  • by Jack Malmostoso (899729) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:12AM (#21750440)
    Prices of various liquids per mL:
    http://eatliver.com/i.php?n=2648 [eatliver.com]
    As Jeremy Clarkson noted in Top Gear: the fact that oil companies extract oil, refine it, distribute it all for a few cents a liter is actually amazing. Gasoline is extremely cheap!
  • by dsginter (104154) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:13AM (#21750452)
    Just ask Canon about the failure of their Wifi printers - you could not buy them at *any* retail store (or even Dell, which carried the rest of Canon's lineup) because the printer did not enable the retailer to sell the $30 USB cables.
    • by Kranfer (620510) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:16AM (#21750474) Homepage Journal
      When I worked at best Buy I remember us having wireless canon printers for a short time. I know we always had the HP Wireless printers as well. But Best Buy always seems to pull them quickly cause the only things we could sell with it were paper and ink... no cable :( The 08975123908475239048% markup on USB cables was just that important... although I knew when I left Worst buy that I should have purchased a shit load of USB Cables... they were like 75 cents on my discount at the time. No idea how much they are now, I heard the discount went south int he last few years.
      • by ZorinLynx (31751)
        Don't the printers come with USB cables? Why would anyone buy them?

        • by DeeQ (1194763)
          I don't think I have bought a printer that has come with a cable. Most of the time the box doesn't say one isn't included. Granted the printers I buy are the cheapos for 25-30 bucks but ive gone threw 3 so far and none came with a USB cable for it. I'm not sure if this is the case for most printers but It makes sense. It gives the retailer a chance to mark something up without making the printer more expensive.
          • by jacksonj04 (800021) <nick@nickjackson.me> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:55AM (#21750772) Homepage
            It makes sense if you think about it. If your printer is a replacement, you already have a USB cable so there's no sense in you having another. Having gone through a fair few printers (They just die from use) since USB became the standard connection, I'm kinda glad. There are only so many uses for USB A-B cables.

            Yes the price of the cables themselves can be extortionate, but it's a one-off. USB connectors are very resilient by design, and if you get a decent cable from a proper parts retailer (I can get a 5m A-B for £1.49, around $3.00) it's not a problem given you're already spending 10 times that on the printer.
            • by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:07AM (#21750884) Homepage

              It makes sense if you think about it. If your printer is a replacement, you already have a USB cable so there's no sense in you having another. Having gone through a fair few printers (They just die from use) since USB became the standard connection, I'm kinda glad. There are only so many uses for USB A-B cables.


              Inkjets do indeed tend to break easily, especially cheap ones. (Some of HP's expensive ones have a rather strong proclivity to die early as well.)

              Old Laser printers, on the other hand, tend to last forever. I've had the same HP Laserjet 5P since 1995, and even with heavy daily use, it's showing no signs of breaking or becoming obsolete. As an added bonus, the toner cartridges can last for years on end depending upon how much you print.

              It was a rather expensive printer in its day, but it's undoubtedly paid for itself many times over.
              • by Anne Honime (828246) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:22AM (#21751006)

                Inkjets do indeed tend to break easily, especially cheap ones.
                I had to put a Deskjet 520 (1993 vintage) in early retirement last year. I lubed some parts once because it was becoming noisy, and I had to clean the small sponge that collects spilled ink once too. It was still going strong, but alas, slowly ; so I bought a Brother laser to replace it. It's in storage now, after 14 years of good use, and by the look of it it might have gone another 14 years without any problem.
        • printers rarely come with a usb cable. I have had more printers come with ethernet cables than I have had USB cables, and i have opened a good 200 at this point.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by jank1887 (815982)
          common reason given: the printer manufacturer doesn't know how long of a cable you'll need, so come over to Aisle 3 and we'll show you all of the different options available... translation: we're severely pricecutting the printers to make them competitive because it locks you into a long cycle of ink purchases. But, while we're at it, lets gouge the unsuspecting customer on a USB cable too. It helps us shave $0.50 in cost off the printer, and more often than not we can sell a grossly overpriced one to g
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      the printer did not enable the retailer to sell the $30 USB cables.
      Who the hell pays $30 for a USB cable? I've got a drawer full of them that I've gotten free with various pieces of equipment over the years. They should be at most $5 and even that is high. I suppose these are the same morons who pay $60 for an HDMI cable when you can buy it on Amazon for $2.
      • by debianlinux (548082) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:29AM (#21750552)
        Little did you know that you were actually getting the equipment free with the purchase of the cable!
      • by Shakrai (717556) * on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:31AM (#21750572) Journal

        Who the hell pays $30 for a USB cable? I've got a drawer full of them that I've gotten free with various pieces of equipment over the years. They should be at most $5 and even that is high. I suppose these are the same morons who pay $60 for an HDMI cable when you can buy it on Amazon for $2.

        Who the hell buys ANY cable from a retailer like Best Buy or Circuit City? Want something worse then USB? Consider Cat5. I love seeing a 25 foot patch cord thats going for anywhere from $25-$40. $1/foot to $1.6/foot. WTF is that? I can buy a thousand feet of the shit for around $80 ($0.08/foot). Yeah, they should get some mark-up for them, but that much?

        Wanna "make friends" at a place like Best Buy or Circuit City? Wait till you see Grandma about to buy one of those cables and is being pounced on by the salesguy -- then tell her about the twenty other options for getting that cable for next to nothing. It's worth it just to see the look on the sales persons face. Wonder if they get commissions for ripping people of^W^W^Wselling those cables?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by neildiamond (610251)
          And after that, grandma still buys from them!
        • by bleh-of-the-huns (17740) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:44AM (#21750676)
          While I am no fan of the big box retailers in general, I do recognize the fact that they do have overhead costs. I worked at Compusa in the early 2k's just after the dot.bomb era (I was a victim), and while yes, cables and accessories are rediculously priced (the rounded IDE cables back then being sold for $29 actually cost around $4, which is what I paid while working there), the profit margin on laptops and PC's was ridiculously small, we are talking 1 to 3%. There has to be a balance for stores to remain viable, if they sold everyone at 2 to 5% profit, the store would be out of business in no time. This goes for any store, regardless of industry or size. So if you want cheap laptops and TV's, then yes, they have to markup something else, otherwise expect much higher prices on the primary items you purchase.

          That being said, personally, yes I bought my TV from Best Buy, was a good deal, and on sale, no I did not buy anything else from them relating to my TV as I knew I could get those things elsewhere, thats just me trying to get the best deal for myself, but I cannot get pissed off at a entity trying to remain viable and in business.
        • by skoaldipper (752281) <skoalstr8 AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:59AM (#21750816)

          Who the hell buys ANY cable from a retailer like Best Buy or Circuit City?
          Dummies like me. Spent $20 on a USB connector last night to see if I could transfer video from my DishTV to computer after I switched to Uverse.

          I guess guys like Best Buy figure there's a handful of lazy people like myself who eventually get tired of digging around in boxes for hours hunting down an old cable you swore you had at one point in time, getting distracted even further as you scrounge up and discover old 5-1/4 floppies and a Hayes baud modem with rubber ear muffles in mystery box number 23. I don't know why I cling on to this crap, but Best Buy knows me better than myself I guess.

          By the way, as I left store last night, some guy in tattered clothing with a grizzled beard was lurking in the parking lot and approached me, "Pssst. Hey, buddy. could you spare a DB9 to DB25 connector for a friend?"
          • by Hoi Polloi (522990) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:47AM (#21751886) Journal
            No, don't through that stuff out! As a true pack rat you never know when you'll need that stuff. What if your broadband connection failed and you needed to check your email, that ancient modem would be priceless (they have a dialup number, right?). You could find yourself getting an emergency call from the government asking for a circa 1991 VESA video card for a vital computer. Lives could be on the line! Keep those floppies along with those twist ties, rubber bands, expired coupons, that 340MB hard drive and half dried out paint cans and be proud to be a pack rat!
        • by MarkGriz (520778) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:25AM (#21751038)

          Wanna "make friends" at a place like Best Buy or Circuit City? Wait till you see Grandma about to buy one of those cables and is being pounced on by the salesguy -- then tell her about the twenty other options for getting that cable for next to nothing.
          So that's what nerds have been reduced to.... picking up old ladys at Best Buy with promises of cheap USB cables. *shudder*
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Basehart (633304)
            :-D I just got back from my local Best Buy after reading this and you wouldn't believe the action I got with my spare Firewire 800 cables.
      • by Albanach (527650)

        Who the hell pays $30 for a USB cable?

        Ever been out of town and found you needed a cable - USB / Firewire / Cat5?

        I may have rolls of the stuff, crimps, tools the lot, but if you're not at home, need a cable and it's 7pm you might just have to hold your nose and pay for it.

        That's not to say it doesn't stink. It does. The system is rotten that lets these stores charge this sort of markup just so they can say their printer is 49c cheaper than the next store.

        However it's not going to change any time soon, t

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          That may be true. Sometimes you just need 20 feet of cable, and you don't feel like buying 1000 ft of the stuff. What I do, is run down to my local independantly owned computer shop. While the cables aren't as cheap as buying in bulk, they are at most half the price of the big box stores.
    • I think this week's Staples ad shows a WiFi printer or two. I'd experiment to see how fast it is compared to its wired network jack or the USB port. It just doesn't seem like wireless would be a very quick way to print.

      It doesn't sound like a feature that I'd want or need, especially since I can just hook it up to my router or any network jack and be a "wireless" printer for my notebook just because it's on a network with an AP.
      • It just doesn't seem like wireless would be a very quick way to print.

        How much do you intend on printing? Anything less then 20 pages should print extremely fast to a Wifi printer (as it's going to either have an 11Mbps or 54Mbps wireless connection). Even 20+ page print jobs should print fast once the job has been spooled. And it kicks ass to be able to put the printer anywhere there's a power outlet (not being restricted by network jacks or USB cables).

    • Just ask Canon about the failure of their Wifi printers - you could not buy them at *any* retail store (or even Dell, which carried the rest of Canon's lineup) because the printer did not enable the retailer to sell the $30 USB cables.

      My daughter needed a USB cable. I found one in the local supermarket for £4. Since I needed a USB hub, I bought a four port USB hub at the same time for £5; the hub included a USB cable. And recently I bought a 2.5" USB SATA case for £13.50. That included a case, an eSATA card (I assume) to put into a computer, and a USB cable. I don't even want to think about what I would have paid at Dixons or PCWorld.

  • HP, Youa re bad, very very bad! Let Staples sell other company's ink for your printers... but on another note, I knew I missed my calling when I decided to become a programmer... Damn $8000 a gallon for ink... I wish I had about ohhh 10 gallons of ink. Its not so much to ask... blah...
  • $100 million, eh? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:14AM (#21750466) Homepage Journal
    I'm pretty sure that paying a retailer not to stock your competitors' products constitutes collusion and is a clear violation of antitrust laws. This is akin to Nike paying Wal*Mart $100 million not to stock Adidas shoes. The only thing that muddies the water a little bit is that 'compatible' inkjet cartridges violate the DMCA and probably several HP patents, and hence are illegal. Anyone know how this might affect the lawsuit?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It is not a violation of antitrust law. It is done all the time. It is only illegal only if the courts decide that Staples has monopoly power over selling ink cartridges. Staples is not even close to a monopoly.
      When was the last time you were in a food establishment that served both Pepsi and Coke products?
      Anti-competitor product clauses are very common with retailers since it tends to increase their profit margins. In many cases it simply makes sense; you do not expect the Apple store to sell PC's.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aussie_a (778472)
      How about paying a university not to stock Pepsi? Or a franchise not to stock Coke? Oh wait, both these things happen all the time. Where's the news here again?
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      I'm pretty sure that paying a retailer not to stock your competitors' products constitutes collusion and is a clear violation of antitrust laws. This is akin to Nike paying Wal*Mart $100 million not to stock Adidas shoes. The only thing that muddies the water a little bit is that 'compatible' inkjet cartridges violate the DMCA and probably several HP patents, and hence are illegal. Anyone know how this might affect the lawsuit?

      Much of this depends if the US and other countries will enforce their anti-comp

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by FatAlb3rt (533682)
      Compatible inkjet cartridges and the DMCA - yet another reason this silly piece of legislation needs to be destroyed. How is a compatible ink cartridge any different than aftermarket auto parts? I go to a parts store and have a choice of several oil filters, alternators, tires, rims, whatever for my truck. There should be nothing different about printer manufacturers - it's their own tough luck if they decided on a business model that put their entire profitability into the purchase of ink.
  • $8000/Gal? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Bai jie (653604)
    Not that I don't think that ink is severely overpriced but where did they come up with this number? Did they include the price of the cartridge that the ink comes in as well?
    • by canuck57 (662392)

      Not that I don't think that ink is severely overpriced but where did they come up with this number? Did they include the price of the cartridge that the ink comes in as well?

      They could also put 4 oz cartridges out so you don't need to buy them as often. And given it is glycol and food coloring it would only cost pennies more.

      This is a classic case of waste marketing causing expense to the consumer. You get the printer for $29 as part of your new computer. You wrestle with it until you master it enough

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by apt142 (574425)
      I don't know how they came up with the number. But if $8,000 is correct and I outsource a bit, it might be cheaper to use the blood of my enemies for ink.
  • Cheap Ink (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Herkum01 (592704) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:19AM (#21750492)

    It is only a matter of time before someone offered inexpensive ink. It was obvious that HP was taking extreme measures to prevent someone from competing in that space.

    This shows how important regulation of businesses we need to have. Too many people don't want to get involved in anything (government or otherwise). It is sad that the people who run these businesses feel they don't have to be accountable at all to anyone about how they run their business.

    • Cheap ink cartridges and ink refills have been around since the 80's and 90's, back in the days before they started chipping the cartridges. The only thing that has changed since then, is the technology that the vendors (all of them are guilty of this), that allows the vendor to lock out any "non vendor approved" ink cartridges, and tamper sensors to determine if a cartridge was refilled. Yes it sucks, and yes, it should be illegal, but currently, its not.

      Hell, I remember back in the late 80's early 90's.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CastrTroy (595695)
        I guess the only solution is for consumers to actually research the products they buy and to stop buying products that have these problems. If people didn't buy the printers, they would stop trying to sell them. We have nobody to blame for this printer mess but ourselves.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by UbuntuDupe (970646) *
      You don't assign any blame to the fact that consumers wouldn't buy from someone with an honest business model? That is, if printer makers sold you the printer at cost + markup, and ink at cost + markup, the initial cost would be high for the printer, and people wouldn't think about the savings in ink. They'd continue to buy the printers that are sold as loss leaders.

      I'm not saying you're entirely wrong -- but you do have think about the position these businesses are in.
  • by 91degrees (207121) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:20AM (#21750496) Journal
    Can be refilled. Runs cartridges until they're dry. Built like a tank.

    Wish they still made printers like that. I'd like something as robust but faster and higher resolution.
    • by morgan_greywolf (835522) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:28AM (#21750544) Homepage Journal

      Can be refilled. Runs cartridges until they're dry. Built like a tank.

      Wish they still made printers like that. I'd like something as robust but faster and higher resolution.
      Get a laser printer. :-D Seriously. They're pretty cheap these days and built like a tank. Only bad thing about lasers is color performance for photos is still, IMHO, not on par with the best inkjets, but if you're looking for robust, fast, and high resolution, laser printers are the mark. (If you need absolutely the best color performance, inkjet or dye sub.)

      • Exactly what I did, I picked up a $200 B&W HP laser printer (we don't print photo's) that works great.

        The dye sub printers, although great for photographs, have their ink issues as well. Many of the current ones (atleast those designed for photo printing) have ink and paper cartridges that come together. When you run out of paper, you have to purchase a new cartridge, regardless of whether or not you used all the ink in them. Atleast the cheaper ones I have been looking into do, and the cost, still m
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by maxume (22995)
        Depending on volume/type of color being printed, the kiosk at your local superstore can be a pretty good option, and somebody else gets to deal with the fixed cost.
      • by GreggBz (777373)
        Yes, this is very good advice, especially if you do just black and white printing.

        Color [newegg.com] ones are even pretty reasonable.

        I bought a LaserJet 4p on Ebay for something like $30 plus $20 shipping.
        It lasted almost 2 years before I had to get toner. Again, Ebay, $12.
        I print perhaps 75 pages a month.

        So total expense for 3+ years of B&W laser printing, $62. I figure I saved
        3 or 4 hundred over a comparable, slightly lower quality, slower inkjet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by FuzzyDaddy (584528)
        I got a brother HL2040 when my wife entered graduate school. The lights flicker when it's printing, but it's been going strong for a year and I've only just swapped out the partially filled toner cartridge that came with the printer with a full one. And I spent less than $200, including a new, full toner cartridge.

        I don't know why the laser printer manufacturers haven't started playing the same games as the inkjet people. Is it a historic fluke, or is there some technical or legal reason why toner isn't

    • by raddan (519638)
      Shit, dude, LaserJet 4M Plus. My company got rid of it a couple years ago, so I got to take it home. It's been complaining about low toner since Day 1 at home, but as far as I can tell, that warning is completely spurious. I've never changed the toner cartridge.

      I can set it up to work over my LAN (one downside, no DHCP, only BOOTP), via ethernet. Plus, there's a big bonus for having a printer that allows me to legitmately say "PC LOAD LETTER? What the fuck does that mean?" on a regular basis.

      There
  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:25AM (#21750524)
    Go to Cartridge World, or even Walgreens now. They will refill your ink very cheaply. You need to print a couple of pages to get the ink to come out, but after that, it is as good as new.
    • Think they haven't thought about that. Just make a cartridge that when removed and then put back in if it thinks there is more ink in it fail. Based on some experience with HP's new #2 cartridges, I think they already have done this.
  • by Ezza (413609) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:26AM (#21750530)
    When the cartridges shipped with your printer only have 10% the capacity of a new one off the shelf, to force you to buy a new one (with it's far higher profit margin), THAT is what people should be jumping up & down about.
    • by Bert64 (520050) <bertNO@SPAMslashdot.firenzee.com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:45AM (#21750680) Homepage
      And they achieve that 10% capacity by having a little inflatable bag inside the cartridge to occupy most of the space, so even if you refill them you won't get much in... You have to burst the bag.
  • by gyrogeerloose (849181) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:27AM (#21750536) Journal

    ...is printers that refuse to print a document when the level of one color of ink is low even if the document being printed doesn't use that color at all. I have an Epson that I like pretty much. It has individual cartridges for each color of ink but if, say, the cyan cartridge is empty, I can't print even if the page is nothing but black text. There's no real reason for it, it's strictly a software (or firmware) limitation put in by the manufacturer.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bert64 (520050)
      It's usually the driver...
      I have several printers that behave that way on windows and mac with the official drivers, but running unofficial drivers or using them on linux it will print increasingly light shades of grey until it runs out completely... Some will actually print with no ink, and just feed out blank sheets.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:54PM (#21752852)
        ...You _could_ be damaging your printer by doing this.

        Full disclosure : I work for Staples (albeit an overseas division, not the USA/Corperate). Hence the reason I'm not logged in - I don't want this causing me problems at work. That said, I'm probably not high enough level for that anyway. :P

        Inkjet printers (mostly) stop working when a cartridge is empty or near empty to stop air getting into the lines and heads. If air gets into them, remnants can dry up inside, effectively blocking the machine on that colour stream. The problem is more likely to occur on newer machines - the reason bieng that the higher resolutions available today require narrower heads that are easier to block.

        The problem from the manufacturers point of view is that a customer won't care _why_ their printer has 'broken', they'll just care that it has. Result? Manufacturers rely on technological measures to try and prevent the end-user from damaging the machine in the first place.

        This is also the reason that a machine will run a cleaning cycle every two or three days of it's own accord. People complain that it wastes ink - but it's the machine trying to protect itself.

        Best advice I can give you if you're looking at printers is to consider your needs. Unless you're printing photos, or onto specialist papers regularly enough to an warrant an inkjet, a laser is almost always a better alternative in the long term. A laser based machine cannot print to textured paper (it will scar the imaging drums and leave marks/lines in subsequent prints), and you need to be careful when buying photo paper - inkjet papers normally aren't heat treated, and will collapse when they go through a laser printers fuser.

        That said, laser printers are cheaper to run, lower maintenance (paper dust doesn't screw them up as badly), quieter, faster, and dont give bleedthrough on the cheap papers (ie, better prints).

        If you have to stick with an inkjet, don't buy cheap because the cheap ones are always subsidised on the inks. Certain manufacturers don't chip the cartridges (allowing you to use refills without having to modify the firmware or software environment), and Brother go so far as to tell you how to refill their cartridges in the manual.

        Integrated heads (Epson, Brother, Canon, and some newer HP printers) won't require recalibration when you change cartridges, and are less likely to give banding artifacts, but normally require a techician to replace if they go bad or reach the end of their service life.

        Replaceable heads (Most Hp printers, Lexmark, and Canon (they have integrated heads that can be user-replaced when they wear out)) require calibration on change, and are generally less suited to high-quality photo prints and the likes, but if you're printing to very rough papers, or in high dust environments, or very infrequently, will be a lot less hassle than the integrated solutions.

        Basically, use your head and you'll be fine.

        Wow that was long. :/
    • by Stonent1 (594886) <stonent@stonent. ... ark.net minus pi> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:40AM (#21750634) Journal
      Or the other one.. Expiring ink. The company I worked for used to buy ink in bulk to save money. When we started using some of those cartridges, we found out they had "Expired" and the software would refuse to let you print unless you changed the system date back to a time before the expiration date.
    • ...is printers that refuse to print a document when the level of one color of ink is low even if the document being printed doesn't use that color at all. I have an Epson that I like pretty much. It has individual cartridges for each color of ink but if, say, the cyan cartridge is empty, I can't print even if the page is nothing but black text. There's no real reason for it, it's strictly a software (or firmware) limitation put in by the manufacturer.

      When that happened to me, I asked around at work and some colleagues dads printer had just broken down, so I gave my Epson printer to him. Didn't want any money for it. The printer was replaced with the cheapest Samsung Laserprinter I could find for £50. Came with a half empty cartridge, good for 1500 pages and lasted two years. Refilled with toner for £15 which is supposed to last for 3000 pages. Never needed any cleaning of the cartridge, never needed any service, never failed to print a pag

    • This is probably one of those areas where it's never been worth anyone's time to go back and change how the drivers work.

      If you think of your print job going to an inkjet as a stream instead of as a collection of page objects it may make more sense - that's what they originally were and probably still are, which is why you can print high-resolution graphics without having any significant amount of RAM in the printer. Sure you can add the equivalent of full-page buffering in the driver, and some of them prob
  • Wow, I think I last used a personal printer around the same time I last used a floppy, 1998 maybe? :) I remember buying a cheapo ($10, couldn't pass it up) inkjet a couple of years ago just to have one and never once used the darn thing. Now I have used the one at work a couple of times to print airline boarding passes but that's about it.
  • I recently bought a digital camera that included a photo printer as part of the package. I was shocked to see that the included ink cartridge was listed as containing 2.5 ml of ink. That's about 1500 ink cartridges per gallon. I wish I had a racket like that.
  • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:31AM (#21750580) Homepage Journal
    Since I run a small print shop for churches, we go through a ton of ink and toner, to the tune of about $3000 per week. We buy ALL our ink and toner is very large amounts (toner by the kilogram, ink by the half gallon). Refills are cheap. And yet, I don't think that retailers deciding together to not stock competitive products is "bad" collusion -- it's just how their market needs to work to be profitable.

    Anyone can go online and buy cheap refilled cartridges that tend to work. If they're buying locally, it might be that they don't trust the Internet (stupid reason), or that they waited too long to stock up on ink (probably true). I yell at my folks constantly for paying $40 for one cartridge when I can get them a replacement for $3, but usually its due to the dreaded "Out of ink" message. Convenience can often times mean MONEY.

    The manufacturers screwed up, big time. They didn't listen to the market, and they decided to give away the printer and hope to make it up on the ink. That's not how most markets work, not even the razor market now. Every item has to have a profit, or someone will find a way to sell your high markup goods cheaper. Many more people now are learning that the $49 inkjet has $49 cartridges OEM, or $12 cartridges aftermarket. The days of the $49 loss-leader are over (although I think you can probably make a profitable inkjet that sells at $35, with reduced features and a generic print driver).

    I honestly don't think collusion is a big deal. I know it supposedly hurts consumers, but in the long run, competition DOES begin due to what seems like obvious price fixing. I recall the early days of computer RAM when you honestly had few resources for brands. Now we have dozens. When a few companies collude on RAM pricing, the competition generally fixes it. It may take a few years, but it happens, and the worst thing to happen to those colluding is that they lose market share or go out of business when consumers discover that they've gouged people.

    Legal action is unnecessary. Let the market work. More laws and regulations will make it HARDER for new companies to enter the market.
    • by FlopEJoe (784551)

      toner by the kilogram, ink by the half gallon

      Good thing you don't work for JPL! Metric mishap caused loss of NASA orbiter [cnn.com]

      • by dada21 (163177)
        You wouldn't believe how many times I continue to order from my ink supplier by the kilogram, and from my toner supplier by the half gallon. For some reason, my brain made that mistake once and won't reset itself.

        Lately, I'm having a really hard time saying "salt" instead of "ice" when it comes to buying the stuff you melt ice with. My wife goes crazy whenever I tell her we need to pick up "ice" mean in fact I meant to say "salt."

        Old age at 33? No, it's been happening since I was a kid. Mental reject I
    • It has nothing to do with selling a printer at a loss to make it up by selling the ink. It has to do with sustainability, if they sold ink dirt cheap, figure $5 a cartridge, and the printers at a 30% profit, well that one time sale on the printer netted them a profit, that person will most likely keep that good quality printer for a long time, and although buying ink regularly, the profit margin is so small that the company makes real profit to cover the overhead of operations.

      Now, sell the printer at a lo
    • by Manchot (847225) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:40AM (#21751198)
      Only on Slashdot would someone argue that antitrust laws make it harder for new companies to enter the market. By definition, a company can't become subject to the antitrust laws unless it is already a major player in the marketplace. The whole RAM price fixing debacle wasn't solved by the oh-so-perfect market. It was solved by billions of dollars in fines for the companies involved. IIRC, Samsung got a $300 million fine, and other companies got fines in excess of $100 million.

      I see the market from an electrical engineering perspective. Overall, it's a complicated feedback system that is very nonlinear. To a certain extent, it can be modeled as a first-order linear system, and this is what the rabid free-marketeers see when they look at it. Any change in the input basically causes the market to immediately adjust its outputs to account for that. However, this perspective is simply wrong. At the very most, it's a rough approximation. First of all, the system has higher order components, by virtue of the fact that each entity in the marketplace roughly forms a first-order system in and of itself, and so the overall system has an order given by the number of entities in the market (about 6 billion). It's also very non-linear, and is subject to the whims of chaos (i.e., sensitive dependence on initial conditions). If, for example, a group of RAM manufacturers wanted to gouge the public and doubled all RAM prices, the demand for RAM wouldn't simply halve: it would decrease in some strange way.

      It should also be stated that if Ron Paul had his way, collusion such as this would be perfectly legal.
      • by dada21 (163177) <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:49AM (#21751292) Homepage Journal
        Only on Slashdot would someone argue that antitrust laws make it harder for new companies to enter the market. By definition, a company can't become subject to the antitrust laws unless it is already a major player in the marketplace. The whole RAM price fixing debacle wasn't solved by the oh-so-perfect market. It was solved by billions of dollars in fines for the companies involved. IIRC, Samsung got a $300 million fine, and other companies got fines in excess of $100 million.

        What are you talking about? Fines stopped the price fixing scheme?

        Let's look at what happened in RAM price fixing history:

        2001, Elpida, Infineon, Hynix, Micron, and Samsung collude to fix prices on RDRAM.
        2003, RDRAM is dead, Intel gives up hope. Reason? Price was too high.
        2004, Discovery is made regarding price fixing.
        2005, Found that companies colluded, were fined.

        So let's see -- they stopped price fixing in 2003 because in 2005 they were fined?

        What sort of malarkey are you trying to pass off in order to be seen as correct? You didn't provide one source of information, you didn't properly compose an answer that could be reviewed easily.

        It should also be stated that if Ron Paul had his way, collusion such as this would be perfectly legal.

        Thank God! I have competitors who have colluded together on numerous occasions to land contracts. It's called a boat race. "You win this one at a major profit, we'll win the next." Guess why my company has sustained steady, 10%-20% growth annually, for 15 years? Because we decided against colluding. Seven of our largest suppliers offer us kickbacks, which we said no to. We're more competitive without them.

        I _love_ collusion. It opens a huge market for those of us who want to compete. It's VERY easy to raise money to start a business in a competitive market, even if you need 9 figures. The biggest reason we've seen fund-raisers fail is when venture capitalists ask: "How are the government regulations in that sector?"

        When government introduces new laws (supposedly to prevent monopolization), the smaller venture capitalists exit the market. The bigger ones stay, of course, because they're powerful enough to subvert, or even write, the government laws.

        Ron Paul, on the other hand, understands that the Federal government has absolutely no Constitutional power to declare regulations on businesses this way. They're anti-consumer, anti-competition, and anti-liberty. Collude away! I say. The competition will love you for it.
  • by CXI (46706)
    Whenever my office has been tempted to put non-HP ink in our business class printers they have had printing issues or leaked inside the printer, resulting in having to buy another cartridge and clean the printer. So HP cartridges end up being a lot cheaper than the cost of an off-brand cartridge + printer service call + replacement cartridge for the one that didn't work. Maybe at the consumer level refills and off brand can work, but not for high volume or accurate color printing.
  • If HP paying Staples $100 million to not carry competitors' products is collusion, shouldn't we consider the HD-DVD camp paying Paramount and Dreamworks $150 million to not release Blu-ray titles collusion?
  • by davermont (1001265) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:40AM (#21750630)
    Hewlett Packard recommends printing this story and comments for maximum readability/portability. Use full color for best results.
  • Old news (Score:5, Informative)

    by ledow (319597) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:41AM (#21750640) Homepage
    Haven't personally used an inkjet for about six years. Laser all the way. You can get colour networked laser for home use for about £300, with reasonable sized toners. I even have a Samsung that have a refillable combined toner/drum that's only on it's second actual toner/drum and has been refilled dozens and dozens of times from a £10 toner bottle. Perfect prints every time, used every single day.

    The amount of time you need colour is pitiful, and for home use (business should not be using inkjet, no excuse) it's virtually all for photos - that's the only real time a laser can't cut it, when you want a small glossy. Then, taking your photos on a card down to the local supermarket works out much, much, much cheaper. My brother bought a load of second-hand HP Laserjet 4MV's on eBay - all ex-business, all done about 100,000 pages minimum, all still going strong five years later and toner is dirt cheap and easy to come by. This is a person who prints out 50 copies of 100-page brochures every week.
    • by ajs318 (655362)

      colour networked laser for home use for about £300
      Is that including PostScript in hardware? L3 would be nice, L2 will do.
  • If HP paid Staples $100 million, they sure didn't get their money's worth. Staples sells a wide range of cartridge refills for non-HP printers [staples.com]. That includes cartridges that work with Dell printers, providing an alternative to ordering online via Dell - which is interesting since Staples is now selling Dell computers in their stores.
  • Laser Printer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SCHecklerX (229973) <thecaptain@captaincodo.net> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @09:47AM (#21750712) Homepage
    Why people continue to buy ink jets is beyond me. I paid only $350 for an HP Color Laserjet 2605dn a year ago, and my starter cartridges are still going strong. This printer has built-in duplexing, networking, web management, and is postscript so works flawlessly with any computer you'd like to use with it. Bonus: no worrying about ink cartriges drying up, or print heads clogging.

    Buy a laser printer. For pictures, have them developed at wal-mart for like $0.10 each.

    BTW...HTH do I tag an article on /. I'm not a subscriber, but I've had this account for several years, so according to the FAQ I should be able to tag articles.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vitaflo (20507)
      The 2600n is even better once you disable the printing limit on the toner cartridges. HP of course limits the amount of pages you can print by default (2400 for black, 2000 for color). If any one reaches the max it won't print. Thankfully HP did two things with the 2600n, gave you 100% full cartridges right off the bat, and gave you a way to override these limits (it's in the prefs on the printer). I got a good 800 extra pages out of my black cartridge by overriding the defaults (~30% more).
  • Does HP have a monopoly on ink cartridges? In Australia they certainly don't (when I think ink cartridge they're not a company I typically think of) and TFA merely says they're dominant.
  • So How Long (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ajs318 (655362) <sd_resp2 AT earthshod DOT co DOT uk> on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:00AM (#21750832)
    So how long will it be before somebody manufactures an industrial-grade inkjet printer with durable metal parts, which takes bulk ink (by flexible hoses, from litre bottles which can be hot-swapped) and incorporates PostScript Level 3 in hardware so absolutely no driver issues?

    There's definitely a market for such a machine. I've been using a HP Business Inkjet, which is certainly semi-industrial and although not PS, uses a common driver; but it still takes ink cartridges (double-sized black cartridge, though) and a new set adds up to a hefty amount. A bulk-fed, metal-built printer would easily outlast the number of cartridges you could have bought for the same price.
  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:28AM (#21751074)
    --I remember when I had an old tank-tough HP Laserjet II. (It needed these huge postscript cartridges just to output in a font other than courier.) It was only 300 DPI, but the output was sharp and sweet. It used a gas laser because LED lasers hadn't yet been invented, but that beast totally rocked. --It would work forever, and its tone cartridge lasted for many thousands of copies. And the paper feed NEVER jammed. It was one of the finest bits of engineering I've ever come across, and HP was a company which made me think, "Ah! Humans are awesome creatures capable of doing wonderful things!"

    But then something happened at HP. A number of years later, I remember one of the top dogs in management declaring that they were taking the company in a new direction; that their old methods were being updated to reflect better business models. --This spin-doctored response came as when they were asked why their printers had begun to suck shit.

    I today own an HP Laserjet 5L. It is a piece of crud. --It's output looks sharp, but it's a flimsy piece of junk which stopped working properly about a year after I'd bought it. It jams constantly and the toner cartridge seems to run out far more frequently. I'd tell HP to go to hell, but I think they may already be there.


    -FL

    • by ajlitt (19055) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:03AM (#21751444)
      A couple of years before I got rid of my 5L, I found out that there is a recall on these printers. It appears that the paper lifter isn't "grabby" enough, causing it to jam when feeding paper. HP had a program where they would send you a kit to install a new lifter for free. You might want to look around and see if they are still offering it.

      As far as what happened to HP... Two words: Carly Fiorina.
  • by ArtDent (83554) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @10:36AM (#21751162)

    The second article seems pretty stupid. It's about a study that makes two points:

    1. Multi-ink cartridges must be replaced as a unit when a single colour runs outs.
    2. Printers warn you that they're low on ink before they run out of ink.

    Okay, the first point is reasonable, if obvious. But the second? Here's how the story is introduced (emphasis mine):

    According to the study, users are tossing the cartridges when their printers are telling them they're out of ink, not when they necessarily are out of ink.

    But, two paragraphs later, a clarification (again, emphasis mine):

    Printers routinely report that they are low on ink even when they aren't, and in some cases there are still hundreds of pages worth of ink left.

    Yes, I want my printer to warn me that it's low on ink before it runs dry. That way, I can check if I have a refill and if not, I have some time to go to the store and buy one. Are they really claiming that people throw away ink as soon as the printer reports it's running low?

    From the summary, you might think that they actually ran printers until they stopped printing and then measured how much ink was left in the cartridge. But it seems they did no such thing. They simply measured how much warning the printers give you before running out of ink and then tried to confuse people by using "low on ink" and "out of ink" interchangeably.

  • by dindi (78034) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @11:19AM (#21751576) Homepage
    Here is a trick I discovered yesterday regarding my Epson Stylus C65. OK quality printer, but repeatedly refused to print, claiming that one of the cartridges were empty. Even more annoying, the darn thing refused to print B&W even when you ran low on e.g. RED. Stupid.

    For a completely different reason I got an NSLU2 (cheap NAS storage box from Linksys), then put Linux on it, because I needed a low powered always on Asterisk. But hey, you can attach a USB hub to it (if you run Linux), and so I did, and started trying connecting devices.

    I was also annoyed, that even though my windows machine was always on, from time to time my wife's printings failed from her MAC. Not really windows' problem, but naturally she always wants to print when I overload the machine, reboot it, or play a game that eats all the resources up.

    So I started using the NSLU2 as a print server, after discovering, that there was a print server package for it (actually there is Samba, Cups and p910d ).

    Yesterday my printer refused to print, and the ink button/light went on, (of course it occurs when I want to print something before leaving quickly). So I just went to Office depot and bought 1 of each cartridge ($60 for the 4, DAMN .. I am in Costa Rica, so do not tell me it is cheaper in Walgreens or whereever).

    Now when I came back I started checking which cartridge could be empty. Since I use a remote port, the ink monitoring software does not work. But also because of this, you can just ignore the lights, restart the printer, and keep printing.

    Before, the epson software prohibited printing, now it cannot monitor the ink, so there is no restriction. Downside: no ink monitor, but remembering, that it is the tool that makes you throw out cartridges half full, I do not want it.

    Also I only print B&W, so I really do not care if the Yellow is out.

    Just my 2c.

    Note: of course only tested this on the NSLU, but should be the same on any Linux, or maybe macs. Just try it with a print server first, maybe it is the same.

  • buy a laser printer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ranger (1783) on Wednesday December 19, 2007 @12:02PM (#21752078) Homepage
    laser printers are far more cost effective than any inkjet. Even color lasers are coming down in price. Unless you do a lot of printing the cartridges will last a while.

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