Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Inkjets and Razor Blades

My HP printer run out of ink after only 20 pages or so. I went to Costco for more ink and was shaken by the price of the OEM ink cartridges. The set of color and bw cartridges cost $100!? This is pretty much the price of a new printer on sale. My initial reaction was to return this printer back to Costco and never touch any inkjet printer again. If I had found out about this sooner, like within 90 days, I wold definitely return it. Now I do not feel like pushing my problems on Costco. After all it was my fault that I did not do enough research.

This time I researched my alternatives to the HP ink rip off. Surprisingly there are several alternatives:
  • Re-manufactured OEM cartridges. These are the original cartridges that were re-filled by someone and re-sold. They are much cheaper than the originals but people have mixed experience with them. They are still too expensive per page.
  • Refill services. You take or send your cartridge to the refill place. They clean it and refill it with the ink. The one I was particularly looking at was Costco refill service.
  • Refill kits. You get ink in a bottle and refill cartridge yourself. This is the cheapest method.
I tried the Costco service to refill the black cartridge. They did a good job and were relatively cheap. Not much cheaper than the original HP cartridge though. The Costco refill cost me $8.60 and the new cartridge of the same type costs $10. If you have a larger XL cartridge it may be worth it though.

I went to Amazon and ordered a refill kit for around $15 including shipping. The kit came with total 6 bottles of ink - 3 black and 3 color. Each bottle contains 100ml of ink. The kit also came with 4 syringes with needles, plugs, drill bit and instructions. The instructions can be found in many places online and I have read them before.

I refilled ink by slowly dripping it in on the felt in the outlet port. Each color cartridge took around 4ml of ink. I overfilled yellow as it was my first cartridge but after that all went very smoothly. Now I have 4 full cartridges and can print anything I want.

The price for the ink does not even compare with the price of a new cartridge. Effectively for the price of 1.5 cartridges you get 25 refills of color and probably more of black. I am not sure how many times the ink can be refilled but even one time was worth it.

This experience really makes me wonder how much profit HP makes of these cartridges and what is their profit margin. The razor blade business has nothing on the inkjet cartridge business.

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