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September 12, 2009

On buying a cheap printer as moral hazard


So here's a little slice of life from bookofjoe World Headquarters™®©: yesterday when I tried to print something out, my Epson C88+ printer (above; maybe the fifth in a series; I have two, one upstairs, one down and need to buy a replacement maybe every year) made bad noises and proceeded to destroy a piece of paper halfway through.

Huh, worked fine the night before.

I wonder if Gray Cat's been doing stuff while I'm sleeping... nah, she's got a great memory, she doesn't need to print stuff out.

So that can't be it.

I tried about five more times to print a page, each time with the same crumpled result that required me to pull out the mangled paper from the top.

Turned it off, turned it on, same thing.

Tried pushing the paper button to move a page through without printing but still making mincemeat.

Game over, time for a new printer.

I checked Epson's website, it costs $84.99, complete with four ink cartridges (black, yellow, cyan and magenta).

Then I checked the prices for cartridges alone: $19.94 for black, 39.89 for yellow + cyan + magenta = $59.83 total.

So getting a new printer costs $25.16 more than just buying ink.


See where I'm going with this?

Makes almost as much sense to buy a new printer whenever you need ink as to just buy a new ink cartridge to replace the  empty one, since you can reuse the remaining cartridges from the old, still-functioning printer in your new one while having a fresh from the factory, perfectly aligned machine from the get-go.

But the total price of buying a new one in this scenario includes trashing the old-but-still-functional one, creating unnecessary waste.

There's your moral hazard: doing the wrong thing may be better than doing the right thing in terms of you as an individual — but for society as a whole it's just the opposite.

September 12, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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I think in many cases the toner cartridges that come with the printers are trial sizes that do not print as many pages as the replacement versions that you would buy afterwards.

Posted by: nombody | Sep 14, 2009 5:26:00 PM

I've actually replaced my home printer (and one at work) for cheaper than I could buy the replacement toner to refill them (purchasing name brand, not refills), by keeping an eye out for rebate deals both online and in-store.

As someone else mentioned, I donate the old one to a local charity or friend that needs one if it's still usable.

Posted by: EEJ | Sep 14, 2009 3:34:25 PM

You could donate the old printer to a school, library, etc; thus not having the guilt of trashing it.

Posted by: Garnet | Sep 14, 2009 12:00:49 AM

I bought a high end HP a few years ago and haven't had a single issue with it. What I've saved has paid for plenty of other things computer-related.

(Humphrey, time to invest some of those cat royalties for a new toy for Joe.)

Posted by: Jesse | Sep 12, 2009 5:09:29 PM

Change brands. I have had the same HP one (cost 160) for the last 5 years. Works perfectly. I also refill up my old cartridges. Nary a problem with that either.

Posted by: Milena | Sep 12, 2009 1:23:43 PM

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