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Epson Ecotank Printers

According to articles in the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, Epson is on a mission to kill the ink cartridge with their Ecotank printers. These printers will come with a generous supply of ink and can be refilled from ink bottles which will cost only $13. This will make printing more affordable and put the compatible manufacturers out of business.

The article completely misses the point of the printer industry's business model. For years they operated like drug dealers, hooking people on cheap printers so they could rip them off on expensive cartridges. A cartridge with 7ml of ink sold for upwards of $20. That works out to about $10,000 a gallon. Can you say greedy? They protected their obscene profits with several methods.

1) "convincing" some stupid judge that printer companies deserve special government protection against compatible manufacturers (funny how there are no such laws protecting any other industry. You can buy any gas for your car - it doesn't have to be from the manufacturer) even though this protection violates federal law (the Moss-Magnuson act of 1975 which states a company can not force you to buy their consumables in order to keep the warranty.)

2) putting expiration dates on the chips to prevent refilling (HP). This one backfired because people bought brand new, genuine HP cartridges and some failed right out of the box when the expiration date was reached.

3) putting serial numbers on the chips (Epson T220 and T786) and not allowing the printer to use the same serial number twice. This means if you take a cartridge out and put it back in (which Epson even tells you to do to solve some problems), it won't work. This also makes the cartridges even more expensive to manufacture.

Now we are suddenly supposed to believe that Epson has become a generous company and is worried about their customers. Nothing could be further from the truth. First, these "new" printers have already been out for several years overseas where they have garnered numerous complaints. Second, they cost about 700% more than standard printers. You can find Epson printers for $50 (the XP400 at Staples recently, the XP600 and XP800 direct from Epson as refurbs with 1 year warranty). The Ecotank printers start at $379. That means you are paying about $300 up front for the ink! Epson just figured out how to rip you off up front rather than wait a few years. Maybe they were worried that the printer might break down before you spent $300 on ink so this guarantees they'll get their money even in that situation. Would you pay $100,000 for a $20,000 car if it included a thousand gallons of gas? Also remember that if you pay $50 for a printer and it lasts a year or two, you got your money's worth, but if you pay $379 and it dies after the warranty, what good does all that unused ink do? Why buy an inkjet for $379? For that amount you can buy a multi-function color laser printer! And how many people are ready to spend $379 no matter how good the printer appears to be?

Here's another thing to ponder: if you have to return a printer to epson, they tell you to take the cartridges out first. It's not a good idea to ship printers with the ink still inside because it can slosh around and damage the internals. What about these Ecotanks? How will you return one for service even under the warranty? Will you first have to go through some complicated procedure to flush them out? Will the replacement be sent with new ink bottles?

The "economics" of these new printers makes no sense for anyone but Epson.


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