Ink and the Free Market

Yes, we all know that the Free Market (ie: Capitalism) works. Most of us are old enough to have seen the Berlin Wall being torn down in the mid-80s as Communism took a deathly blow. And some of us may even have been old enough to see the Wall being put up by Nikita Khrushchev after the Cold War confrontations of the dangerous and turbulent 50’s. Yes, there was more to the 50’s than sock-hops and drive-in burger joints, although that is what comes to mind when I hear that decade mentioned. The Free Market gave us those, too.

The Free Market is both the problem and the answer. Any opportune and open niche is available for any individual, honest or dishonest, to fill. And to make a fortune doing so; that is how the Market works. We have to keep score on success and failure somehow, and money is a nice way to do so. It can be counted, after all.

Which brings me back to my original thought: why do I have to pay through the nose everytime I have to buy a new ink cartridge for my printer? It seems that before I have a chance to print my dissertation on the true Secret of the Universe on crisp white paper and using crisp black inkjet lettering, my family has used up all of the ink in the cartridge to print out the latest reams and reams of useless Internet information. Information that could be looked up at any time, mind you. It must be that paper gives the information a sense of permanence, at least until we toss the paper into the recycler. What is not in permanent evidence, however, are the rolls of bills that leave my wallet in ever-increasing numbers, as I pay for more and more ink cartridges to keep my printer functioning.

The Free Market gave us inkjet printing. Someone spent some capital dough in researching the technology and making it available to us consumers. And I for one don’t mind paying for the research that went into making it possible to get great printing on my desktop, in crisp black and white or in vibrant colors. But even I have a limit, and paying 29.00 for an ink cartridge is too much. It’s like those tolls in the New York bridges: they were initially there to recoup the cost of the structure, but they have been kept around as a revenue source long after the initial debt was repaid. I think we’ve paid enough for the cost of the technology (deep, deep down in the bottom of my heart, I feel this is true); corporations are now just squeezing us for profit (I also have proof of this; it is lying in some never-read pile of Internet printouts in a recycle bin).

Corporations also try to hook us into the inkjet habit early. They provide free printers to us at the drop of a hat; one free printer for a purchase of a computer, a free printer for the purchase of a hard-drive, a free printer with the purchase of a free printer (eg: customer must pay sales tax on this free offer!). Each free printer comes with a handy set of black and color ink cartridges which will give us a great printing experience. At least until the ink runs out. It’s like a dealer hooking you to heroin or cocaine with free samples. Both operate with the same amount of disregard for the junkie, the consumer.

I have tried refilling my ink cartridges, and that worked great for awhile. It was a cheap alternative if you did not mind the mess of working with ink and getting your finger stained a bit. The Free Market had provided an alternative for the consumer, and made someone rich by selling cartridge refilling kits. But then the ink cartridge manufacturers started placing circuit board chips on the cartridge to interact with the printer and stop printing at some “optimal” time before the ink ran out; this prevented users from refilling their cartridges. The text I read in the printer manual said that this was to provide a “quality printing experience” to the consumer. I guess prison rape could semanthically be called an “optimal bonding experience” in the same manner.

But the final laugh belongs to us, the consumers. Free Market incentives encouraged someone to create a chip-resetter for your ink cartridge, so that you can re-program your chip and continue to refill your cartridges. I have made use of this device and have been able to refill my cartridges easily and without much of a mess. The cost to me: about 2.00 per refill.

The Free Market offers financial rewards to those willing to do the research and also to those who are willing to stand up for their rights.

2 thoughts on “Ink and the Free Market”

  1. “The Free Market offers financial rewards to those willing to do the research and also to those who are willing to stand up for their rights.”

    You make great points, but in your closing, the key word is: WILLING.

    I was born with a condition. One that can not be trained-away or cured. That condition is laziness. I am lazy. It’s easy to admit, but hard to live with. Especially as a head-of-household type such as myself.
    All my life, I’ve been scolded for my condition as if it’s something that I have by choice. I don’t want to work and nothing will change that. I don’t like asparagus either, but no one seems so bent on changing THAT.
    So what do I do? I force myself past it and work when I must… but it’s still there. The laziness. Always nagging. Whining to me.
    I am no longer looking at it as a weakness, but as a challenge, HOWEVER I do feel we lazy-types should have our own handycap parking, except that the wheelchair symbol should look more like a dude who’s draggin’ ass.
    The point?
    It’s a hell of a lot easier for me to order an ink cartridge on E-Bay and throw it in, than it is to work those colored needles and play the computer-chip-trick.
    You see, I DID refill my ink about a year ago.
    It was ten minutes of my zombie-like internet-porn addition LOST that I’ll never get back!

  2. ZBalance is making an excellent point, perhaps without realizing it (or just not spelling it out for us dullards). That is, there is a market for those who don’t want to pay $29 for an ink cartridge, AND who don’t want to go through the hassle of re-inking the cartridges. I imagine the ebay sellers are charging around $10 a pop to refill it for you. You still save 66%, while they make upwards of 400% profit (assuming cheap/forced labor, like children or the elderly). As a cheap, lazy person, I say the system works!

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