THE SEARCH FOR CHEAPER INK
THE SEARCH FOR CHEAPER INK
2005-10-14 at 10:54:00 am #13963
The Search for Cheaper Ink
Gripes over high-priced
ink cartridges have spawned an entire cottage industry of fly-by-night
refill companies, do-it-yourself cartridge refill kits, and dozens of
Web sites that sell no-name-brand cartridges.
More recently, big names like Office Depot and Staples have gotten into
the act, putting their own discounted brands on store shelves. These
cartridges generally cost 10 to 15 percent less than printer
manufacturers’ cartridges. But a retail outlet selling even cheaper
refilled cartridges may be coming soon to a strip mall near you.
In contrast to the many Web sites that hock refilled cartridges,
Caboodle Cartridges operates retail outlets. Thirty-five franchises
have opened thus far, most of them in the San Francisco Bay Area,
though stores are operating in at least eight other states.
In an effort to undersell the big retailers, Caboodle Cartridges sells
its remanufactured cartridges for roughly half their original cost. You
can lower the price even more by exchanging spent cartridges for a
credit of $2 to $4.
This all sounds great, but I have a few concerns. What if the cartridge
damages my printer? How good is the ink? Also, I’ll have to run a
special errand just to get ink cartridges, instead of being able to
pick them up while I’m shopping at Costco or an electronics store.
The Lure of the Storefront
I’ve never entrusted my old inkjet printer to refilled cartridges from
an online outlet; I’m too afraid of damaging it. When the only recourse
is sending an e-mail or pinging a Web site for help, I pass. Office
Depot and Staples are well-known brands, and they earn credibility
because they have retail outlets. Following that logic, I’m inclined to
trust Caboodle Cartridges.
Caboodle Cartridges President Daniel Wencel said that his company’s
cartridges deliver print quality and page yields comparable to the
original manufacturers’, and that the company will replace a customer’s
printer if it’s damaged by a malfunctioning cartridge.
The company’s ink has not been tested for fade resistance by a third
party such as Wilhelm Imaging Research, which conducted testing for our
September 2003 story, “Cheap Ink Probed.” In tests for that story, we
found that third-party ink cartridges could make high-quality prints on
glossy photo paper, but that their fade resistance was substandard:
Photos printed with inks from Amazon Imaging, Carrot Ink, and others
averaged a dismal 2.2 years of fade resistance. These inks may save you
some bucks, but they won’t save your memories.
If you mostly print documents on plain paper, you may not care that
your glossy photos could fade quickly. But if you do, I’d await
independent fade test results before buying from Caboodle Cartridges.