The Quest for The Magical Toner Cartridge

Let’s begin with a little backstory. As someone who prints a lot of pages, I own a fairly nice, energy-efficient, monochrome laser printer. It cost more up front, but the ultra-high capacity toner cartridge makes it affordable to run. There are (for reasons I have never ascertained) three cartridges that fit the behemoth. They range from printing 3,000 pages to 12,000. And at the risk of sounding like a teenage boy with a new Camaro, it prints 23 pages a minute.

The other day, I ran out of ink. So, like the fun-loving office-supply fiend I am, I headed for an office supply store near me.

I went to three stores. None of them the cartridge I wanted (the BIG one!) in stock. One did not have any toner for my printer. And two of them only had the smaller two cartridges.

Which wouldn’t have bothered me, of itself. But in both cases, the middle toner cartridge–the one that prints only 8000 pages–was priced as if it were the BIG one that prints 12,000. That’s a thirty dollar difference.

The ultra-high yield cartridge is literally THE reason I bought this printer. It’s probably THE reason anyone buys this printer.

By store #3, I was fairly irritated. I pulled up the cartridge I wanted on my phone… on their wi-fi, and on their website… And found that while I did have to order it, the thing cost seven dollars less than the middle sized toner that was sitting on their shelf. Free shipping to my house. So… uhm… Yes. I went to three different stores in a different town to order something off the internet.

I also walked out of the stores with the feeling that I would have been taken advantage of, if I had been elderly and unable to use the internet.

Seems like there’s some kind of lesson there for the bricks-and-mortar end of retail. Something about being the place where I can send my granny (may she rest in peace) to pick something up, and not have to worry about her being ripped off. Something about fair pricing and maintaining the customers you already have.


  1. Reply

    Like you, I use a laser printer even though I don’t print a lot, and have always bought my toner cartridges online. The office supply stores here (in Kansas) seem to charge a premium for everything.

    • Reply

      I’d be good with a premium… after all, I am getting the thing right now… but a 33% shop-in-store tax is out of my range. When I got my first e-reader, the difference between buy online and buy in store was more than a hundred dollars!

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