When did it become this hard?
(…and this expensive?)


My wallet is taking a beating today. And I’m sure you can relate to the reasons, and shake your head in frustration because the reasons make no sense.

Went out this morning needing a birthday card. (Hit number one.) Later in the morning, I sat down at the computer and needed to print something, only to run into an empty cyan cartridge that needs to be replace. (Hit number two.)

Two different stories… same fundamental complaint… where the heck did these prices come from?

It used to be that a card would run you two dollars or less. Add in a stamp, and your thoughtful wishes could be on the way for $2.50 at most. Nice. (And, the envelope always warned you when extra postage might be required.)

Not now.

Card after card after card this morning was $4.97 or more. Yes, the recipient was worth it. But at that price I’d much rather grab a gift card and place that in an envelope with a note. Seriously… clear the five-dollar mark and we’re not talking about greetings and good wishes, we’re talking about an investment.

If you called me up and said you could send me a funny card that made sounds or played a song when I opened it, or, a gift card so I could grab a breakfast sandwich and a coffee, the choice would be pretty easy. (Thanks for the phone call and the coffee.)

Heck, I think if I called any of you and offered a choice between a birthday card or a gift card that would cover an appetizer at your favorite restaurant, the response would be pretty close to unanimous.

Look… I love cards. I do. I find myself absolutely thrilled when I open the mailbox and find a card or letter from a family member or friend. It’s awesome. But there was an entire display within the card aisles set up for Halloween. I don’t know of any time in my entire life when anyone has sent me a Halloween card.

The thing is… it’s not just the cost of some greeting cards and a calendar that seems filled with reasons suspiciously arranged around the purchase of a batch of cards once or twice every month. There are other places where costs seem to be running a bit willy-nilly.

Just a few minutes ago, as research for this article, I went to five different web sites. I picked places that sell printers for home use. For each web site, I selected two different manufacturers of printers and then two of the least expensive models offered for sale. And then I gathered some specific details…

Basically, what I wanted to know was this: Is it less expensive to buy a new printer or official-manufacturer-brand replacement ink cartridges? I wanted to be fair, using a decent range of ordering sources… different manufacturers… and different models for each manufacturer. My search essentially brought up twenty printers.

The result?

In every case… all twenty… if it wasn’t more expensive to order the full set ink cartridges, the cost was within 10% of the purchase price of the new printer.

Suppose I told you that every 3,000-miles when you head in to a service center, you could change the oil and get a full tank of gas, or, for the same price trade it in and leave with a new car?

Extreme comparison? Of course. And maybe you want to ask some different questions about the scenario, like: “Bob, don’t those printers come with starter cartridges that contain less ink?” But rather than looking at other extremes to make a point (and potentially a joke), or directly answering clarifications, let’s go back to printers and add in a few bits of information…

I’m a writer—a producing regularly, six books released over the past thirty months writer—and I replace my ink cartridges only one or two times a year. I think it’s fair as a result of my experiences to say that many of us need ink for our printers four times per year or less.

When I went online and looked up those twenty different models, printer after printer after printer showed a one-year warranty.

So… what if we adjust the question? Let’s place the silliness involved on whether it’s more expensive to buy a new printer or a set of ink cartridges to the side. What if every third or fourth ink replacement cycle the choice was this…

A – A full set of black and color ink cartridges, or…

B – A new printer that comes with: features and upgrades that make it a better model than your current printer, under warranty while your current printer is no longer covered, with a set of ink cartridges

With either of these choices, the price is about the same. And, either way, you can bring it home today or get free shipping.

It’s just the strange curiosities of sticker shock I suppose. Head into a store, watch the prices for a two-liter bottle of soda go through the roof. And yet, head into a different section and check out the price of a half-gallon of milk or orange juice. Perspective is challenged. The prices all over the place defy initial expectations, even if you begin to really consider it and can make sense of the differences.

For now, my wallet took a hit. But, birthday celebrated and printer back up and running, at least I’m covered until my next expense. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I just remembered we need some milk.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com