My wife has been keeping something from me. She normally shops for stuff we use at home – you know, the utilitarian things that make a house tick and you don’t give them a second thought. The thing she’s been keeping a secret is the cost of printer ink. Having attempted to print something (which I probably didn’t need to in the first place) and being presented with an emaciated ghost of the image intended, I announced that, as I was going to Costco, I would pick up a new cartridge. Well, four. So off I toddle expecting to throw this set of ink cartridges into the cart along with the toilet paper and paper towels, pork chops and pineapple juice. But wait – ink cartridges have an aisle all to themselves! In Costco, that’s a half a mile long. Most of them relate to Hewlett Packard machinery. You know that expression about how many pills Carter’s has? The new one should go, “It’s got more thingumabobs than Hewlett Packard’s got printers.” At various points along this never-ending avenue of prepackaged plastic product are stations with flipchart catalogues the size of Encyclopedia Britannica. These enable you to decode which of these identical-looking parcels will fit your needs assuming, of course, you know the make, model, serial number and keyword that alludes to that ink-guzzling monstrosity that sits so innocently in your home office. Having whiled away a half an hour, cross referencing and decoding something akin to the Da Vinci thing, feeling smug and smart you start looking for the package depicting the number elicited by your sleuthing skills. It’s at this point that the store supplies a forklift to re-elevate your jaw to its true and proper position within your physiognomy as you try to reattach your eyes to their sockets. The cause of this unbelieving facial distortion? The price. Stephen King couldn’t come up with anything scarier. Of course they try to make things look like good value for money by encasing these miniscule containers in a fabulous, huge, plastic sarcophagus fit for Tutankhamen. To add injury to insult, the cartridges look as though they contain less ink than there is ketchup in a Heinz sachet at McDonald’s! Remember the great shaving debacle? Buy a fancy shaver for next to nothing then take out a small business loan to buy a pack of ten blades. Now we’re back to the throw-aways for cheap. Hewlett Packard sells their printers for a song, gets you hooked because they come preloaded with their ink cartridges and they make their fortune on the back end. If car dealers did anything like this they’d be strung up. Maybe the CFPB should mean the Computer Financial Protection Bureau. They would actually have something meaningful to do. In the meantime, the printer companies sound like drug manufacturers, insisting that research and development is responsible for high street price gouging. Apparently they spend unmitigated fortunes on specialty ink substances and delivery designs to keep up with competition. If they spent some of that money on a printer that delivered a reliable performance, housing ink storage capacity sufficient to last beyond that “I only just bought some” period, they’d sell out tomorrow and blow away the competition and obviate the need for a marketing maze at the store. In the meantime I’m going to try and organize a drop-down box every time someone goes to print something in my house that says, “Seriously, you really want/need to print this?” If the answer’s “Yes,” an alarm goes off and a red light starts rotating. I’m installing a confessional for anyone to ask for forgiveness and absolution for buying ink. man, an absolute gentleman of a used-car dealer in North Carolina, and Nancy Linn, wife of Mike the retired CEO of the NIADA, and we ended up laughing at the memories they had left us. In a way it was the greatest respect we could pay to their memories – that they represented or brought good times to our lives. Kenny’s sense of humor was on the dryer side of belly laughter, but he saw true joy in his kids and grandkids, expressed by an ear-to-ear grin at their very mention. His constant and continued involvement in the National Auto Auction Association was acknowledged by his induction into their Hall of Fame in 2013, having been its president in 2001 and he was a Fellow of the Warren Young Scholastic Foundation. The used-car business sometimes suffers a little tarnish on its reputation – if only people knew the truth of it! While we’re not all paragons of virtue, our industry is awash with magnificent people who give first and never question the cost. I remember some pedal cars with an anticipated auction value of $50,000 being sold at our annual convention for a half a million for charity. Or one of Carl Miskotten’s staff at West Michigan Auto Auction giving a kidney to one of their customers! I think of all the people with whom I’ve been associated over the years – people like Kenny – who helped me become successful and consider myself a millionaire by any measure.
The High Price of Ink
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