Keep those documents flowing for less money

Buying toner, ink refills like prinitng money, owners say
By: Art Garcia, Telegraph Correspondent
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It was a sharp marketing move by Gillette years ago when the Boston consumer-products company launched what quickly became the model for other companies and fodder for case studies at universities offering business degrees. Gillette still relies on its basic concept: sell razors cheaply while kicking up the price sharply for blades. Now with computer printers coming in all sizes, functions and prices, consumers have many options for a workhorse printer. Rather than just checking the printer price, though, better also query the ink replacement cost. Many consumers are surprised, if not downright shocked. The Gillette game has entered the high tech market. But, there is competition. Consumers now can buy replacement toner and ink for less than the retail price from the manufacturer or office supply stores by going through shops like Cartridge World, the franchise business that opened a year ago in Town Center. It’s run by husband-and-wife team Micaela and Gary McConnell. The store is fully equipped with a backroom work area loaded with various inks in substance and color and a wide range of toner material, plus about 20 printers to test printing quality. Cartridges and inkjet wells are replaced there by Kevin Hughes, store manager and CW’s only employee. Micaela, 42, has degrees in human resources while Gary, 51, has a background in mortgage sales. Business has been good and is expanding, says Micaela McConnell, describing the market as “growing as fast as Starbucks,” plus it’s “pretty recession-proof and environmentally friendly.” CW’s prices, she said, usually run about 30 percent lower than retail. An example of the cost savings is a replacement laser printer cartridge that retails for $74 is sold by Cartridge World $52, a savings of $22, plus another $3 for leaving your empty cartridge. As computer users catch on to the new vs. refill toner and ink replacement game, some manufacturers and supply stores warn printer warranties can be voided if buyers don’t use the manufacturer’s products. Not so, said Micaela McConnell, but don’t just take her word for it. Congress has stepped in and manufacturers cannot legally require a printer owner or lessee — verbally or otherwise — to buy supplies exclusively from them. CW adds its own warranty on its products and most often offers free delivery. The national warranty voiding restrictions stem from the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act. Still in the dark about replacements? “We encourage people to call us and ask about cartridges and inkjets,” she said. The McConnells live in El Dorado Hills with her two children and Gary’s four, a combo that includes three teenage girls. --- SHOP TALK What: Cartridge World of El Dorado Hills Where: 4390 Town Center Blvd., Suite 130 Info: 939-7384, Did you know?: The store is number 796 in the U.S. and one of 1,800 outlets around the globe