I have spent an embarrassing amount of my life yelling at printers.
My roommate took the last printer I’d been using when we parted ways, and the only thing I miss about it is that it had the little automatic feeder tray to scan documents.
Because we shouldn’t even be BOTHERING with putting data on physical paper, we should be shoving whatever paper is still lying around back into digital form, right?
I mean, RIGHT?
So why are printers so horrible? Let’s see if we can get a consensus from Reddit.
1. “Complicated moving parts.”
They have lots of complicated moving parts that can jam and break and go wrong.
Meanwhile the business model is to sell the printer as cheap as possible (maybe even at a loss) and make up the money on ink cartridge sales, so there’s incentive to cut every corner on build quality if it makes it possible to sell the end result even cheaper.
If you want a reliable printer, look for one that just does one thing (all the multifunction printer/scanner/copier/fax/shredder/espresso stuff just adds more complications and things that can go wrong) and be prepared to spend extra for quality.
Or buy a laser printer – toner cartridges last way longer than ink cartridges, which flips the business model away from selling refills. Colour lasers are pricey, but a black and white laser printer can be reasonably inexpensive and is a better bet for reliability than an equivalent inkjet.
2.”Just save everything.”
I work in IT and the one technology I hate more than anything is printers – god f*cking d*mn it why cant people just save everything online, send them in emails and let us trash the bleeding things.
Join the paperless revolution now and yeet your printer out the window
3. “Paperless is not an option.”
I’m in IT too, Unfortunately paperless is not an option (yet) in the industry. Best solution is Lease, You save on time and money, Printers are managed offsite by the provider, The consumables are automatically ordered when needed and the printers can log they own tickets!
I saved my last company 1/3 the usual yearly spend in the first year. Now in a new place with 10 year old printers I’m trying to do the same, Why it’s a hard sell is way beyond me.
4. (That’s over a thousand pounds of paper per month.)
Used to repair industrial copiers. You’d hate being IT for the railroad then.
Only place I ever serviced where it was when, not if one would break. They had 3 huge Monochrome printers for their Engineers and Conductors work orders. Things spat out 120K pages a month, each. Full service was needed every 2 months minimum. Then you had the fact that if it did jam, some idiot would stick their grease coated hand in, grab whatever they touched and rip it out.
I arrived once to find a fuser unit just chilling on top of the machine. Those are pretty hard to get out on the models they had even using tools.
Even I wished they’d go digital.
5. “Printer = inkjet?”
Every single thread about printers being sh*t is either about inkjets breaking or about cost of inkjet cartridges. Then comes a hero and suggests laser.
I wonder whether the word “printer” = “inkjet” for americans. Do most people just buy them dirt cheap, throw away and replace? Because in my limited 3rd world experience, laser cartridges are cherished, loved, refilled and refurbished till their last black breath. And most 8+ years laser printers can be repaired for cheap.
6. “What the monopoly wanted.”
My father worked for Lexmark for most of his working life. According to him, the big box stores came along and dictated the price of goods. They told single-stream businesses like Lexmark that they would only sell printers that cost $50 or less.
As Walmart is roughly 30% of all sales of anything in the United States (at the time) you had to do what the monopoly wanted. So factories were exported overseas, R&D budgets were slashed, and the ‘we will have to make our profit off ink cartridges instead’ model was implemented.
So the printers had to be made a sh*tty and cheaply as possible in order to be allowed to sell them at all.
All his years at Lexmark turned him to hating capitalism and the unfree market.
Once a Chinese conglomerate offered to buy Lexmark, he was happy to take the contract buyout and leave early.
7. “It’s a workhorse.”
A few years ago I purchased an All-in-One HP laserjet printer – copy, scan, fax, and print, including automated double-sided printing. I have not had a single problem with it. It connects to my home network via wireless. It prints color as well as black and white.
The toner cartridges are expensive, but (a) print some huge number of pages, and (b) are stable for years. I read about a man who maintained computer equipment for a small firm that found 10yo cartridges for his printers that had been stored and forgotten, he put them in and they worked without a hitch. The toner cartridge technology has gotten perfected, even to the point of making them easy to install.
I don’t remember how many years I used this before I needed to replace the B&W cartridge. It’s a workhorse.
I just looked up the price of this, retail — it’s just under $500. You can buy an inkjet for a quarter of that, and the ink is much cheaper, but they dry out while you aren’t using them, I used to have annoyingly frequent trouble with mine jamming and smearing, the printouts smear if touched too soon after printing, and also if they get wet. None of this has been true with my laser printer.
I’m afraid you’ve been buying the wrong printers.
8. “Worse than glitter.”
Yeah I think about that often. We have VR glasses, hoverboards and Sophia the robot, but printing is still a huge pain in the *ss.
Even at work, it’s just such a pain. There is always something with it and this is coming from a graphic designer that has learned to fix printers.
Like ever had a broken toner cartridge explode in your face? Worse than glitter.
9. “Never buy a printer.”
Pro tip: Never buy a printer, go to FedEx Kinkos and pay $1.50 for the once or twice a year you actually need to print something.
10. “Ink is expensive.”
First off, ink is one of the most expensive liquids in the world.
Printers are there to sell ink, and basically nothing else. If you want to buy a printer that’s big enough for a small to medium office setting these days they almost always come with a subscription to a maintenance and ink refill program to make sure you continue buying the “correct” ink and do regular maintenance (aka spending money)… A lot of printers won’t even accept any cartridges other than the ones made specifically for that printer anymore.
But apparently that’s not enough, because they want you to also buy a new printer every few years, meaning the printer is made with incredibly cheap parts and lasts about 1/10th as long as it could. Planned obsolescence is far from an uncommon business practice, but the real problem is that every printing company is buying into the business model.
Is it possible to make a superior product that doesn’t break down as often? Is it possible to make a universal ink cartridge or even one that works across all [OG printing company]? Do even the printers at [OG printing company] break down all the time? The answer to all of these questions is “yes, but money is more important”.
The one place all the printing companies actually compete is in the large scale printing production market, any machine made for a large office or printing central company is made to last and costs a fortune.
11. “Cheaper to just buy a whole new printer.”
In college I would buy the cheapest printer that only printed (no scanning no fax) and when the cartridges that came with it ran out, it was cheaper to just buy a whole new printer than new ink cartridges
12. “Actual good software.”
If you’re an actual good software engineer, you don’t get a job designing software for a printer.
13. “People treat copiers like trash.”
As a MFP repairman, I can tell you the 2 most common issues I see with printers.
A, most people treat the copiers like trash (using paper with the wrong settings, over working it, never having it pm’d, using crappy paper, running unauthorized objects like paper clips and sticky notes through the document feeder, skyshots, etc.), and wonder why it breaks down.
B, they go with the cheap option which either means the machine is 5-7 years old, not the right model for their workload, or is a HP.
14. “Include a trigger warning.”
Please include a trigger warning for questions like this in the future.
Asking my dad this question started a 5 minute rant that I’m pretty sure will repeat itself in about 10 minutes.
15. “In spirit.”
All printers are from 2005 in spirit.
So, taken together, the solution to this enigma seems to be:
If you want a printer that doesn’t drive you insane, spend the money on a decent laser model instead of picking up the cheapest possible scam of an inkjet and expecting it to not destroy your marriage.
What’s your printer approach?
Tell us in the comments.