Tuesday, December 09, 2008

AARRGH! I hate Planned Obsolescence! That includes you, Epson!

It is commonly known as Planned Obsolescence. In other countries, Built-in Obsolescence. It also comes in another form, Technological Obsolescence. In common language, it is simply a strategy by manufacturers to get you buying again and again by making the product you buy either break down within a specific period of time or they limit the features they put on a product and then come out with something better a short time after they just launched the first one.

It is a clever strategy, one that keeps the consumers buying and their income flowing. It as a practice that is contrary to the traditional principle of taking care of your item so that it will last for as long as your grandmother lived. It denies you the possibility of owning a "classic", such as having a transistor radio that first came to life fifty years ago. Nowadays, your precious item becomes junk in only a couple of years.

Now what drove me to write about Planned Obsolescence. Well, one of the most obscure but important items that people now possess, the home printer, is what drove me to sit down and put down into the records of cyberspace my grumbling thoughts on the subject.

Last night, I was forced to buy a new printer. Normally, being a technology and gadget freak, I am as eager to buy the newest and latest gizmo as I am eager to eat ice cream on a hot summer day. But in spite of that, I am still a practical guy, taking into consideration a technological product's efficiency, maximum utilization, flexibility in use, inter-operability with other technologies, after-sales service, length of service life and price. What made me grudgingly buy a new printer was the fact that the printer I was using was still in perfect working condition, although it was already more than five years old.

I had an Epson Stylus Photo 900. Being into photography, digital video editing and music, it was the perfect home printer for me, since aside form having excellent print quality, it had the ability to print directly onto CD/DVD sticker labels or even on the discs themselves (those with a special surface for direct inkjet printing). Using a special attachment, you loaded the disc directly into the printer for an easy, clean printing of labels.

At the time I bought it in 2002, it had a hefty price tag, especially since it was the latest in the market. But after going through a lot of screening of available printers, it was the only one that fit my needs and specifications. For many years, I was the proud and happy owner of the Epson Stylus Photo 900.

Until early this year.

Normally, I would always have an extra set of ink cartridges in stock so I wouldn't run out of ink in the middle of a printing job. But late last year, I wasn't able to replace the stock. So when my ink ran out in the middle of printing my son's project, I had to rush to the mall to buy cartridges. I had to go to several stores before I found the last available stock in a store. Little did I know that it might have literally been the last remaining stock.

A couple of months ago, I ran out of ink again. But after going around all the computer shops in all the malls in the area where I live, none was to be found. I went to another mall in another city and I went home empty handed. Worse, in one of the stores, I was told they would no longer carry that particular line of Epson ink cartridges. It was then that I had a suspicion that my pritner was about to be forcibly retired.

But I am also a sentimental guy. I didn't feel like giving up and abandoning my reliable old printer. So I decided to do something that I said I would never do...buy from the ink-refilling station. I had told myslef that I would always use original ink cartridges. But these were desperat times which called for desperate measures.

So I bought an ink-refilled cartridge. But somehow, it wasn;t the same. For the first time, I couldn't print the right colors in the photos I was printing. It was indeed true that the quality of original ink wasn't matched by the refill inks. For text printing, it was okay. But for quality photo prints, much was still to be desired.

Because of the many repeats that I had to do just to get the right print quality I needed, my ink usage increased. So it wasn't long before I needed to buy ink again. Yesterday, I once again did the rounds of all the computer shops in my area, hoping that original cartridges would be available for my printer. Alas, there was none. In several instances, the sales clerks in the shops I visited weren't even familiar with my printer model and the ink cartridges I needed.

As I went from one shop to another the dreaded feeling sank deeper and deeper in me...my printer was a dinosaur. The reality that it was time to buy a new printer kept nagging me, together with the thought that I had a perfectly working but obsolete printer.

As a last ditch effort, I went back to the ink-refilling store to buy the "fake" ink cartridges. But woe of woes, misery of miseries, they also no longer carry that ink cartridge for that particular printer model.

Depression turned to anger. What?!! My prized printer is now junk?! Epson retired my printer?! AARRRGGH! Questions rushed through my head---why didn't they issue notices? Why didn't they make newer printers using the same kind of cartridges? Why retire such a good printer model? Why? Why? WHY?!!!

With shoulders hunched down, I resigned myself to the fact that I was powerless in the face of planned obsolescence. That while I may not be alone, the millions of consumers around the world are trapped in the whirlpool of technology that overtakes itself, and of marketing strategies that keep us buying and buying and buying and buying.....like we're in the Twilight Zone.

As I accepted this fate, I walked into one of the stores mindlessly, like a zombie attracted to fresh human flesh. Without much of a conscious effort, I walked towards the printer section of the computer super store, with a wide variety of printer brands and models to choose from. A small vocie inside me said, "Damn Epson. Never again."

But as I browsed the different printer brands--- HP, Canon, Lexmark, etc...I my gaze was drawn to the familiar....somehow, like an old friend, I went back to what was familiar. Call it stupid or call it sentimental...others call it brand loyalty....I went to the Epson display. After carefully considering the specifications of the various Epson models, I made a choice, paid for it left the building, perhaps to return in a couple of years time, a repeat victim of Planned Obsolescence.

By the way, the price I paid for the new printer is just around 200 pesos more than if I had been able to buy the original Epson cartridges for my now obsolete printer.


Hera Leonardo said...

I cannot agree more with you. I had the same problems with Canon, Epson in a span of only 4 years. Now i have the latest of HP. But Mac is worse. My Macbook 13 which i bought a year and 3 months to be exact is now chanting dirges as the latest has arrived. I hate Planned Obsolescence!

Lars Behind Bars said...

UM, they have those cartridges all over the internet...at least here in the USA, im not sure where you are. Just look online, i found many.