Where NOT to buy your computer supplies!

Where NOT to buy your computer supplies!

Recently I was visiting a client site and needed an Ethernet cable in a hurry. So I rushed out to the nearest big box electronics store to get one. Did they have what I needed?

Absolutely. BUT: the price was shocking. For a standard 15 foot patch cable, they charged $30. For comparison purposes, we charge less than $4 for the same thing!

It’s the same thing with printer toner or ink. Remember those ads that promise that your local big-box store will always have your toner in stock? The reason they can afford to do that is that the markup on ink and toner is enormous.

Most market analysts suggest that the major printer manufacturers make far more money selling ink and toner than they do selling the printers. That’s why you often see unbelievable deals on printers. The manufacturer wants you to have the printer so you’ll have to buy their ink. So they’ll sell it to you at or near their cost. It’s the same business model purportedly developed by Gillette: sell the razors cheap and make your money on the razor blades.

The fact is that many big-box stores make the bulk of their profits on sales of smaller items like accessories, extended warranties and supplies on which there is a huge markup. Here a simple example: there’s often a much higher percentage margin on a wireless mouse than there is on a laptop computer.

So how do you avoid being ripped off?

The most obvious answer is: shop around. You’ll often find widely varying prices on computer accessories and supplies. If you’re not in a rush, try web sites like eBay and Amazon. Or if you are in a hurry, places like “dollar stores” and specialized computer stores will often have what you want at much more competitive prices.

When it comes to ink and toner, you don’t have to buy the manufacturer’s brand. There are many reputable third-party suppliers of ink and toner who offer products that are just as good as the original - at one-third the price. For example, Xerox sells toner for HP, Brother and Lexmark printers. And no matter what anyone tells you, you will not void your warranty or ruin your printer by using third-party supplies.

The truth is that there’s not much variance in the price of computers. It’s a very competitive market and all the major suppliers have to price their offerings within a few dollars of one another in order to stay competitive.

But when it comes to all of the “add-ons”, there can be a huge variance. Intelligent shopping can save you a bundle of money. Be an aware consumer!