Circumvention technology

I bought a Lexmark E210 printer a few years ago, before it became readily apparent what a bunch of bozos they are. It doesn’t really matter to me whether they won the case or not; the fact that they’d go to those lengths to stop consumers from using third-party products in their printers was pathetic in and of itself. Regardless of the dickheadedness of their behavior, I was still stuck with this printer which takes insanely expensive toner cartridges.

The E210 is basically a re-badged Samsung ML 1210 laser printer. It’s logical to assume that the ML 1210 toner cartridges would fit in the E210, right? Wrong! They don’t! Buying an approved Lexmark toner cartridge costs $128.95 at my local Staples; the Samsung cartridge is $78.95. Did I mention the Samsung cartridges are good for another 500 pages? Yeah, they are.

It turns out the reason they don’t fit is about a half-inch of plastic on the toner cartridge itself, and that fixing this problem is ridiculously simple. It took ten minutes, five of which were spent looking for a screwdriver. (I did a major cleaning around here recently, and as a result, I cannot find anything.) The instructions actually overstate things a bit; you don’t really need to remove the rear cover, though if you do the front cover probably goes on a bit more easily.

I mention all of this merely to wonder idly at the logic of some companies. Lexmark re-badged and re-branded a Samsung product, mostly by slapping a different plastic case over the insides, but in order to justify having a Lexmark label on the printer, they added about $0.03 of material (I figure $0.02 for the aluminum bracket and $0.01 for the screw), jacked the cost of the toner cartridge up by almost $50, and made it so it doesn’t last as long. Their entire revenue strategy seems to involve fleecing the consumer on the back end, though to be fair this isn’t something that’s restricted to Lexmark since most printer manufacturers do exactly the same thing. There seems to be something slightly awry here, something vaguely unethical or immoral, yet I can’t quite put my finger on it. I don’t know why companies have to behave like this — is fucking over your customers ever a good idea?

When I discovered this, I was all set to go on a self-righteous rant about it, but then I realized that by removing this tab and converting my printer to use the cheap cartridges, I’ve done something better than ranting: I’ve cost Lexmark money. Granted, it’s not very much money, and I doubt they really care that some people who bought E210s are opening them up and getting around their very crude technology, but as a method for sticking it to the man this is hard to beat, and it’s a lot more satisfying than merely complaining on the Internet — it puts money back in my pocket, and it’s an act of defiance. Yay!