Staples Doesn’t See Anything Wrong With Preying on Stupidity

Earlier this week I stopped by Staples at Union Square (Manhattan) to make some copies of two documents for a project.  The black and white copies were 11 cents apiece, which I thought was reasonable enough, considering the fact that I saved time by just making my copies there.  Home scanner/printer all-in-ones are fairly slow to scan and slower to print compared to a commercial machine.  The process is pretty simple too.  You put your debit card in a slot, like on an ATM, and when you’re done making copies, you press a button and your card is charged and ejected.

Today, when I was thinking about the dozen pdfs (each 10 –20 pages) that I need to print, my first thought was to go to Staples.  It would be faster, less of a hassle and I have an unlimited MetroCard.  So, off I went.  Unfortunately, it didn’t go quite as smoothly as making copies.

When I walked into the Staples I started looking at the black and white copiers.  There was no spot for a USB drive so I went to the counter to ask about having files printed.  The girl at the counter told me I could leave the files with her and come back and get them in about two hours, or I could rent time on their desktop computers and just print them right away.

Ok, so I went to the desktop computers.  20 cents per minute.  That wasn’t too bad, so I stuck my card into the slot and waited for it to start up.  I plugged in my thumb drive, opened the first pdf and clicked print.  A new box popped up and told me that to print 10 pages it would cost me $5.33.  Wait, what?  I did the math real quick in my head.  11 cents x 10 = $1.10 plus tax.  Uh?  What’s going on?  So I just logged off and went to the counter again, and this is the conversation I had with a male employee.

“I just wanted to double check something with you.  I tried to print out a pdf on your computer and it told me that the total cost would be 5.33.  That seems a bit expensive.”

“Oh yes, to print it’s 99 cents per color page, or 50 cents per black and white page, plus tax!”

“But, the copiers are 11 cents per black and white page.”

“Oh, well on the computers you’re getting the extra services of using the INTERNET and you’re able to print documents!” [If I could make hearts and rainbows appear around the word “Internet” there I would.  He said it like it was a powerful and beautiful magic, the likes of which a fool like me had never seen.]

“But, I’m already paying an extra 20 cents a minute to use the computers.  Why am I also paying more for the same thing as a copy, just to print?”

“Well, it’s a special extra service.”

“What’s special about it?  The end result is the same thing as a copy.  It’s a paper with text and images printed in black and white ink.  Why does it cost so much more?”

“You’re getting the extra service of being able to use our computers.”

“Yes, I get that, but I’m paying 20 cents a minute to use the computer, so why am I also being charged so much more to create the same black and white page as I could on your copier if I’d come here with a hard copy of the document?”

“Well, that’s just the way our pricing is.”

“So, you want to charge me 4 times as much to print as to make a copy and you don’t see anything wrong with that?”


So, I left.  If I print a document to their copier and the copier prints it, or I put a page on the glass and copy it, it still uses the same amount of materials to produce the new page (copy or freshly printed from a file).  So, I can see paying the 20 cents a minute to use their desktop computer to open the files and send them to the printer.  Sure, why not?  But why should I pay 50 cents instead of 11 cents per page?  Hell, if you think about it, you’d only have to print about 40 pages before you’d already spent so much money you could’ve bought your own home printer, or in my case, a new black ink cartridge.

Staples, how about some better pricing on your print services?

6 thoughts on “Staples Doesn’t See Anything Wrong With Preying on Stupidity”

  1. Thanks. I'll keep that in mind when I head out to find a printer. I don't mind paying more for the ink cartridge if it's going to last that much longer. I seem to remember seeing some cartridges that say they only last for about 200 to 300 pages. Really low!


  2. Go for a Laser-jet B&W of course.Toners run about $40-$60 but will yield around 1500-2000 pages.Far better than inkjets which are just traps for and endless cartridge slavery system.I have a Brother B&W laser, and its great. Much cheaper than HP.


  3. I think you're right, and they're hoping that people will continue to associate printing with a higher cost than copying. The options for printing were 'color' or 'black and white', and right in front of the computers, the only print capable devices in reach of the public are the copiers, so I doubt it was being sent to other printers. Even if it were being sent to other printers, that's their fault, since they didn't have common sense enough to hook their computers to their copiers for printing.And you're also right in that the 20 cents per minute should have absorbed any additional costs involved, since I'd have had to leave the computer open (and counting minutes) until I was sure all the documents had printed correctly.I guess I'd better just find a better printer with a cheaper black ink cartridge so I can avoid that stupidity again, or better yet, pester a classmate for the copies he printed out, and copy his.


  4. Well, the thing is, they do outsmart some people, or they catch people that are in so much of a hurry to print something they just don't care about the fact they're being screwed over. Otherwise, why would they have that service available?But ya, he really thought the Internet was something special that I'd probably never heard of. Weird guy.


  5. lolz on “Oh, well on the computers you’re getting the extra services of using the INTERNET and you’re able to print documents!” [If I could make hearts and rainbows appear around the word “Internet” there I would. He said it like it was a powerful and beautiful magic, the likes of which a fool like me had never seen.] what a rip off! its unbelievable how they think they can outsmart anyone with their flawed justification of highway robbery!


  6. I got a good laugh out of this.I thought it was only me that analyzes the snake oil semantics of modern marketing schema.I can tell you that what the associate could only fathom to be the magic of the internet was probably more having to do with the toners. From a current situation at my place of work where we have begun to eliminate departmental printers in lieu of larger Multi function copiers it came down to CPP (cost per page). Conventional laser-jet printers have a higher cost than copiers (nearly .09¢, printer vs. .02¢, copier) It has to do with the yield on toners. This of course is only relevant should you happen to be sending the pages from the magic pc to the printer instead of the same copier. But that aside, if you do not use the internet, and went straight from your USB stick and printed the documents, then no internet was used, and the .20¢ per minute on the computer should have subsidized any further costs.Good post, again, I spend a good portion of the day racking my brain as to the marketing ploys of businesses wondering how they arrived at a particular spiel & price that flies just under the radar of suspicion.You are not alone. 😉


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