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?