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How much will buying ink or toner twin-packs or multi-packs really save?

Issue 0905/1 – With just about everyone with something to sell getting in on the ‘Crunch Buster’, ‘Credit Crunch Beating’ or ‘Recession Beating’ bandwagon, to try and persuade consumers and businesses that now is the best time to buy, one would hope that buying multi-packs, twin-packs or value packs of printer supplies would offer a decent saving. We investigate just how much money can be saved by buying these multi/twin/value-packs – with some surprising results!

In this instance, we must be clear that we are talking about manufacturer’s supplies packs only. Many resellers also offer bundles – all four toner cartridges for a laser printer, for instance. We are not investigating pricing on these reseller bundles.

Not all manufacturers offer multi-packs and not all manufacturers that do offer multi-packs offer them on both ink and toner cartridges. For instance, Dell offers only toner multi-packs, while Epson offers only ink multi-packs. Others, such as Brother and Kyocera do not offer multi-packs at all.

Of necessity, only a snapshot can be investigated so, for the purposes of this article, manufacturers have been polled only in the UK. There could be other arrangements in place in other countries where local conditions demand different market strategies.

To clear the rather more mundane results of the survey first, average savings from buying toner multi-packs range from a somewhat minimal 5.4% (Konica Minolta toners) to a reasonably healthy 21% (Canon toners). It should be noted, however, that toner multi-packs from both Canon and Xerox are available only for two fax machines in each instance. There are no multi-packs offered for any current laser printer or MFP products.

Multi-Pack Savings

Toner Cartridges

While these are averages from the manufacturers involved, there is one toner product that demonstrates a 32% saving. This is a twin-pack of black toner for Hewlett-Packard’s Colour LaserJet CP2025 and CM2320 MFP. This is the only Hewlett-Packard toner multi-pack that stands out – all of the other multi-pack products offer only a 10% saving.

All toner multi-packs from Hewlett-Packard are black twin-packs. There are no colour toner multi-packs.

By contrast, Konica Minolta offers colour toner value packs (CMY) for many of its colour printers. These, however, are all priced for a 5% saving – other than the pack for its popular magicolor 2530DL printer, which attracts a 7.4% saving.

Although it is Hewlett-Packard that offers the biggest saving (but with most products fixed within a tight band), it is Dell that offers the most varied percentage savings. With its average saving of 16.1%, the highest saving from Dell is 26.7% and the lowest is 9.3% but there is an even spread between. Both manufacturers have nine multi-packs in the list and the following chart shows the differing spread of savings.

Toner Multi-Pack Savings

Dell and Hewlett-Packard

This leaves us with the knowledge that Dell is offering the best opportunities for toner savings from multi-packs, with a wide range of products available and high savings on offer. We can exclude the apparently attractive savings from Canon products because of the fact that they apply to only two products and apply to fax machines, not printers or MFPs. Very much the same argument is applied to the Xerox range. Hewlett-Packard sits comfortably in the middle with a reasonable (but not exciting) range of multi-pack products offering reasonable (but, for the most part, not exciting) savings.

Once we move to inkjet technology, understandably (consumer market), we find that there are many more multi-packs available (nearly double) even though there are fewer manufacturers in the field and fewer offering multi-packs. There is also a very tight band of average savings from the various manufacturers – between 12.8% and 17.1% – and a more even spread of percentage savings over the range.

Multi-Pack Savings

Inkjet Cartridges

It is Epson that holds the crown for being ‘King of the multi-packs’, accounting for half of the total number of inkjet products available. Savings range from 6.6% to 28.9% (T048 six-pack). Most of Epson’s products offer savings in the 13%-15% band, however.

Presenting the highest average savings, Hewlett-Packard’s range of multi-pack products is the smallest of the four (ink and paper value-packs are not included in this investigation) with a range of 13.3% to 22.7% (HP 57 tri-colour 2-pack).

Therefore, where ink cartridge packs are concerned, the best opportunities for taking advantage of multi-pack savings come from Epson printers because there is a large number of products available, average savings are good and, significantly, the products that are available fit a wide range of printers.

Although average savings from Hewlett-Packard products are the best, there are few products available and Hewlett-Packard’s supplies strategy prevents any individual cartridge fitting a broad range of printer products. Therefore, a relatively small percentage of customers will benefit.

Away from the mundane, there are several situations where the manufacturer either presents data on its website that is wrong or appears to mislead customers into believing that they are getting a good deal and are receiving a value product by buying the multi-pack.

It is here that we come across some interesting anomalies that result in several percentage comparisons being omitted from the charts above.

Whether these anomalies are genuine pricing strategies, or errors in the price lists, is not yet clear. Attempts are being made to clarify each case and a comment will be added to this article, with any clarification, as received. Until each situation is resolved, it must be accepted that users may actually be penalised for buying a multi-pack when they should be able to expect a saving.

Canon BCI-21 Multi-PackCanon BCI-21 Multi-Pack

Canon appears to be most at fault here, with three anomalies. These all involve the BCI-21 cartridge series, suggesting that they may, surely, be the result of straight errors in the price list.

This first ‘error’ involves the BCI-21 CL cartridge, which appears to have prices the wrong way round for the single cartridge and twin-pack. If the price list were correct, the twin-pack would represent a phenomenal saving of 73%. If, on the other hand, the prices are reversed, there is an entirely believable saving of 8% on the twin-pack.

Secondly, there is a multi-pack containing one BCI-21 BK and one BCI-21 CL cartridge. This multi-pack costs £27.99 whereas to buy these cartridges separately (assuming that above cost of the BCI-21 CL to be correct) costs £25.58, meaning that the multi-pack costs 9% MORE than the two cartridges individually. If, on the other hand, the BCI-21 CL price is shown incorrectly in the price list, then the situation would be even worse – with the multi-pack costing a ridiculous 62% MORE than the individual cartridges.

Thirdly, the same situation exists where the BCI-21BK Twin Pack is concerned, only in this case the twin-pack costs a massive 37% MORE than two BCI-21BK cartridges would cost. One potential explanation for this might be that the twin-pack contains high capacity cartridges BUT, as there is no individual high capacity BCI-21BK cartridge, this is highly unlikely.

Dell Toner Multi-PackDell Toner MultiPack

Then, Dell’s website proudly announces “Save 3%” on the pages displaying supplies prices for its various printers. At least this does not make customers believe they are getting a bigger saving than in reality. Savings actually amount to anything between 9% and 27%, depending on the cartridge set involved. So, Dell is, in reality, handicapping itself with this error.

In point of fact, this is an improvement on the recent situation at Dell, where a colour laser multi-pack offered no benefit at all.

Finally, one of Xerox’s two toner multi-packs displays a potential error. The twin-pack of toner for the F110 fax machine is priced at £157, while two cartridges bought individually would cost £152 – representing a 3% penalty for buying the multi-pack.

So, yet again, we may be seeing situations in the printing industry where customers are not receiving the expected benefit of buying a specific product that should, on first appearances, offering better value. A customer seeing the words ‘multi-pack’ or ‘value-pack’, should be able to purchase that product with confidence that it will represent a monetary saving.

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