Netflix of life

I just got the pitch from Staples for their new ink replacement program: You mail in your empty cartridge and they mail a new one back; you pay what you’d pay if you went to the store. It’s Netflix for ink. It’s a small step to having your printer tell Staples through the internet that you just ran out of juice. And that’s not a big step from RFID tags on other merchandise sending in an order. Not to take this too far (as if I haven’t already), but there’s another reason not to go to stores. I’ve been saying for years that retail will become, more and more, a showroom and not always the point of purchase. Oh, of course, most retail will remain mostly instant gratification. But here we talked about looking at books in a store but then ordering them online (that’s what I do already). I wish I could go to a car showroom and not be accosted by the guy who’s going to make the commission (and the only reason the automakers don’t sell direct is regulation). Retailers might take less inventory risk but will also need to be compensated differently: manufacturers pay them for display space, perhaps. OK, I went too far. But we’ll keep seeing these small changes in retail that add up.

  • I buy more and more things like this in bulk. What is the point of going to the store and buying one thing of Ban roll-on? I buy a box of 12 from and stick them in the bathroom closet. I buy large quantities at Costco instead of small ones at Jewel (the local Chicago grocery chain). I have less and less reason to go to those kinds of retailers.

  • BOOO!

    There’s nothing better than walking into a store and feeling, smelling, and touching the item you’re about to purchase.

    Amazon should quickly setup their site in the following way:

    1) User logs in on cellphone
    2) User punches in UPC
    3) User sees that the item is WAY cheaper, and places the order with Amazon

    If I was at a bookstore and seen an awesome book (i.e. the ability to physically feel it, read it, etc..) – I would have no problem following my 1-2-3 steps above.

  • Better yet, let’s have scanners at home and scan as we use items, that way we can queue up our next shopping spree and have it bulked to us when it makes sense. Amazon should figure this out and give away home scanners to read UPC’s on the products we use. The demographic data alone from that would be worth an incredible amount of money to manufacturers, as it would should what we actually use in our homes in conjunction with other items and when we use them.

  • Of course in a rational world one wouldn’t pay for a super complicated piece of plastic and metal which is sold for $25-35 and holds 15ml (that’s half an oz) of ink.

    This is the old razor blade trick taken to high art. The EU is so annoyed with the waste and anti-competitive aspects of this that they have put regulations into effect to prevent such abuse.

    And what’s so efficient about wrapping the ink cartridge in a throwaway shipping container and then have it transported half way across the planet to your home? Sure retail may be less efficient than a centralized warehouse which can service a much large customer base, but only one part of the transaction is improved. The basic supply chain is still in need of redesign.

  • Dell is doing this as well with their printers as well. With the ‘net and US Postal Service – there’s no need to go into a store. Sure, it’s nice to browse in a real store from time to time but you really don’t need a regular store.


  • Is it just me, or is this thread making me miss the days of

    Mmmm. Snickers bar delivered to my office cubicle. Such a delicious waste of venture capital…

  • Alex

    The problem with this that there is back door to sell you more ink. My lexmark says my ink is low, but the printing is fine. Additionally, how do you know you are getting the lowest price. PC Magazine had this plan to end the renewal notices. But every time the renewal price was double what the price was on the inserts.

  • If you take back your empty ink carttridge to Office Depot they will give you $3 off your next cartridge.

    Staples should match this offer.

  • iceman

    Met a supply chain management guy at the doctors office. He works for a competitor to SAP, bigger in fact.

    I asked him what is coming down the pike.

    He said to look for RFID tags on all clothes. This will enable retailer to know how long you have clothes to try on in the dressing room, what you buy and what you put back and why? For instance if you are putting a pair of pants and trying on the next size up or down and then you buy it, this might mean size problems are slowing down shopping. This information will feedback into the system to correct size problems.

    Of course fashion is very important and companies would pay dearly to find out what you think is hot and what is not.

    Now they buy very expensive computer programs that tell them how and when to mark down clothes, 5% after two weeks on the rack, 10% after 3 weeks, etc.

    Mark down price optimization is very hot in the industry now. These programs will pay for themselves in a few months, for large companies

  • Avi

    The ink costs a boatload more than Amazon or, both of which give me free shipping anyways. All the extra cost gives me is a way to get rid of my cartridges, rather than just throwing them in the garbage. Not worth it, at least for me.