Initially Cheap Products That Are Actually Quite Expensive Over Time

updated Jul 15, 2020
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(Image credit: Erika Tracy)

This is a “get off my lawn” type of post, when I curmudgeonly grouse about how much things cost, and how we’re being swindled by young punks who don’t know how easy they’ve got it in today’s world. My pet peeve of the day is products that are very inexpensive (or in some cases free) at the outset, but require expensive refills or supplies to keep them item working.

Don’t get me wrong: I love some of these things. But if I stop to think about how much I spend on them (and how much unnecessary waste some of them generate), chances are really good I wouldn’t buy them at all.

Single-Serve Brewers: That little doohickey system is easy to use and makes the morning that much easier. But since the refills are proprietary, you are stuck buying those little pods until the day you die. You can get a basic Keurig coffee maker for about $74, but a pack of 20 Starbucks pods is about $20.

Razor Blades: THE prime example of this phenomenon is razor blades, because Gilette was the pioneer of this business model (now called a razor and blade strategy). A fancy new Proglide Razor is only about $11 on Amazon, but an 8-pack of refills is $24.

Inkjet Printers: Once again, the actual printing hardware itself is pretty inexpensive. This HP OfficeJet is less than $100. But they are also ink hogs and it’s incredible painful to pay $22 for a single black cartridge — not to mention another $48 for three color cartridges. For ink. It’s yet another good reason to go paperless.

Water Filtration Systems: Same deal here. A Brita water pitcher is $20.99 on Amazon, and the filters are $14 for a three-pack. They recommend changing the filter once every two months. Tap water is pretty safe here in the U.S. so that’s really money spent on a slight taste difference.

Refillable Mops: You can buy a Swiffer starter set for about $20 online, but the refills will run you another $10. Considering you often use more than one refill pad during each cleaning, the cost can really add up.

E-Readers: These electronics are sold below cost (you can currently buy one for under $50) but Amazon makes its money when you buy their ebooks for years to come. It’s a risk they are happily willing to take, and it seems to be paying off big for them.

What do you guys think? Are these guys smart or sneaky? Or, in your minds, are these things worth the price?

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